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2017-2018 LaGuardia Scholars

Hope by DieselDemon, https://www.flickr.com/photos/28096801@N05/3525799414

Hope: The 2017-2018 LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars Showcase

On May 21, 2018, the LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars took audiences through a curated exhibition of their student-designed projects around the year’s theme of “Hope”. 

Showcases are intended not only to reflect the students’ learning over the past year, as they developed their projects with the help of peers and 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 a few hours, the Scholars lead participants in a carefully orchestrated tour of their projects, which span a number of disciplines—from theatre, to fine arts, to media studies, to literature—but which all similarly employed humanistic modes of inquiry to pursue vital, exciting, and original research questions. 


Scholars’ Projects

Walking Around: A Musical Theatre Exploration of Identity, Feminism, and Xenophobia
Book and Lyrics by Ambar Castillo 
Music by Rinchen Llama 

Recent media attention to gender-based harassment/discrimination and incendiary anti-immigrant rhetoric have highlighted major societal issues. In this 20-minute excerpt of an autobiographical musical theatre exploration of such problems, a Dominican-American young woman spends the summer in Santo Domingo working on a documentary, seeking female empowerment within the marianismo paradigm in a Catholic machista society. One evening, while looking for pizza toppings in a neighboring barrio, chaos ensues. Amid the chaos, she learns how far she will go to fight for her freedom to walk around as a gringa and woman in her parents’ homeland. Central to this fight is a question posed by Pablo Neruda’s poem “Walking Around”: what does it mean to tire of being a man–or, more so, a woman–in an irrational world? And how do our experiences shape the identities we create in a society that polices phenomena like cultural appropriation and Latinidad?

Ambar Castillo is a writer, actor, and student advisor with a B.A. in Latin American Studies/Journalism from Boston University. Ambar’s writing and research on women’s, immigrant, and health issues and arts programming have garnered several awards, publications, and dramatic readings at LaGuardia Community College, where she is a Theatre major, as well as at Inviolet Theatre Company. Ambar’s acting roles have ranged from cross-gender ones in Boston-based William Suspension Productions to a role in “Vagina Monologues” with Athena Players and that of a mayfly at LaGuardia, for which she earned a 2017 Irene Ryan acting nomination. As a 2018-2019 Fulbright India researcher, she will study performance-based initiatives to combat social problems, continuing the work she pursued as a Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellow in Gujarat last summer. 


Capturing Social Injustice
By Luisa Madrid 

Injustice has plagued mankind for centuries. But a weapon in the battle to combat it came in the form of a device that can freeze time. As the camera became a fundamental instrument in documenting history, it eventually altered the course of it, and helped produce social change. This project reenacts key events that became turning points in American history and established radical change through the help of photography. 

Luisa Madrid is a Commercial Photography Degree student at LaGuardia Community College. Originally a social worker with a Master’s degree in Social Work and International Law in Human Rights, Luisa decided to start over. She wanted to continue making a change in the world while also creatively expressing herself. She found photography to be a discipline that could fulfill both desires. By pointing her camera at individuals on the fringes of society, or covering topics that are difficult to discuss, Luisa’s photography sheds light on subjects that are often lost in the dark. She aspires to pursue her MFA, and acquire a position as a photojournalist/documentary photographer in New York City. Her hope is not only to capture images that are pleasing to the eye, but that also start a conversation and a desire to create change.


A Life of Significance
By Dayana Sadova 

Aristotle believed that there is always a purpose/reason for everything that happens. This statement was the main reason for my project to happen, as the realization of the meaning behind philosopher’s words completely changed my way of thinking. The aim of my film is to show the audience that every single thing that happens is significant – it’s designed to either shape us or teach us something. I hope that my project will remind people that we are all here on purpose and strive towards one ultimate goal and every single action we commit, every single decision we make is crucial for what’s next. In my project, I hope to achieve both: explore the topic and engage the audience in the exciting visual experience.

Dayana Sadova is an artist living and working in New York City. She was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and since early childhood was exposed to the artworks of her father, who was also an artist and a cartoonist. Dayana grew up at her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother was a journalist and a poet. Spending most of the time in her grandmother’s library, Dayana was deeply influenced by literature and philosophy, which later would have an impact on her works. Dayana started illustrating her favorite stories at the very early age and continued doing it through her high school years. She was 17 years old when she came to the US and became a freshman at LAGCC having a specific plan to begin her career path in the arts. In Fall 2018, Dayana is transferring to Hunter College with and will be working towards her BA in Film. Working with a production team and participating in a filmmaking process was her long-lasting dream. As a fine artist, she plans to become a production designer and establish the physical world of the story that would grow into a movie. However, she would also like to continue illustrating books and articles part-time as she still truly enjoys the process of envisioning what she reads.


Preparing Yourself to Act: Female Archetypes in Theatre
By Amina Cunningham

When an actress searches for the roles she would like one day to play, she will not find a wide variety. It seems the media keeps placing women in these bubbles and archetypes. She can be one of four people. This affects women outside of the theatre life, too. It creates a mindset that they can be only these and limits them. It divides women instead of promoting love. I wish to explore how one woman can be all those archetypes and none at the same time. That we must rely on our fellow women instead of judging them. And I’m going to do it all during a twenty minute train delay. 

Amina Cunningham is a theatre major at LaGuardia Community College. She is graduating in June 2018 and wishes to continue her education at a four year school. She has been passionate about theatre since her first show when she was at Dance and Drama Camp at Christ the King when she was eleven. While she has dabbled in straight theatre, her real passion is musical theatre. She has been a part of many community theatres such as Maggie’s Little Theatre, JC Players, and Maspeth Town Hall. She has also tried her hand at being an assistant director of the elementary school Sacred Heart’s production of Annie.


Allegorical Exploration
By Ryan Cooper 

What does hope look like? Hope can take many forms. It is mostly associated with finding the light in darkness. Hope is an idea of projecting a positive outlook at the worst of times. In “Allegorical Exploration”, three painted representations of dark and static scenarios all depict a sense of hope for the subjects and objects involved. The cave scene, inspired by Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, depicts the most basic form of humans with hope. Three subjects are trapped in a well and have no contact to the outside world and can only see the sky pouring in. Inside the house, a family placed in the middle of nowhere can only stay connected with their world by using devices since their home has no windows or doors to physically experience the greater reality beyond. Above our atmosphere, satellites orbit the Earth as they observe and connect those on the ground while simultaneously searching to the furthest extent of the universe to understand who we are and what our true reality is. All three stages are connected yet completely autonomous with each other. It is up to the viewer to see what they choose to see. However, we must acknowledge that we do not know what lies beyond our own limitations and that is where we may find hope to be able to do great things in life.

Ryan Cooper is a proud New York City native who from a tender age experienced both the rich culture and vices of the five boroughs. In middle school, recognizing his immense potential, his music teacher, Mr. Manning, encouraged him to audition for the Borough Wide Band which eventually led to his acceptance at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts leading to an interest in composing music and writing songs. Throughout high school, he participated in the Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra and was selected to play trombone with the Pershing’s Own United States Army Band at Lincoln Center.  In his senior year, his family was faced with the turmoil of homelessness. This led to an exploration in writing and songwriting. After three years of struggling to overcome displacement, he had recorded and released his first series of songs on an EP entitled, “Meditations EP”. Following the release, he felt it was time to return to school to pursue an education in fine arts and philosophy. Through this secondary education, he began to volunteer his free time to community organizing in Queens and has worked towards the empowerment of the Corona street vendors. 


The Plate is Political
By Telijah Patterson 

“What’s on my plate?” When did you last ask yourself this question? It’s not unusual to eat fusion foods like a paratha taco, ramen burger, or curry fries, but beyond the chef’s search for new and exciting tastes, what is the story behind the crossing of these seemingly unrelated cultures. It has been said that the story of our food is a window into our humanity and this projects seeks to look beyond the superficiality of “feeling cultured” by indulging exotic foods and encourages critical thinking around the complex stories of people and cultures to whom they belong through the lense of politics and the arts. You will have the opportunity to talk about food eaten in four countries the U.S. is currently in conflict with and understand the politics that lead to their creation! Participants will leave with a recipe card and are encouraged to continue their dialogue here

Telijah Pattersonis a proud, non-traditional, honors college student and winner of three prestigious study abroad scholarships including the Benjamin A. Gilman and Critical Language Scholarship both managed by the Department of State. During her gap years she traveled, gained vocational industry certifications, and participated in national service. In 2015 she joined City Year, an AmeriCorps program that aids students in high needs schools. While at City Year she discovered her passion for social justice. The next year she enrolled as a student at LaGuardia Community College. After graduation, she hopes to get a job in a time volunteering at or planning community events. Telijah lives by the mantra that “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” She actively seeks out and is involved in numerous leadership activities. Telijah is currently working towards her Associate of Arts in International Studies. One of her ambitions is to work at the intersection of education, technology, and intercultural communication by starting a network of tech-focused bilingual schools in the U.S. targeting highly ambitious students in underserved communities with sister campuses in rural China!


Bringing Perspective to War
By Brandon Francis 

First-person shooter games top the charts in video game sales each year. Yet, having known both World War I and World War II veterans, the experience of playing these games is not that reminiscent of the experience of war. Some games allow you to select your character and the characters’ national affiliation, so you can see the scenario from different perspectives. I wanted to go one step further. This new video game concept forces players to literally take the perspective of the person who you just shot. My hope is that this game mechanic may be able to raise awareness and build empathy among game players. 

Brandon Francis is a Computer Science major at LaGuardia Community College. He is currently pursuing a career in video games. He loves to figure out how things work, and exploring game mechanics is part of that. As such, he is also interested in video game design and development, and would be interested in starting his own game company someday. One of the mechanisms he seeks to understand is the mind: he believes that people come from many different perspectives and interpret information differently.


Sew Glo
By Shakierra Henderson 

If you walk down Broadway between 25th and 26th Avenue, you will find Larry. Larry has lived on the streets longer than the restaurant establishment that is behind him has been open. I first saw Larry when I was employed by that same restaurant, it was the middle of September, 2016 and the New York weather was outright cold. On the surface, Larry had on a black heavy leather jacket, a black skully, sweatpants and hard-toe boots. Not to mention the layers upon layers Larry had on underneath those articles. Spring forward to the summertime and as I headed into work wearing my short sleeves and shorts, Larry has on the same clothes as he did before. Unfortunately, Larry’s situation is not uncommon. Many people (statistics if I can find) in New York City are homeless and don’t have the luxury of switching up their wardrobe as the seasons change. This project will explore the ways versatile clothing can help people who suffer from homelessness.

Shakerria Hendersonis a second year Theatre major at LaGuardia Community College. She has been a LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholar since 2017 and is expected to graduate with her AS in June 2018. She aspires to train at The Neighborhood Playhouse, an acting conservatory, once she graduates. Although acting is her main passion, it is not her only one. Shakerria has a humanitarian spirit, never wants to take the opportunities that have been given to her for granted and is always looking for a way to do more.


Unlearning Abelism
By Giselle Mendoza 

Ableism: Discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. 

In life we often don’t believe what we cannot see, this has been a constant struggle for many living with invisible disabilities. Those living with invisible disabilities are often ostracized to the point that it begins to affect their mental health. We can start by un-learning those ideologies we were taught of what makes a valuable human being. By acknowledging our own privileges we challenge ourselves to get to the bottom of that discomfort and find out if it has to do with how we think or what we perceive disabled people to be.

Giselle Mendoza is a student studying Business Administration at LaGuardia Community College. Last year she was diagnosed with a Chiari Malformation which is a chronic illness that affects your nervous system but she has grieved and came to terms that this is her new normal. When Giselle is not busy spending time with her son and attending classes she works on campus helping students with their Foundation Scholarship and as a Board member of the LaGuardia Film and Media Club. She hopes to one day own her own business and be able to help the youth in her community. 


The Complexity of Sexual Harassment in the U.S. and India
By Sandep Kaur 

Sexual Harassment is a subject often hidden and isn’t talked about to the general public nor the environment its happening in. Until recently we have seen the media publicize such scandals happening among the big screen actors to even politicians the people of high power. The questions that arise are people afraid to come out because of losing their job or fear of judgment by their superior. Ultimately this is what is happening all around the world not just the cases we hear about. My project will address the issue of sexual harassment in India and the United States as well talk about what’s being done to resolve the situation. Lastly leave the audience with tips and advice to help someone and raise awareness. 

Sandep Kaur was a student at LaGuardia Community College, and had majored in Liberal Arts: Math & Science. She hopes to take her degree a further step by attending Hunter College in the fall of 2018 and attaining a bachelor’s in Science. Her main goal is to attend medical school and become a physician assistant. Sandep has a passion for helping people from a young age seeing how doctors had helped her save her own life has made her appreciate life and hopes to do the same one day. In a personal account Sandep has seen how doctors and physician assistants provide care for her father when he was ill. Her passion to do the same has grown she knows it wouldn’t be easy but with hard work she knows she will get there. 


Arts and Music Add Value to Business and Beyond
By Paula Moreno 

Many people are studying subjects related on business such as marketing, Accounting, Administration, and Management. We can see that here at LaGuardia community college 19% of students are enrolled in Business Majors while 8% of students are enrolled in humanities. People are putting on the side classes like art or music without thinking how this humanities subjects help and influence our lives professionally and academically. I know students can chose classes they want as an elective. However, they have a pathway for their major that they should follow. This project wants to engage students to take art and music classes because it adds value to their professional lives. In addition, it helps to improve different skills such as creative thinking and teamwork.

Paula Moreno is from Colombia and she came to the United States in 2014. She studied Business Administration for two years in her country. After she moved to New York, she focused on learning English while she was at LaGuardia Community College pursuing Business Administration. She chose this major because she had some experience in this field. However, her goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in BBA-Finances. Paula is going to graduate in the summer of 2018 and she will transfer to Queens College to continue her studies in Finance. Paula is patient, optimist, responsible, and a hard worker. She is passionate about her career and learning new things, especially languages such as French. In addition, Paula likes to interact with people from different cultures, travel, and explore. She has been in LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Program since 2016 where she has learned and explored different topics through the different workshops and the enrichment activities.