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A Big Scary Button

This orange tab on the CUNY SPS scholarship page had me losing sleep for weeks.  It loomed over me like a dour headmistress, daring me to take my chances.   But after a few yoga classes, and some deep breathing, I calmed myself down enough to realize that the application wasn’t the all-or-nothing gamble I’d internally created.  After all, there are loads of scholarships.  Research showed me that a diligent search could unearth a scholarship for almost anyone.

There’s even a scholarship for Dr. Pepper lovers.

(Graphics from: http://carrington.edu/blog/student-tips/finance/scholarships/)

Crafting my Life

All “non-conventional students” have a story.  Since I have lived a full life, the personal essay for my application could easily become longwinded.  The challenge was to convey personality, recount my past, and create an impression in a pithy 500 words.

Writing my mini-memoir reminded me of that famous Oscar Wilde quote, “I’m sorry this letter is so long, but I didn’t have time for a short one.”  Wait- was it Ben Franklin?  Maybe Mark Twain?  Turns out, this quote has quite an illustrious history.  Apparently, I’m not the only person who thinks writing short is hard!  Here’s the link to read its journey, if you’re so inclined. (Spoiler alert: it was Blaise Pascal, but Ben Franklin recycled it.) http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/04/28/shorter-letter/

Making the Impersonal Personal

The scholarship application needed two reference letters.  My first choice seemed obvious.  I’d enlist my cousin, who has watched over me like a big brother.  Not only does he have excellent academic cred (PhD in literacy), he’s also my book coach.  But I was later told that it’s more relevant having my CUNY SPS professors commend me.  Suddenly asking for endorsements felt awkward.

Because distance-learner.

This is my avatar.

She lives in the ether of my Blackboard profile.  On most screens, she’s smaller than a postage stamp.  Except for the weekly discussion board, she has no voice.  My professors never heard her laugh.  They never saw the delight in her face when they helped her learn new skills, or embrace new concepts. Yet, for my CUNY SPS mentors, she is me.

Thankfully, Professors Driver and Gardener both readily agreed to write the endorsement.  I am forever grateful and there needs to be special corners in heaven dedicated to them.

Lessons Learned

All non-conventional students have a story to tell: here’s mine.  When I initially applied to CUNY SPS, my application was rejected.  In earlier student life, I unofficially withdrew from several classes when transferring schools.  This left some glaring zeroes on my transcript, bringing my GPA below the requisite 2.5 by .03%.  Not easily daunted, I challenged the decision.  After spreadsheets, recommendation letters, and a new personal essay, I was admitted—on academic probation.

I have worked hard.  My GPA is up.

While writing my essay for the scholarship, it occurred to me that in one year my son and I will both be 1st generation college students at the same time.

Study Group 2018

Never too late. Never give up.


500 words: Boom!

Designer, single mom, and ongoing student, Lisa Sheridan is busy juggling life, work, and academics as an undergraduate in the Communication and Media department.

 

 

Life as a student is short, so why not get ahead in the short time your here? What have you been doing to be more prepared after life as a student is over with? If you answered nothing to that question, then you seriously need to get on your A game.

This is the time to learn and grow: as an individual and professionally. CUNY SPS hosts a lot of webinars that help us improve on those soft skills vital for being successful in life.

Join a club: research a club that will help jump start your career. If your majoring in media/communications/journalism a good club to join is the National Association of Hispanic Journalist. They offer fellowships and internships. They also send out great networking events and career workshops. I recently just went to one of their networking events, where I got to mingle with people that work for the New York Times, CNN, ESPN, and BuzzFeed, just to name a few.

Internships: don’t wait until the last semester to intern! Start right away if you can. Internships are a great way to gain exposure in different areas of your major firsthand. The more exposure you get to different professional environments, the more confident you will be when you graduate about what area in your field you want to go in.

Develop your mind: all of these things are great ways to get ahead but they’ll just be a waste of time if you’re not mentally prepared. If you’re the type of person who’s always second guessing themselves or don’t think they are good enough or smart enough, stop, you are enough. You don’t need to be the smartest, or the fastest, you simply need to be the best you can be. If you need a little extra push listen to motivational speeches, read books, and/or have little pep talks with yourself.

“You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”—Les Brown

Yerelyn Nunez is a native New Yorker with Dominican roots in her blood. She loves to read, write, and is pursuing acting. She loves lending a helping hand or words of encouragement to those in need of it. She is majoring in Communication & Media at CUNY SPS.

Life can knock you off your feet! I take care of everything and everyone…this is what I do and a large part of who I am! One day while at work I had this intense squeezing in my chest, everything started to spin, I was nauseous and dizzy. I thought I was having a heart attack. After being checked out in the ER, thankfully my ticker is in fine condition but what I experienced was a panic attack.

Last semester was very difficult: working 50+ hours a week, dealing with the news of my brother being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, caring for him during treatment, all while working towards finishing my degree, and the pressure was taking its toll. This panic attack was an eye opening experience.

I was not taking care of myself at all and it was evident. It was time to make some healthy changes. The hardest one was acknowledging that it wasn’t selfish to take time for self-care. I worked on trying to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, took some walks (even short 15 minute ones helped) and—this is a big one—turning off all electronics (YES, no Facebook!!!) at least an hour before going to sleep. However, the most important form of self-care for me has been the practice of active listening and affirmation towards myself.

Active listening is when we listen to someone, acknowledge their feelings and restate it so they feel understood and validated. It might sound, and feel, weird doing this, but give it a try. I would say things to myself like, “working so many hours and caring for Anthony (my brother) is really exhausting,” or “it’s ok to be scared and sad to see Anthony so sick.”

So many people suffer with anxiety, many in silence. I was ashamed to admit that at one point, but not anymore. This makes me human. If you find yourself in a similar situation, practice some self-care. Be kind and love yourself. Allow the truth of your emotions to have a safe space with no judgment. Give yourself time to feel, grow, and heal on this journey of life.

Life can knock us off our feet, but it’s okay because sometimes we need to lay down and rest.

Be kind to YOU today!

Dianne Galasso is a Brooklyn native since birth! In 1991, she received her AAS in Journalism from Kingsborough Community College. She studied at St. John’s University from 1993-1999. Dianne has had photographic and written work published, as well as has edited for other published authors. Since 1991, Dianne has worked at a medical center in Brooklyn in various job functions, currently as a Manager in the Nursing Education Department. She has coached girls’ softball, volunteered in the women’s and children’s ministry in her local church and is an active resource in the lives of children. After a 15 year hiatus from school, Dianne is currently a student at CUNY SPS where she is pursuing her BA in Psychology.

You wake up and wonder whether you’ll survive the day. Can you endure another day of pain and suffering? How much will you sacrifice? Will you be able to achieve the days goals? Do you go out into the world or stay in your safe haven? You put on your mask, hiding your emotions away and head out into the world. You wonder if your mask will slip and people will see your vulnerability. You hope someone will see through to the real you, the you crying out for help. Survival is becoming harder, the mask slips, your shield cracks. Your emotions are overflowing. You are exhausted and irritable. You can’t take in anymore. The dam has broken.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

Everything and everyone is connected. The world is an intricate interconnected web of emotions, thoughts, actions, and words. Each and every person affects others, who affects others, who affects many more.

Humans are full of contradictions. One of the greatest being our fragility and resiliency. Humans are the weakest and most vulnerable species as a baby. Our bodies go through drastic changes during puberty. Humans can easily break down and lose hope. A single, small injury can kill us. Despite this, humans survive infancy. Humans can survive death defying feats. We will fight to our death for what we believe in. Humans continue down the hectic path of life and we survive.

The human race is capable of extreme benevolence and extreme malevolence. The human race should not be destroyed through its own doing. Humans have tremendous potential to become an impressive, unrelenting force of nature that is capable of extraordinary acts of goodwill.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

THE OCTOBER SURPRISE
Since turning 40, each advancing birthday seems progressively less a reason to celebrate. But my birthday this year gave me a most unique and unexpected gift: I was invited to the CUNY Women’s Leadership Conference to be held at Hunter College on October 28th. This program turned out to be a great cause for celebration.

EXCITED, BUT A LITTLE APPREHENSIVE
This CUNY-wide event was to include students from all 24 campuses, so I knew many of the attendees would be college aged and much younger than me. I wondered: “As a continuing ed student shifting professional gears mid-life, how relevant could this conference be? After all, it will surely be geared to young women embarking on their careers, not women looking to redraft a life story.” I had no idea what to expect.

To my surprise and delight, the numerous speakers and panels had messages that were not only inspirational, but also absolutely applicable to my current circumstances. There were so many wonderful segments, here is a mere sampling:

  • The keynote speakers Rossana Rosado, NYS Secretary of State, and Letitia James, Public Advocate for the City of New York, both delivered emotional speeches about the empowering experience of community involvement. Their lives of public service are proof positive that we all have the power to affect change.
WiTNY panel

WiTNY panel

  • From the Women in Technology (WiTNY) panel, we heard about the need for women in the digital world. The statistics are staggering: only 18% of computer science graduates are women and woman comprise just 26% of the tech workforce. WiTNY would like to see that change.
Dr. Lobley, Director of Student Services, and some the SPS student attendees

Dr. Lobley, Director of Student Services, and some the SPS student attendees

  • Perhaps my favorite aspect of this symposium was meeting some of SPS’ faculty and my fellow SPS students. Our SPS students represented our school with eloquence and passion: asking questions, raising issues, and talking about passionate causes.

THE ONGOING PRESENT
This could have been a very tough birthday: I’m job hunting and certainly not getting any younger.

Thank you, CUNY and SPS for this encouraging lift—I could pop the bubbly after all!

For more information about the CUNY Women’s Leadership Conference, or to learn how you can attend a future conference, contact studentservices@sps.cuny.edu.

Designer, single mom, and ongoing student, Lisa Sheridan is busy juggling life, work, and academics as an undergraduate in the Communication and Media department.

Dear Honorable President Barack Hussein Obama II and Family,

I felt the need to write you this letter for two reasons, to say thank you and to say I am sorry.

THANK YOU.
I don’t know how many people have thanked you for being one of the greatest Presidents we have ever had in this country. Through judgement of your legitimacy and unsurmountable opposition, to every move you have tried to make for the betterment of this country, you have served this country with style and grace in a way that no President in my knowledge has ever done. You and your family have done so much, knowing that you will never get the credit you deserve.

I am an army veteran, and throughout your Presidency, regardless of the decisions you have had to make, I have never been more proud to serve this country. You and the First Lady, Michelle Obama will be the examples of who I want my children to desire to emulate. You have inspired me to be a better version of myself every day, and after you leave the Presidency I will continue down that path.

The fight that you have fought does not and will not end with you. You are an inspiration to people the world over.  You have held the world on your shoulders in a way that no one ever believed you could and you did it as a gentleman and a scholar.

To the First Lady, you are the standard of how women across the world should be held to.

To your daughters, be proud in the fact that your parents are heroes in every sense of what a hero is supposed to be. They should be proud of the fact that they have played part in the making of a symbol of greatness for people who have been too far under served by this nation for too long.

I AM SORRY.
I am sorry that too many of us have left you to do this alone. I am sorry that too few of us in this nation took up the mantle of hope that you started this journey with and spread it across this nation. I am sorry that that we abandoned you on the battle field in Washington D.C. as many of us sat back and watched while you were attached from every side imaginable, and then blamed you for not doing enough. You have never let us down; we have forsaken the faith that you had in us. I am sorry that somehow we allowed hate to beat out love.

There is so much more I want to say, but in this moment, my heart is heavy.

However, there is an upside to this dark day. Today is my birthday, and when I woke up this morning I cried, because this is the first time in my life I feel ashamed to have served this country. Then I looked at my son and I reinvigorated in my focus. I was reminded of why you inspire me. My gift to myself on this day is to work harder than ever in everything that I do. I will not let this wave of hatred weaken my stance against animosity in any of its forms. I pray that others will join me in fighting against all the division and distraction that has crawled out of the darkness, by way of the Republican representation and those of like-minded ideologies.

Your victories will stand forever in me and all those who are now can see our current reality.

Lauren Patterson is a single father, student in the Communication and Program program at CUNY SPS, entrepreneur, and a veteran. However, first and foremost Lauren is a student of life. Lauren is a self-proclaimed work in progress, and thrives on his motto: live to be the successful person you already are.

The election is over and we have a new President. Not the one I wanted admittedly (for several reasons), but the election is over and Mr. Trump won.

Now, unlike what President-elect Trump and what some of his supporters said in the run up to the election; I DO recognize the legitimacy of the electoral process. I do NOT advocate for armed rebellion because the candidate I supported did not win. I DO recognize that he is the President–elect and no, I do NOT hope for his “removal” by extrajudicial means.

I DO hope we can come back from all this and at least put on the veneer of civility but I admit that may be difficult because of some “words” that may have been said/typed in the heat of anger. Most importantly, I DO hope that President-Elect Trump means what he says when he says he will be a President for ALL Americans.

I DO hope his definition of Americans will include minorities, immigrants, and people of different faiths, people with disabilities and differing sexual orientations and identities.

Good luck President-elect Trump, we’ll all need it.

Dan

Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.

Consequences
A little girl with autism was on a long car ride across many states with her mom and grandma. There were no exits in the area. They could not stop because she might run out into traffic. The girl was tired, hungry, overwhelmed and started to break down. She could not express her frustrations and needs because of language difficulties. Her mom was unable to calm her down. The girl hit and scratched her mom. By the end of the trip her mom’s arm was covered in scratches and bruises.

How would the mom explain the bruises and scratches? What insulting remarks would they endure in regards to the girl’s behavior? What if the mom decided to risk stopping? Would the girl have run out into the street? How would they survive even greater stigma and the repercussions of the girl running out into traffic?

What If
A young girl with autism goes to the renaissance festival with her family. She was very happy and excited. However, an hour later she became overwhelmed. The crowds and loud noises were causing sensory overload. She struggled to process everything going on. Her stress and anxiety levels shot through the roof. Her dad took her to a quiet, secluded area.

What if things didn’t turn out well? What if she had a meltdown? What would people think? Would the police or social services be called? Would the family suffer injustice stemming from stigma and ignorance?

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

A Cruel World
The world is cruel in many ways. However, life is about persevering in the face of adversary. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Three Words
We fought again. You are worthless. I hate you. Love is gone. I lost control. I killed you. A shattered soul. I committed suicide. Life moves on.

Life is horrible. I am lost. I am here. A broken heart. Please help me. You are strong. Love is alive. A life saved. The world remembers.

Ignorance
People say ignorance is bliss but it’s not. Ignorance hurts you and you are ignorant of those damaging effects. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Just wait until it backfires on you.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.