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2016-2017 LaGuardia Scholars

graffiti art of the word "Risk!"

Risk: The 2016-2017 LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars Showcase

The inaugural cohort of LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars has been grappling with these questions during the 2016-2017 academic year, while exploring this year’s program theme of “Risk.” Last week, the Scholars exhibited the projects they had been working on in a curated showcase at LaGuardia’s Black Box Theater. The showcase was intended not only to reflect the students’ learning over the past year, as they developed their projects with the help of faculty mentors, but to prompt the audience to reflect on their own understanding and assumptions about the students’ diverse fields of study.

Over the course of two hours, the Scholars led groups of participants in a carefully orchestrated tour of their projects, which spanned a number of disciplines—from education, to public health, to media studies, to literature—but which all similarly employed humanistic modes of inquiry to pursue vital, exciting, and original research questions. The meaning and value of education–from early childhood to college and beyond–was a parallel theme running through each project.

Below, we’ve included an overview of the Scholars’ projects, along with some photos of the event and links to the students’ work where available. Please take a look, and let us know what you think via the comments section below! 

— Kitana Ananda and Elizabeth Alsop


Daycare Lesson Plans
by Anabell Arteaga

Anabell Arteaga’s project on “Daycare Lesson Plans” presented activities that develop social and emotional skills in young children. She emphasized the importance of early childhood education in preparing children to live in a multicultural society. A part-time student and full-time parent, Anabell is a pursuing an associate degree in Childhood Bilingual Education.

Anabell Arteaga discussing her project on daycare lessons.
Anabell Arteaga’s poster and binder of daycare lesson plans. Photo by Kitana Ananda.
A photo of Anabell Arteaga's poster and binder of daycare lesson plans.
Anabell Arteaga’s poster and binder of daycare lesson plans. Photo by Kitana Ananda.
Anabell Arteaga

Anabell Arteaga is a part-time student and full-time mom. Because of her determination and family support, Anabell was able to resume her educational career at LaGuardia Community College, which is giving her the opportunity to complete an Associate’s Degree in Childhood Bilingual Education. Since her first job as a babysitter at a very young age, Anabell knew that her passion was working with kids. Her goal now is to show parents and educators that she can professionally provide love, care, nurture and knowledge to children. The exhausting, but rewarding, job of helping her own three energetic children grow and become decent human beings, is the same responsibility she is pursuing in becoming an educator.


Focusing Education on Learning
by Gisela Galvis

Gisela Galvis’s video presentation, “Focusing Education on Learning,” critiqued the traditional education system that emphasizes rote memorization and test-taking, and argued for childhood education that focuses on holistic, interactive, and experiential learning. Participants were encouraged to reflect on these critiques via political cartoons about educational standards and testing. Gisela is a Special Early Childhood Education major at LaGuardia, and a mother of two children. She hopes to pursue a teaching certification and a master’s degree in Special Education.

Audience watching Gisela Galvis's video presentation on transforming K-12 education.
Gisela Galvis’s video presentation on transforming K-12 education. Photo by Kitana Ananda.
Gisela Galvis

Gisela Galvis is a student at LaGuardia Community College, majoring in Special Early Childhood Education. She hopes to get certified to teach and get a master’s degree in Special Education, so that she can pass on the knowledge she’s acquired to her future students. A mother of two, Gisela volunteered for three years as a “ Learning Leader” helping the first-grade teacher in a school in Jackson Heights. Teaching is also a tradition in or part of the heritage of her family. Gisela is originally from Colombia, where her grandmother had her own school and served as a teacher for many years. Watching their grandmother, all four of her sisters also became teachers. Now, Gisela’s dream is to one day have her own class and help the children with their education and special needs, because early education is extremely significant for children’s future lives.


Let’s Talk About Sex Education
by Florence (Flo) Maxine Oil

Florence (Flo) Maxine Pil’s project, “Let’s Talk About Sex Education,” considered the realities of sex education in America, and emphasized the importance of comprehensive sex education. Participants watched a clip from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and created a word cloud in response to a question about what they were missing in their sex education. Flo is pursuing an associate degree in Nursing at LaGuardia.

Florence Maxine Pil’s project setup. Photo by Kitana Ananda.
Florence Maxine Pil screening a video during the Showcase.
Florence Maxine Pil screening a video during the Showcase. Photo by Kitana Ananda.
Florence Maxine Pil

Florence Pil is a Nursing student at LaGuardia Community College. She has collaborated in the Tribeca’s Films Festivals Power of Words project along with the women at Rikers Island. She has been a participant for Ladders for Leaders since February 2016. Her focus is in promoting equal opportunities for Sex Education and Pediatric Nursing. After being a student at The Young Women’s Leadership School of a Astoria for 6 years, she has experienced the lack of information for maintaining a healthy relationship. After witnessing the distraught faces of female students, it has been her interest to assist young women to be confident of their own bodies, and to provide education for healthy relationships.


The Value of Teachers
by Lorena Alatorre

Lorena Alatorre’s project, “The Value of Teachers,” presented interviews of students and teachers, from elementary school through college, to encourage showcase visitors to see the importance of teachers and how students see their teachers. Attendees listened to these interviews on laptops set up alongside a poster presentation. Lorena graduated from LaGuardia this year with a degree in Early Childhood Education, and is transferring to Hunter College, CUNY, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in education.

Photo of Lorena Alatorre standing next to her poster on education.
Lorena Alatorre standing next to her poster on education. Photo by Kitana Ananda
Lorena Alatorre

Lorena Alatorre is a Early Childhood Education student at LaGuardia Community College. She wants to become a teacher in the K-3 grade. She believes teachers make a big impact on how one child learns and who they are as well. Her inspiration to become a teacher was her 5th grade teacher, who she enjoyed a lot and learned from too. She would like to have the opportunity to give a child the same moments as her teacher gave to her.  She has a passion for different kinds of art. She believes that art plays an important role when one tries to teach children. It’s one way in which a teacher can help a student out. Lorena has always been a visual/practical learner and believes that art can be a part of learning.


Get My Good Side
by Paula Moreno

In “Get My Good Side,” Paula Moreno invited participants to confront stereotypes by presenting assumptions through text and images used in the media to represent a country (Colombia, which is also her country of origin), a continent (Africa), and a region (the Middle East).

Posters depicting common stereotypes about different countries and regions of the world. Photo by Elizabeth Alsop.

Paula’s project then countered these stereotypes with alternative images and additional information about the history, culture, and politics of each place presented. Paula is pursuing an associate degree in business administration at LaGuardia, and hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Paula Moreno presenting her poster to counter stereotypes about Colombia.
Paula Moreno presenting other images and information about Colombia. Photo by Kitana Ananda.
Paula Moreno

Paula Moreno is from Colombia and she came to the United States in 2014. She studied business administration in Colombia for two years. After she moved to New York, she focused on learn English but she got an opportunity to start studying at LaGuardia Community College. She decided to study business administration because she already had some experience in this field, but her main goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Paula wants to finish this two years, getting an Associate’s degree to be able to enroll in a four-year college and achieve her goal. Paula is patient, optimist, responsible, and a hard worker. She is passionate about her career and learning new things, especially languages such as French and German. In addition, Paula likes to interact with people from different cultures, travel and explore.


Choosing Knowledge: Taking the Risk for Your Future
by Ivan Taurisano

Ivan Taurisano’s project, “Choosing Knowledge: Taking the Risk for Your Future” capped the showcase with poetry inspired by the other Scholars’ projects. His poems provoked readers to consider, as he wrote, “what it means when you choose knowledge in your life, what happens when you don’t choose knowledge, and how to confront ignorance.” Ivan graduated from LaGuardia this year with a degree in criminal justice, and is transferring to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He plans to go to law school to become a lawyer.

Ivan Taurisano standing in front of posters of his poetry.
Ivan Taurisano presenting his poems to a group. Photo by Kitana Ananda.
Showcase visitors engaging with Ivan Taurisano's poems.
Showcase visitors reading and responding to Ivan Taurisano’s poems. Photo by Kitana Ananda.
Ivan Taurisano

Ivan Taurisano is a LaGuardia Student majoring in Criminal Justice. His interests range from philosophy to the history of arts, including crime novels writing and logic. Ivan was born in Italy, where he obtained a high school diploma in History of Arts from the School of Arts Alessandro Caravillani in Rome, from which he transferred to the University of Roma Tre beginning his studies in History of International Relationships. In 2015, he moved to New York City to follow the legal vein of his family and focus on the study of the law. He is about to obtain his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice from LaGuardia Community College and will be transferring to John Jay College of Criminal Justice to earn a Bachelors in Philosophy, after which he will continue to law school with the final goal of becoming a lawyer.


The showcase concluded with a reception, where awards were distributed to each of the the Scholars. Congratulations to our Scholars, and to everyone for a wonderful year!

LMHS Showcase reception
LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars receiving awards at the Showcase reception, with Kaysi Holman and Prof. Stefanie Sertich, May 24. 2017. Photo by Kitana Ananda.

With Thanks To:

The Scholars and the CUNY Humanities Alliance are generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Showcase was also made possible by Michael Alifanz and the LaGuardia Theatre Program. A special thank you to our faculty mentors–Kitana Ananda, David S. Bimbi, Jeremy Couillard, Dahlia Elsayed, Jennifer Polish, Jaime Riccio, and Rosemary Talmadge–for encouraging, advising, and supporting our Scholars.


LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars not presenting in the Showcase

Anny Cuenca is a Liberal Arts student focusing on International Studies at LaGuardia Community College. Having seen so much crime in the neighborhood she grew up in, and also having people close to her lose their life due to crimes, she decided to help people by working with law enforcement and continuing her college education to become a  successful police officer. She sees Criminal Justice studies as a stepping stone to her future entry to the Justice Academy and entrance into John Jay College to eventually become a border patrol agent or a customs agent.

Michelle Melgar

Michelle Melgar is a Liberal Arts student in Social Sciences and the Humanities at LaGuardia Community College. She plans to pursue a career teaching Philosophy in the hopes of impacting the lives of others positively, causing a ripple effect to improve the minds of many. She has always wanted to help people emotionally and to fight for their rights. She also has an interest in advocating for helpless animals and the environment. In high school, she volunteered with children in special needs programs and ran the Model United Nations club, which fundraised for a Pakistani school for women and started a recycled art project. Many see it as a risky path, but Michele see it as her moral duty to follow in the Humanities path despite her parents’ initial urging to be a doctor. She believes that while there are many doctors and it’s a popular career choice, the world needs someone to advocate for it and everything it entails. She would also love to open an animal shelter and engage in animal rights activities on the side.

Sergio Paredes is a latino college student at LaGuardia Community College. His dream is to change the way people always stereotype and misjudge people. He is currently studying Criminal Justice and in this career field, he sees that there is still a lot of racial profiling and injustice due to economic status. 

Adrian Puran

Adrian Puran is a business student at LaGuardia Community College. Formerly an engineering student at Brooklyn Tech High School, Adrian struggled with depression and questions of identity. As a first generation American, there was always a pressure to fulfill the American dream on top of the foundation set by his parents. Being a LaGuardia student has become an important part of Adrian’s identity as it introduced him to a new type of diversity and allowed him the opportunity to find a path that he was comfortable with rather than the path expected of him by family. The difference in age and educational background between his classmates at LaGuardia has changed his perspective and has allowed him to become more considerate.