2011 Myself Third Scholarship Winners
On June 13, 2011, the Myself Third: Spirit of New York Scholarship ceremony was held at the CUNY Graduate Center to honor this year’s recipients. Mr. Friedman, along with his wife Linda, were joined by Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, NYCDOE’s Chief Academic Officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, and Senior University Dean for Academic Affairs, John Mogulescu to present ten $5,000 Myself Third Scholarship awards and two $2,500 Alumni Spirit awards to this year’s winners. Also in attendance was President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Jeremy Travis, CUNY Administrators, a dozen Myself Third Alumni, College Now campus coordinators, high school teachers and liaisons, and the families and friends of all the winners.
The reception featured entertainment by the York College Blue Notes Jazz Band and the ceremony was moderated by John Mogulescu, Senior University Dean for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Schoolof Professional Studies. The 2011 winners are listed in alphabetical order, along with the College Now program in which the student participated.
Spirit of New York Scholarship
Growing up in the Bronx, I quickly learned that education is one of the most important things in life. In my junior year in high school, as I began to contemplate my college plans, I learned about all the challenges I would face as an immigrant student. I started going to The Door’s Legal Center and met Lauren, my immigration lawyer. Lauren told me about the Immigrant Youth Peer Educator Program (IYPEP) and encouraged me to get involved. In the program, I learned that I was not alone and that there were other young people facing the same challenges I was. In one of our meetings, we brainstormed ideas for helping immigrant youth who in spite of growing up in the U.S., live in fear and silence. The peer educators decided to create a place where youth would feel protected, productive, and a part of something in a country where we have grown up, have lived our whole lives, and that we have made our home. This is when the idea to create a nongovernmental organization (NGO) for immigrant youth was born. We decided to name our NGO “Atlas.” It will be a place to unite and empower youth.
After having lived in India for many years, I learned the value of being in a democratic and free country when I arrived in the U.S.two years ago. My life in India had been highly restricted, and with limited opportunities. My family and I were looked upon there as mere immigrants, refugees with an “R” embossed on our foreheads. Although many Tibetans are born in India, we are deprived of Indian citizenship, which often hinders us from achieving our goals. With only 10% of Tibetan students gaining entrance to college, the prospects of a good education are very small…. However, I believe America is a place with unbounded opportunity. I have adapted to my life here and have realized that knowledge cannot be gained from books alone. Our experiences in the journey of life are also an important part of our education…. I began doing volunteer work to meet new people and gain new experiences. It intrigued me that some of the leisure hours that I gave up indeed made a huge difference in someone’s life. I learned that freedom leads to a sense of community.
Education, work ethic, and equality are extremely valuable in a democratic way of life. Once I became aware of these values, I not only became motivated to work harder in order to thrive, but was also motivated to help others in need. I have provided various forms of community service such as participating in walks, tutoring young students at a local intermediate school, and other projects conducted through the National Honor Society (NHS) in my high school…. Currently, I am part of coordinating a school event called Flight Night, a carnival-like event with various fun activities for our students to take part in. Despite the fact that our high school is small, students were determined to organize it. We used techniques we learned in our business courses to advertise and to raise funds, and each planning member committed to making posters, flyers, and performing skits to create excitement among students. With the number of people expected to attend, we will make enough money to pay for the entire cost of the event and to donate to the Briarwood Family Residence. The food baskets we donate annually to Briarwood will merge with the funds we raise, to brighten the lives of the ninety families living there. Our goal is to make life more stable for them so that they can overcome the tough times they face.
Living in a democratic society means that people have a voice and the ability to make a change by suggesting ideas and options. We have laws that protect our individual rights and the power to choose our desired representatives. With a system of checks and balances to minimize political corruption, our government provides us with important needs such as education, sanitation, national defense, public health, and law enforcement. For example, we receive a free education in schools with electricity and running water. Our cities have sanitation to prevent the spread of germs and disease…. These are just some of the privileges we have living in the United States of America, and because of them we must choose to give back in some way. I know I have neither political power nor wealth, but I can be an example to younger kids and help those who are less fortunate. I did that when I volunteered to work with developmentally disabled children. That experience taught me to be humble, to appreciate my own blessings, and to always approach life with an open mind and heart.
Rebecca Jo Liu
For the past three years, I have volunteered for the Special Olympics program teaching children how to play soccer. At this event, I became a keen observer and noticed how much joy and pleasure the children got from learning a sport. As I connected with them further, I felt that my assignment was more than just teaching them to pass a ball up and down a field. I was an anchor of hope that taught them about not giving up, working together and leaning on others for support…. I have been an athlete all my life and, at times, felt a pang of guilt when looking at the struggle of some of the children. Before this experience, I never gave much thought to how I take the gift of running for granted. The Special Olympics program affected me in so many ways that whenever I run or compete now, I do it for those who are unable to run themselves. When I feel exhaustion, I only push myself harder because the children taught me that when all odds are against you, you should never give up. I will always remember the time spent with these special children. They have taught me to be more appreciative of my community and of the importance of helping and learning from others.
EATWISE is a federally funded program of the Food Bank ofNew York City. Its goal is to end food poverty in all five boroughs and give young people the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about what they eat and drink. As a chapter leader, I was trained to educate children about the connection between nutrition, the human body and preventable diseases. I taught and cooked healthy recipes with children at different elementary and middle schools throughout NYC, and eventually started the Health Ambassadors Club at my high school to promote the benefits of healthy eating [among teenagers]…. Aside from EATWISE, one of my most life-changing experiences has been interning at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, where I assist pediatric cancer patients with recreational activities and meals, and accompany patients to medical procedures. When I encountered my first “patient”, it was the first time I watched a small child with cancer receive chemotherapy. All I wanted to do was to alleviate some of the pain by making her smile. I will never forget the great moments that I shared with her…. There is no doubt in my mind that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to provide a sense of hope in the lives of others.
It’s inevitable to have goals and aspirations in life. That is the main reason why individual freedom is the most important value that a democratic society can provide. Since its creation, the main principle of this country has been to protect individual liberty and preserve equality for future generations. People from all over the world come to this country seeking these liberties and [the opportunity] for a better life…. It’s my generation’s turn to put itself third, and to advocate for things that it believes in, and oppose those that negatively affect our communities. Knowing that I have the freedom to make a difference in other’s lives has motivated me to become involved in my community…. Recently, I have been working with a group of students in NYC to create an art installation that reflects on the violence towards the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual and Queer (LGTBQ) community. Participating in this project has given me the opportunity to interview LGTBQ teens from all over NYC and hear their personal stories about what it means to be a part of this community. Hearing their stories helped me voice their issues through art and photography in a unique way. This project has further motivated me to become an activist in my community, and has taught me to be part of the solution.
Belief in equality and freedom are basic elements of the democratic tenet. Every citizen is guaranteed equal treatment under the law. Everyone has equal rights and the freedom to express his or her ideas and thoughts. The principles of democracy have not only motivated me to help my community, school and fellow citizens, but have also helped me become a better person morally and spiritually. The freedom and equality in this country have helped me realize that I can use these elements to help my society and those in need…. I worked with the Anti-Defamation League to endeavor to eliminate bigotry, racism, prejudice, and all forms of hate from our society. As a peer trainer, I conveyed my message about dismissing the hatred that exists everywhere. I worked with the students to make them realize that racism, discrimination, and prejudice area unacceptable. I helped my peers understand the meaning of the values that make a country great and provide each citizen with freedom, equality and fairness…. I feel honored to be a part of the Anti-Defamation League because it was an experience that shaped me morally and made me a better person.
I have learned form living in a democratic society that there are many people that don’t have what I have. This realization has motivated me to help others. The values imparted to me have enabled me to make a difference, filling me with a deep sense of accomplishment. I am very proud to say that I was involved with my school’s annual Penny Harvest, which directly helps those less fortunate. My co-chair and I formed a committee of several people who worked arduously to distribute plastic containers to teachers in each department. Several times each week, I organized pick-ups to collect the money, and had trustworthy committee members to help me count and record the amounts. Over a period of two months, we raised the astonishing amount of 2,000 dollars. I worked very hard to encourage the teachers and made sure we achieved weekly goals. I wrote letters to teachers every week marking their progress and letting the students know the important role they played in this service activity…. The challenges we faced were only due to the troubled economy, but even so, everyone’s generosity helped raise a great deal of money for a church and youth club in our local community…. This achievement made me realize that a single person can make a difference in the lives of others. I will always consider it one of the most important lessons in life.
Being home-schooled for part of my education has allowed me to build a unique perspective on my community and my schooling. Upon entering a mainstream school, I noticed the latent nature of my peers. I refused to fall into the same monotony and decided to take my first internship at Councilman James Sanders Jr.’s office in the summer of 2009. As an intern I was able to be a part many projects that positively served the local constituents. The most significant project to me was the “Back to School” event that my fellow interns and I organized. The planning was a lengthy process we worked on throughout the summer and then returned to volunteer for in September. I was responsible for writing letters to Fortune 500 companies to ask for donations of book bags among other necessary school supplies. With the aid of major corporations and local businesses, we were able to supply numerous children with the tools they needed for the upcoming school year…. Having the ability to participate in my community gave me a sense of pride and nationalism unmatched by any other feeling. As constituents, we must all experience this unique opportunity to become involved. Very few other countries allow this and this is why, as citizens of theUnited States, we have a responsibility to contribute positively to our nation’s democracy.
Alumni Spirit Award
Melissa Garcia Velez
Melissa is entering her third year at Lehman College.
A leader motivates and inspires others to take a stand – to seek beyond their limits. A leader provides opportunities, resources and opens new doors. These are things I have been able to see and experience being a part of the Myself Third community, a community which has always motivated me to provide a hand to those in need. Such motivation has led me to take different leadership roles such as the Vice President of the Lehman DREAM Team and a core member of the New York State Youth Leadership Council. These roles have exposed me further to the importance of unity, leadership and working for a better and more just world…. These experiences have also made me more knowledgeable, skillful and have provided ideas for becoming a better leader in my community. They have shown me that a leader can fall, but will stand back up with more strength and determination to continue his/her cause.
I believe that the act of volunteering certainly creates a leader within a person. One takes of others and in the world at large. An ideal leader therefore is someone who serves others and does not expect to be served in return…. In 2010, I was given the opportunity to work as a youth leader for my church. I was given the honor of planning and conducting the youth services on Fridays and coordinating other youth activities. In January this year, I organized a convivial event to enable youth and their parents to get to know each other more. Our goal for 2011 was to unite families so that they may incorporate teamwork in their daily lives and spiritual walk. Through games and interactive activities, the families all worked together competing for take-home prizes, after which we concluded with a short conference on family values. All the volunteers stayed long after everyone left to sweep, clean and leave the place spotless. Quite frankly, this is when true leadership is exposed, when no one is watching. I believe that one’s willingness to serve others is “visible” even when no one is around.