2018-2019 LaGuardia Scholars

Image credit: thepowerremains via Flickr

Know: The 2018-2019 LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars Showcase

May 22, 2019

The LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars took visitors through a curated exhibition of their student-designed projects around this year’s theme of “Know.” The showcase hopes to convey the importance of learning and seeking knowledge, as well as meaningfully connecting to people of different cultures. See below for project details and Scholars’ bios.

View the photo gallery on Google Photos.

The Story of Carlos Javier
By Juan Sebastian Sepulveda

“The Story of Carlos Javier” is a documentary that narrates the story of a young undocumented Latino immigrant whose dream is to become a professional photographer. This documentary demonstrates how Latino community is conformed by determined, self-driven, and hard-working individuals. The Story of Carlos Javier will definitely encourage immigrant and non-immigrant individuals to outdo themselves in a country where equality of opportunities is granted to those who decide to put their soul and heart in any of their projects. This documentary has been created to inspire those who believe that achieving their goals is impossible. 

“You don’t know what you are capable of until you try it. Look at me, I do not have any legal documents in the US and I have been able to achieve amazing things. Imagine what you can accomplish if you just set a goal in your mind” – Carlos Alvarenga

Juan Sebastian Sepulveda is a media studies major. He enjoys making short films, and he hopes someday to become a film director and an actor. Recently he was given the opportunity to help students as a Student Success Partner at ASAP. Helping and supporting students succeed in their career path is one of the most thrilling experiences he has as a Student Success Partner. Moreover, he is part of the LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars program, where he gets to discuss with other scholars relevant topics that affect the immigrant community in the U.S.; especially, the Latino community. He hopes to change the misconceptions that exist about immigrants through a documentary that will expose the reality of the Latino community in the U.S. Besides, he had the opportunity of working with Jean-Claude Van Itallie, an American Screenplay writer. Along with two more LaGuardia students, he was able to go to Jean-Cloude’s foundation, Shantigar, and produce different video content for Tea with Demons, one of Jean Cloud’s most recent books. He plans to transfer in Fall 2019 to NYU and pursue his bachelor’s degree in Film and Video Production. He truly believes that the way we all can improve our own lives is by sharing each others stories. This way individuals realize they are not alone and they can relate to other people’s stories. He believes that by sharing our experiences, knowledge, and essentially by being humans we can all have a more friendly and enjoyable life.

The Labyrinth Of Education
By Matthew Wilson

“The Labyrinth Of Education” is a documentary on the positive and powerful impact higher education has on the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated. Matthew shares his life story for the purpose of sending a message to the world that there is justice and redemption in education. The resources that academic institutions can serve justice involved persons gives them a new direction and opportunity to reinvent themselves through academics, while providing a network that is the true value of college. The Labyrinth Of Education is meant to be the voice of all of incarcerated people on a journey to reintegrate into the community. 

Looking to find his path and alter his future after incarceration, Matthew Wilson applied for a program called the Prison-2-College-Pipeline where he earned 18 credits before he was released from the custody of New York State Department of Corrections on October 31st, 2016. Impressing his professor and founder of the Prison-2-College-Pipeline, Wilson applied and was accepted to the Justice-in-Education Initiative for the Spring of 2017, and enrolled at LaGuardia Community College.His scholarly excellence earned him a recommendation to the LaGuardia Honors Society and the LaGuardia Honors Internship Program. Through this program, he was selected for an internship with NBC Universal, where he serves as a production assistant with the tri-state Channel 4 News. In Fall 2018, Wilson was also invited to intern at Shantigar, an arts and meditation retreat founded by playwright Jean Claude van Itallie to promote a sense of clarity and focus so that artists can create meaningful artistic content. As a mentor and college assistant with the CUNY Fatherhood Academy, Wilson also works with young fathers who want to gain a High School Equivalency diploma. Through this work, he motivates individuals to enroll in college by providing insights from his experiences, while creating an outlet for young men to tell their own stories. Wilson is now creating a docu-series with some of the young fathers he works with, allowing their voices to be heard. A creative artist and storyteller, Wilson has written the story line for a three-part graphic novel saga titled Swords of Fortune, which he co-illustrated with writer and artist Miguel Williams. Wilson aspires to be a writer and filmmaker who touches on the social issues that are often overlooked in media and society, and plans to graduate in Spring 2019 to embark on a new journey of academic success.

By Jean Carlos Santos

This video gives a peek into how music education can build knowledge, discipline, and camaraderie while being in a fun environment. I have seen many music performances and always found myself feeling at home. Everyone was there for the same reason, to enjoy music. It has been an integral part to my personal growth and is why I want to teach so that I may hopefully shine a light on an art that enthusiasts and explorers alike can participate in. I have been working this past year on teaching music at School of Rock. We are a performance-based music school where we combine weekly group rehearsals and playing with an ensemble of peers to create an accelerated musical education. While we find students learn the fastest this way, you will also see that we build a community of people, with a like-minded goal: to play awesome music and have a good time doing it. We have done themed shows such as The Rolling Stones, Pop Punk, and Tom Petty. One of the current shows is Radiohead, a band whose music is riddled with subtle intricacies and depth. 

Jean Carlos Santos is a New York based musician and a Music Option major at LaGuardia Community College. Through teaching, he hopes to show others the peace, fun,and discipline that he has found through music. Currently employed at School of Rock NYC as an Assistant Show Director, he engages and leads young minds in performance based group classes.

My Dances, My Cultures
By Josselyn Velasquex

Focusing on the connection between dances and culture, this project celebrates the importance of dance in students’ lives. It includes a performance of Festejo, a dance that has various rhythmic movements from African origin and influenced by its people. It is a very energetic dance that involves lots of footwork, different choreography and improvisation as well. All students could value from the historical, cultural and social importance of dances, and would benefit from having a dance club at LaGuardia.

Josselyn Velasquex is an Hispanic student at LaGuardia Community College who was born in Peru and moved to New York city in 2013. Motivated by her love for math and science, and the lack representation of women in STEM majors, she decided to pursue a career in Mechanical Engineering. For the last year, she has been a Student Technology Mentor, where she is able to help freshman students with their eportfolio, which is an online platform. Thanks to her excellent academic progress, she joined Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, which recognizes the leadership and intellectual achievement of their members. As part of her general education pathways, Josselyn took a Latin American Literature class where she met her mentor, Prof. Luis Henao. He recommended that she apply to the LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholar Program to enrich her knowledge about humanities. Moved by the topics touched in her Spanish class about land, cultures and belonging, she developed a project where she focuses on the connection between dances and culture.

Facing Fear
By Jason Barrera

Inspired by contemporary horror stories like Get Out and Us, Jason has decided to write his first play about four friends trip into the woods, and their deepest fears. Each character faces a unique experience that forces them to face their fears, or not…. For the Showcase, actors will do a reading of an excerpt from the play. 

Jason Barrera is a theater major from Belize. Acting being his forte, Jason is familiar with the stage from multiple class performance showcases a one man show and working with tony award winner Stew on Columbus is Happening which he played multiple characters. From these experiences he has gained from acting, Jason plans to open a new door for himself and some of his peers through writing plays. Jason plans to graduate from Laguardia after the summer session and to move on to a BFA acting conservatory in the fall. 

La Pluma del Espectador
By Abel Villamar

“The Spectator’s Pen” magazine is a literary project that presents the importance of linguistic diversity within literature and culture. The magazine includes works of narrative and poetry in different languages. The purpose of this multilingual format is to emphasize the cultural and creative diversity of the students of Laguardia and remember that we all have a story to tell and we can all tell our stories regardless of our language.

Abel Villamar was born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He is a current student at LaGuardia Community College, majoring in Latin American studies. Abel came to the United States in 2014. His experience as an immigrant has allowed him to personally feel the barriers of language and culture, but at the same time presented him with an opportunity to foster new ideas in a completely different language. Writing poetry is one of his passions. The creative opportunities that poetry offers has allowed him to explore the creation of a multilingual and multicultural space for the development of art, in which he presents poetry as the genesis of a new communication process, with complex linguistic, cultural, and ideological facets.

By Carlie Guevara

x01 is a play written automatically by an algorithm using Google Trends entries and compiling the text from arbitrary parameters such as time, day, or random color selected. The play is important because it highlights the technical and artistic applications of technology to further production and exploration of ideas. The algorithm itself is simple and allows users to easily interact with and see the fruit of their labor in the play that is generated.  For the showcase a play will be generated on site using information derived from the user such as age, day, etc. This will hopefully allow the user to understand how the algorithm has compiled their unique play and think of the vast implications of technology like this in their everyday life. 

Carlie Guevara is an artist using interdisciplinary means via computer science and visual arts to present new ideas and production. She is motivated by the integration of technology in everyday life and our seamless acceptance of it too. Moved to show the integration of technology and life she is producing a line of robots with limited functions that each create their own work of art. For the Mellon Humanities Scholars program she presents: x01. x01 is a play written automatically using Google Trends searches that are combined using arbitrary parameters.

Invisible Disabilities Behind the Limelight
By Giselle Mendoza

This project was made in order to educate the public on invisible disabilities and to show that things in life are not always black & white. The project displays those in the spotlight who are thought to have a perfect life and unveils their disability. This shows us what they truly live with as well asthings that are not always shown to the public. This project is important to me because it’s not always a topic that is talked about and people who live with these disabilities are not always taken seriously. What I hope people take away from this is the power and motivation to advocate for themselves as well as others around them. I personally connect to this project as a person who lives with a neurological condition that isn’t visible. 

Born and raised in New York, Giselle Mendoza is a Business Administration major at LaGuardia Community College. She is currently a member of the Mellon Humanities Scholars Program with the CUNY Graduate Center. This year, as part of a required showcase in the program, she will continue bring awareness to invisible disabilities through art. When she is not in class, Giselle is working on campus in the Development Department helping students with scholarship applications, and spending time with her son.

Smile New York City
By Anne Husman

Smile New York City blossomed from Anne’s observation of people on the New York subway trains. When she first moved to Brooklyn, Anne felt that every time she was on the train she was excited for new adventures and was energized to explore the city. Nevertheless, she quickly noticed that her high energy was not shared by the people surrounding her, at least on trains. Without putting too much thought into it, she started adjusting to the city and after only 12 months, she noticed that she was becoming more and more like the rest of the subway travelers: annoyed of constant delays, “train traffic ahead” and other obstacles in the way of a normal New Yorker. When challenged to come up with her own idea for the Humanities Scholars, Anne thought about these times and developed her idea for the project about happiness. The project is to find out about different understandings of happiness of random people met in New York City. Every person interviewed gets asked four questions, which were picked by Anne through her interest in different facets to understand happiness. By interviewing different people, she hopes to show that most people think more about negative instead of happy things. Also to bring a smile to anyone who can relate to a story she shares from other New Yorker’s in the constant struggle to be happy and live in the Big Apple. In order to share the stories with as many people as possible, the interviews of the participants are shared on Instagram Page: smilenyc2019.

Originally from Bonn, Germany, Anne Husman arrived in New York in August 2017 to pursue an acting career. Her dream is to become a film and theater actress working on projects that bring light to important topics. Anne has traveled to Australia and South America, where she has enjoyed learning about different cultures. The months of travel have shaped her worldview and motivate her to become a well-educated women, who wants to help others. During her time at LaGuardia Community College, Anne has been a part of the newly developed Musical Columbus Is Happening by Tony Award Winner Stew. Anne works at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center and is happy to have become a part of the Theater Community on campus. Moreover, Anne is a President’s Society alumni and received the Foundation Scholarship for the academic year of 2018-2019. Anne hopes to transfer to a 4-year university to continue her education in theater in fall of 2019. Even though, Anne moved to Brooklyn by herself two years ago, she feels extremely supported by her family and friends back in Germany and wants to thank everyone who believed in her vision to move to New York City to pursue her dream to educate herself further and become an actress.

Pesca NYC, A Youth Fishing Initiative
By Katherine Pinzon

The Pesca NYC fishing initiative was created to empower children ages 6-12 by fishing, arts & crafts, and reflection. Pesca NYC aims to guide the children to develop an authentic individuality, gain leadership skills, develop confidence, and create a connection between self and the world. 

My name is Katherine Pinzon and I am a first generation college student. My father took me on my very first fishing trip at the age of 6 years old. Fishing has changed my life completely; allowing me to develop leadership and communication skills that has allowed me to take advantage of the many opportunities presented to me throughout my life. In my first semester at LaGuardia, I became a LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Alliance Scholar and a Student Affairs Ambassador. The LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Alliance Scholars program allowed me to make a dream of mine come to life. With the guidance of mentors, I have created a youth fishing initiative called Pesca NYC that will be a permanent non-profit program that I plan on running each summer. As a Student Affairs Ambassador, I work closely with Vice President Seals and the Student Affairs Leadership team in order to improve the student experience on campus. Because of my experiences with the Vice President, the Deans, the Foundation, and the student body, I have decided that I want to pursue my masters degree in Higher Education with the goal of becoming a Community College Dean. Because of my experiences as Mellon Humanities Alliance Scholar and a Student Affairs Ambassador, I was able to use the leadership techniques that I have obtained from both programs to become an active member in LaGuardia’s Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society Chapter. With the guidance of my mentor, the encouragement of my peers, and my love for the LaGuardia student body, I was elected as LaGuardia’s Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society Chapter President for the 2019-2020 year.

A Place to Go When You’re On The Go
By Rupam Adak

In New York City, it is often difficult to find a place to go to the bathroom when you are roaming around the city. There are not enough public facilities, and people in need are often turned away from restaurants and other places of business unless they make a purchase. Like Uber and Lyft have transformed the transportation industry, my business proposal seeks to transform the process of trying to find a bathroom nearby. For my project, I have created a business proposal to develop a simple app where pedestrians can find a bathroom nearby, order a bathroom to come to them, or to travel in a portable facility while using the bathroom. I have done all the research to get this business off the ground. Now all I need are investor business partners – and you can become one! 

Rupam Adak is a Business Administration major at LaGuardia Community College, who looks forward to becoming a successful entrepreneur. He is working towards making this venture a successful one in the next five years, and hopes that will make future ventures possible. He has worked with several companies in India and USA, and know several languages (English, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, and Urdu). He is also in the President’s Society and serves as a Peer Advisor at LaGuardia. He used to perform stand up comedy, and recently completed an internship at MoMA to expand his knowledge in the field of art, film, and history. Rupam likes accepting challenges and responsibility, has an adaptive attitude, is a team player, and has the utmost respect for everybody. The humanities play an instrumental role in his thought and decision making process.

A Journey to Languages
By Susana Alvis

In my project, I explore the practical ways in which an adult can learn a desired language. I did this by the studying of popular sayings in Italian, French and Mandarin. My main strategy was to do literal translation of each saying to gain vocabulary and also observe the syntax and conjugation of verbs. This also allowed me to learn more about the culture that pertains to these languages and the way of thinking of its people. In addition, I also explore how the environment in which an adult person learns a language can influence their language learning process. 

Born and raised in Monteria, Colombia, Susana Alvis moved to the United States in 2011. She is currently pursuing her Associates in Spanish – English Translation at LaGuardia Community College. Susana desires to use her passion for languages and cultures to work in embassy and diplomatic settings under the umbrella of International Relations/ Intercultural Relations. Among the cultures that she is most passionate about is the Chinese Culture; where she plans to focus and work in the area of cross-cultural communication. Susana’s love for languages and cultures translates into her role of Student Success Mentor, through which she has had the opportunity to teach the First Year Seminar studio hour to over one hundred freshmen students per semester; her students are from various parts of the world, in this way, she helps them to acclimate to the college system and culture in order to reach a successful graduation. Susana also serves as a LaGuardia ambassador through President’s Society, representing the college in networking events and meetings with donors; served as the student representative at the Steering Strategic Directions Committee that planned the Strategic Directions Summit to help shape the future of LaGuardia; and is part of the LaGuardia Rising Committee that works towards the safety and protection of student’s rights. She is an ePortfolio Scholar and a New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 2018 Scholarship Award Winner. Susana’s passion for cultures and languages has been her vehicle to better serve and understand those around her, and has allowed her to become a better person by taking in the richness and beauty of those around. 

Highlighting Experiences in the Holocaust
By Brandon Francis

Games that are made about the World War II time period often exhibit acts of valor among soldiers. Very rarely do games highlight the experience of those persecuted in the Holocaust. Some believe there is no way to make the event have interesting gameplay and some believe that the event is too emotionally charged to explore in gaming. I wanted to challenge that. “Ucieczka” (pronounced oo-chech-kah) is a game that follows a young polish girl living in a ghetto in her attempt to help her family survive.

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.