This post was written by Tenzin Lekshay, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

We all know too well how important education is. Education enlightens us, provides us with knowledge, and helps us to realize the careers that we dream of. However, education to me is more than that. To me, education is a privilege. There are millions of people, especially children, around the world who do not have the opportunity to go to school. I am a Tibetan refugee, born and raised in India, but I was fortunate enough to go to one of the best and largest Tibetan schools in India. Not every Tibetan refugee children had been as fortunate as me. Therefore, I do not take education for granted. I take the opportunity as a responsibility too. I am always grateful for any opportunity that allows me to be back in school. I make sure that I work hard and get good grades, not just for my GPA, but also to fulfill the responsibility that comes with the privilege of being in school and receiving education.

When I first came to the U.S. I wanted to go to back to school and get a degree in Nursing. I wanted to become a nurse because I believed that it is one of the very few professions that can provide not only joy and satisfaction, but also purpose and meaning to your life. Nursing, to me, is not just a job, it is also a medium through which I can fulfill my spiritual values and beliefs.

I found out that CUNY provides nursing programs in its community colleges, and I could avail financial aid to help with my tuition. I enrolled in LaGuardia Community College nursing program, and completed my Associate’s degree in Nursing in 2014, finishing with the highest GPA in my batch. After graduating from LaGuardia Community College, I got accepted into Hunter and CUNY School of Professional Studies BSN program. However, I chose SPS over Hunter college, without any hesitation, since SPS is an online school, allows for flexibility with time management, and SPS’s Nursing directors had earlier come to LaGuardia to talk about the BSN program. I thought SPS was the right school for me.

Once I started my BSN classes at SPS, I realized that I had made the right decision. The staff in the registrar’s office, the financial aid staff, my advisor, and most important of all, the nursing department professors and director were incredibly supportive and helpful. I’ve been to different colleges in India, and here in the U.S, but, the administration and staff, and professors here in SPS are way more supportive and helpful than any other college I’ve been to. The quality of education provided here is excellent.

To make my BSN program even better, I was accepted as an ACE Scholarship one year into my BSN program. The ACE Scholarship helped pay my entire tuition fee for the remaining semesters of my BSN program. Since I’ve started working, I knew that I wouldn’t be eligible for financial aid, and would have to pay the tuition fees out of my own pocket. However, the ACE Scholarship came along, and helped alleviate my financial concerns. The only thing that ACE Scholarship program asked in return was to mentor two new students (nursing) who had just joined SPS. I was a school teacher when I lived in India, and I mentored nursing students when I was in LaGuardia Community College. Furthermore, I have always been forthcoming, and volunteered to help others. Mentoring comes as second nature to me. So, it was not an uphill or a new task for me to be a mentor to new students. Mentoring also provided me with the opportunity to meet and interact with new students.

I will be graduating from CUNY SPS with BSN degree this month. I feel blessed, and very fortunate to get the opportunity to continue my education, to be a student of SPS, and to receive the ACE Scholarship when I needed help the most. I’ve had the most rewarding and fulfilling two years of my life being a student at CUNY School of Professional Studies. I am forever grateful to SPS including my professors, the staff at SPS, and Mr. Alan Fishman, who established and provided funds for the ACE Scholarship.

Tenzion Lekshay is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). He will graduate from the Nursing degree program tonight.

Each year CUNY SPS asks graduating students to apply to be the Student Speaker at Commencement. As part of their application they are asked to submit their anticipated speech. At the end of the process only one student is selected, however, numerous speeches embody the spirit of the graduating class. We are proud to share some of these speeches here.

Julie Maury is graduating from CUNY SPS on June 6 with a Master’s Degree in Disability Studies and this is her speech:

I want to wish the class of 2016 the very best in their future endeavors. I know a lot of the fellow graduates have experienced endless nights of writing papers and lots of research. But, you’ve made it and have achieved your degree! Take a deep breath and enjoy this day and every day for all they are worth. Keep going forward in the directions of your goals. Don’t just follow your heart, do what resonates deeply with you and work with intention towards your dreams. May you keep or find a job or jobs that you love. Aristotle was quoted as saying: “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” Through those words we can realize that one really can find joy in life through doing what matters to them most.

I am sure that many of you choose your path of study, your degree path, because you want to have a greater impact in this world. I grew up as a person with a disability. I was told: “You can’t…” or, “You shouldn’t…” a number of times when it came to following my goals. What I came to realize is that there were many disability advocates and community activists who I could look upon as examples of what is possible to achieve in this life. For example, my mentor, Nadina LaSpina taught me about the power of building a strong community and being an Activist and a Scholar of Disability studies. She, herself, is an Activist, Writer, and former Professor of Disability Studies. It was through Nadina that I learned the ‘door’ of life’s possibilities was open to me. My mind started to wonder about what it would be like to be a Scholar in Disability Studies. I then found out about the CUNY School of Professional Studies Disability Studies Master’s Degree Program and felt ‘at home’ upon my first visit to the building. Nadina allowed me to be aware of what is possible to achieve in life and this school did the same for me. I learned about the Disability Rights Movement with a depth I never thought possible.

I hope that you all will “Lead On!” as Justin Dart “Father of the Disability Rights Movement” famously once said. “Lead On!” in being good examples to others of what is possible to achieve in this life…in academia and beyond. Keep pushing forward and never give up. There are times when life will get difficult but, as in your academic career, things always evolve. Keep evolving throughout life…with life. Do not allow yourselves to be stagnant. Also, do not be afraid of change. You never know what ‘beauty’ can be around the ‘corner’ at any time.

Remember to take time for yourself and do not take life to seriously. Do not allow work to overwhelm you. Find a balance in your life. And, again, keep ‘moving’ forward. Albert Einstein once said: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balance, you must keep moving.” I hope that where ever your path takes you it’ll take you far and towards whatever your desires are.

Also, I want to say that if any one of you hit a crisis point in your life, please do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Know that you are cared for. There were a number of times, while at CUNY SPS, where I felt very stressed out with the workload and there were many times that, because of the stress, I considered leaving the program. I reached out to Professor Mariette Bates, who runs the program, and she would encourage me to keep going. Never underestimate the power of a kind word. Never underestimate the value of taking time out to talk to someone who really could use an ‘ear’ to talk to. That can have a huge impact for the better. Communication is so important. The words of encouragement, that I have received, throughout my time in this program, particularly, have meant so much.

My fellow students in the program have all been so inquisitive and thought provoking. You have really made me think critically and want to learn with you and from you. I never dreaded going to classes, no matter if they were online or in person. I valued, so much, sharing life stories and different points of view. Learning about other students’ lives was so interesting. Some were from other parts of the world, others from different states. All held such value in their views. Such a depth and passion for learning. I remember, a number of times, staying after classes ended, outside of the building, or late nights online, because I never wanted some conversations to end.

But, as in life, things do come to an end. This is the end of one path for many of you in this room today, but it is the start of a beautiful new path as well. In a way, school never ends, if we keep our minds open—we’ll keep learning for the rest of our lives.

In closing, I want to say that I wish you all the very best in whatever paths you all choose. Just never stop moving in the directions of your dreams, never compromise your character, and most of all keep your minds open to the beautiful opportunities that life has to offer/present to you. You all have great worth in this world. Never let anyone tell you any different. Margret Mead once, famously said: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” I believe she was right. And, I have great faith that you all can do just that. Again, as Justin Dart said: “Lead On!”



Each year CUNY SPS asks graduating students to apply to be the Student Speaker at Commencement. As part of their application they are asked to submit their anticipated speech. At the end of the process only one student is selected, however, numerous speeches embody the spirit of the graduating class. We are proud to share some of these speeches here.

Tyrone Cumberbatch is graduating from CUNY SPS on June 6 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Media and this is his speech:

To the students and faculty of the CUNY School of Professional Studies, I want to share my utmost thanks to all I’ve had some form of communication with in these last several years. Finally completing this part of my education journey has filled me with great satisfaction and happiness. Just to share a little about myself. I come from very humble beginnings that have taught me many valuable lessons. I’ve had my shares of low points but I’ve also had many high points in my life, which I tend to focus on. I also posses the bonus of 42 years worth of life experiences that I can share with you all but I was only given 5 minutes tops if selected to give my speech as student commencement speaker. Nevertheless, I can add another experience to that long list of having this possible commencement speech spread amongst the graduate archives of the CUNY School of Professional Studies. I can truly say that hard work pays off in many different ways.

I truly know that dedication, perseverance and sticking to worthy commitments allows for endless and worthwhile possibilities. It is up to us all to continue to strive for greatness and achieve what we all deem to be the ‘better life’ we all want and deserve, that our families deserve and the communities that we all live in can also benefit from. We all have different paths that we must take on this journey we call life but with the right education, mentorships, work ethics and other positive factors, the success that anyone of us can obtain is bountiful.

My charge to the CUNY School of Professional Studies class of 2016 is that no matter where you are in life, no matter your age, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, and political affiliations always to strive for greatness, never let anyone deter you from where you want to go in life. Always Continue to learn, grow in education, (hopefully with other degrees from CUNY School of Professional Studies) always read and learn more every day, especially in the career you tend or are now currently working in. If you want better, you yourself must be better. I know this speech may have the energy and sound like a motivational seminar, but that’s the key, continue to do what ever is necessary to motivate yourself especially during the times when life becomes the hardest with harder lessons than you can imagine.

I personally know of hard lessons. Approximately five years ago I loss my younger brother who I was very close to. But I know that somewhere in the echoes of the universe he is very proud of me and he is proud of my continuous pursuit for a better life. Graduating with my Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Media is another example of me trying to achieve that better life. I implore you to continue to achieve yours.

In conclusion, yes I know “don’t let it end, keep it going,” but alas I must get ready for the AFTER PARTY. Let me share with you this quote by Napolean Hill, “Patience, persistence and perspiration makes an unbeatable combination for success.” I charge you again: have patience in all that you do, allow the time necessary to obtain your goals. Continue to be persistent to strive towards your goals and add the perspiration when it is needed, sometimes we have to sweat to meet our goals.

With all three Ps combined, success is no doubt in your grasp to do with it as you will. My fellow CUNY SPS classmates, in which SPS now stands for Superb People Succeeding, continue to do just that—SUCCEED and be great in it all!!!

Each year CUNY SPS asks graduating students to apply to be the Student Speaker at Commencement. As part of their application they are asked to submit their anticipated speech. At the end of the process only one student is selected, however, numerous speeches embody the spirit of the graduating class. We are proud to share some of these speeches here.

Kathryn Walker is graduating from CUNY SPS on June 6 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and this is her speech:

Momentous is defined as “(of a decision, event, or change) of great importance or significance, especially in its bearing on the future.” Well, this certainly is a momentous occasion, and marks an accomplishment of a great milestone in our lives. Think about your life before you decided to embark upon this achievement. For me, I had been out of school for 23 years. I had an associate’s degree, and I was proud of it. I had been working for the same company for 16 years and was proud of what I had accomplished there. But I wanted more. I wanted to keep progressing. I had thought off and on about going back to school and finishing my bachelor’s degree, but there was always an excuse not to: where to find the time, not to mention the expense. In looking for more progressed, higher management positions, I found a constant requirement: a bachelor’s degree—which I did not have. It became apparent that going back to school was something that I needed to do. Think about what motivated you to decide to finish your degree.

In researching where to attain this needed degree, I found that CUNY School of Professional Studies was the best fit for me. Compared to other schools, the tuition was competitive and, being online, the schedule would allow me the flexibility to work while going to school. Although, I do have to say that the estimation of each class taking 9 to 12 hours per week is a bit of an understatement (chuckle).

Each class in each semester brought new challenges. Aside from the academic part of learning, there was BlackBoard, Wikis, e-Portfolios, and an array of learning software systems. I even tweeted in one class. But no matter how high the hurdle, we made it to graduation because we stuck to it, we met the challenges, and we overcame them.

Wherever you go from here—whether it’s a new job or continuing with your education—you can overcome new challenges with confidence, and not be intimidated by learning new things. By graduating from CUNY SPS, you have shown that you are capable. Look how far you have come.

In Economics class we learned the term “opportunity cost.” Defined, opportunity cost is “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.” Besides the financial cost of books and tuition, what were your opportunity costs while pursuing your degree? Perhaps spending less time with your family and loved ones, neglected housework, lack of sleep, weight gain…I’m sure we all have our own list. But we did not give up. We persevered.

However, we did not accomplish this alone. Who was there for you? In what ways did they support you? Maybe it was your advisor who took all the time you needed to guide you through unchartered territory and put your mind at ease. And I’m sure we can all think of at least one special professor that was so attentive and answered all our questions to ensure we had a clear understanding.

And what about our friends and family? Our loved ones did not sign up for school. But there was an opportunity cost for them as well. Think about the ways in which they supported us. Perhaps helping out by running errands, doing extra housework, being understanding about the time we spent with schoolwork rather than with them, or listening to us vent about a stress or frustration about a project, an assignment or an exam.

We are truly blessed and have much in which to be thankful for what we have accomplished and for those close to us that supported us along the way.


Each year CUNY SPS asks graduating students to apply to be the Student Speaker at Commencement. As part of their application they are asked to submit their anticipated speech. At the end of the process only one student is selected, however, numerous speeches embody the spirit of the graduating class. We are proud to share some of these speeches here.

Danielle Lucchese is graduating from CUNY SPS on June 6 with a Master’s Degree in Disability Studies and this is her speech:

I would like to begin by sharing a piece of advice one of my college mentors gave me a few years ago: follow your heart. These three words, though sometimes under estimated, are worth some deeper thought. For each of us, our hearts, for one reason or another lead us to CUNY SPS. Whether we pursued a master’s degree, bachelor’s degree or certificate, our time at CUNY SPS has claimed a space in our personal narratives. Although all of us share the commonality of deciding to pursue our studies at CUNY SPS, our experiences and memories differ. I would like to share a fragment of my CUNY SPS experience with you.

My CUNY SPS adventure began when I received my acceptance letter into the Disability Studies master’s degree program, only five days after graduating college. Less than a month later, I followed my heart and decided to pursue my graduate studies at CUNY SPS, instead of Hunter, where I was offered admission into their master’s in Social Research program.

As a disabled student, my initial thought was that I was going to study a subject that was very familiar to me. The truth is, I could not have been more incorrect. While I did bring some personal experience and prior knowledge to my studies, I did not know all that there was to learn. In fact, I soon realized that learning is never ending.

My views on what disability is and how the concept needed to be explored changed. The language in which I used to describe and discuss disability shifted. I met both fellow students and faculty who had disability experiences contrasting mine. I began advocating for disability on a broader level when I joined the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities, made lobbying trips up to Albany and testified on the importance of funding for online education. Two years later and I am here, celebrating with each of you, who also decided to make CUNY SPS part of your journey.

As we leave CUNY SPS, it is important to both look to the future and continue to follow our hearts. As individuals now equipped with educational tools, we are responsible to continue our work in the world, regardless of our chosen fields and leave it better than we found it. As disability advocates, sociologists, psychologists, business women and men, higher education faculty and staff, among other careers, always remember that we have the power to assist in creating change in the world. Some of us will go on to contribute valuable ethical research and advocate for policy changes, some of us will use passions of ours such as theatre and apply them to the broader world. Some of us will expand on knowledge gained and pursue further studies. Regardless of where our futures take us, we must remember the importance of creating change in the world, ultimately expanding on the work of the individuals who came before us and paving the way for the people who will one day follow a similar path.

Of course, many of us did not achieve our goals alone. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge everyone who has shared in some aspect of our journey: family, friends, faculty and the larger CUNY SPS community and say thank you. Thank you for your support, guidance, love and encouragement. Without you, my fellow graduates and I would not be where or who we are today. No matter where the next chapters take us, we hope you will be there cheering us on.

Finally, I would like to conclude with a quote from one of my favorite books, Tuesdays with Morrie, “Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to the community around you and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” I hope that wherever your heart takes you, your path allows you to both devote yourself to something you are committed to and ultimately contribute to changing this world for the better.

Thank you and congratulations class of 2016, we made it!


Each year CUNY SPS asks graduating students to apply to be the Student Speaker at Commencement. As part of their application they are asked to submit their anticipated speech. At the end of the process only one student is selected, however, numerous speeches embody the spirit of the graduating class. We are proud to share some of these speeches here.

Adesine Murray is graduating from CUNY SPS on June 6 with a Master’s Degree in Business Management and Leadership and this is his speech:

I would have never imagined my journey of pursuing a tertiary education would have led me to this point. I started my journey of pursuing higher education many years ago at the University of Guyana in South America, where I gained my Associate’s Degree in Accountancy. Upon migrating to America, I decided to continue my educational journey at City University of New York, Brooklyn College campus where I was awarded my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Finance in the spring of 2012.

During my time at Brooklyn College my initial thought process was to just pass the courses and graduate in the targeted time I had set for myself. I cannot tell you much about my campus life since I did not have much of it. I, like most of the students, worked full time and attended school full time through evening and weekend classes. So, the campus experience and being part of student clubs and other activities that other students were exposed to was not part of my experience at Brooklyn College. However, I can say that Brooklyn College has one of the most beautiful campuses in CUNY—nicely manicured lawns, a pond, mini garden, and a nice combination of old historic and modern buildings. My favorite building was the library where I visited frequently for both undergraduate and graduate studies.

I must thank Baruch College for not accepting me as that gave me the opportunity to attend Brooklyn College which was an easier commute and walking distance from home in Midwood. During my time there, I was able to forge friendships and bonds with fellow students that I still maintain today, and I know they are all equally proud of me for finally catching up with them at the graduate level. My friend Patricia is probably smiling saying, “nerd.”

I was a little hesitant to enroll at CUNY SPS to do my master’s degree because I was not very familiar with the online education process. After doing research and attending one of the information sessions, and thanks to the presenters that day and the alumni who were there to answer our questions, I was sold and here I am today. Part of my reason for doing my graduate degree, apart from increasing my knowledge and attaining qualifications, is to make myself more competitive in the job market and to achieve my life goals. I also did it to serve as an example to my nieces and nephews to show they can achieve anything they want with hard work and dedication.

The journey with CUNY SPS has been challenging at times but also rewarding. One of the professors who helped to take away the challenge of learning math online was Professor David Hauser who taught me BUS 670 Quantitative Decision Making. Starting in the fall 2015 semester with this course I was very nervous, but after my first two classes with Professor Hauser, and learning strategies to complete the work, I was very encouraged. I think Professor Hauser was one of the best professors I have had at the School of Professional Studies.

The experience at all of the CUNY campuses is not one that I can replace and will always remember it as part of my unique journey through three schools earning three degrees. I have learned and was exposed to many new ideas and business concepts that I can take with me on my continuing journey. The CUNY SPS MSBML meet-up was a good way of allowing students to meet their fellow classmates and their professors, even though I attended only the first one and missed the others due to scheduling issues.

I must thank all my professors and advisors for guiding me through this enlightening journey, my family who has supported me through all these years, and my fellow classmates for their help in our classes when I needed it.

In closing, we have all achieved a great accomplishment, so may we all go forward proudly and enrich the world with our new knowledge and experiences and most of all make CUNY SPS proud.


This post was written by Nicole Wallace, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

Let’s face it. You’ve probably been told you were crazy for doing something at least once in your life. Maybe on more than one occasion.

My wake-up call came in a job I have been at for 5 years in the mental health field. I was coming home, more often than not, in tears or increasingly bad moods that, sad to say, my family was feeling. Finally someone sat me down and asked me why. Why I was putting up with the treatment I was receiving from the owners of the company—why didn’t I go somewhere else? (Yeah, that was the crazy part.)

And honestly, I didn’t have an answer. Why was I subjecting myself to the treatment—the harassment, the name calling, the derogatory remarks, the blame game—and all from the owners of the company that I had given my blood, sweat and tears to for the past 5 years? (Yes, literally, blood and sweat, and more often than not tears.)

It started with school. CUNY SPS gave me the motivation to push for something more. So I started on my Bachelor’s journey and in the meantime, I started a second job—working at both places and staying a full time student. Let’s be honest, I didn’t want to jump ship and find myself drowning in another position like I was currently in.

This arrangement, however, came with some serious work to be done. I’ve picked up a few tricks to balancing two full time work schedules and full time class loads, and maintaining some semblance of sanity: (And this is where I was called crazy, for the second time.)

  1. Get yourself a planner. Believe me, this has saved me so many times. What works best for me is a weekly/monthly planner. I can track dates on the monthly view (such as starting and end dates for each week, because honestly, why would any of your classes ever consider using the same time schedule?). The weekly view lets me write out my assignment information
  2. Color coding can be your best friend. Each class gets its own binder and notebook in matching colors. I use the same color pen in the planner to keep everything in line. This way, I can glance at anything and know which class it is for. Also, it has drastically cut down on grabbing the wrong binder for a particular class. So not cool.
  3. Plan your time. Keep track of everything—your due dates as well as other commitments. Nothing like waiting until the last minute to write that essay because you forgot that it’s your sister’s-best-friend’s-cousin-twice-removed’s birthday party and you were away all weekend.
  4. And probably most importantly, schedule time for YOU. You’re no use to anyone if you’re holed up in your room for weeks on end with people are scared to come to your door (for fear of having something thrown at them because you’re trying to focus on your paper). Not that I have any personal experience with this one. At all.
  5. Enjoy the process. School, albeit with CUNY SPS online being completely different from traditional classrooms, is a process. You’ll meet people who are going through the same things you are, and working through the same material. Breathe. And known that your fellow students are probably pulling their hair out as much as you are.

Also, you should really get one of those countdown calendars. Ripping a day off those things is strangely therapeutic when your eye deep in textbook readings and calculations. Seriously. Try it.

Nicole Wallace is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Psychology degree program in June 2016.

This post was written by Alexandra Schonholz, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

Turning Homework into Ohmwork:

As graduation approaches, I have naturally found myself reflecting on my unconventional route through academia and my time as an adult student at CUNY SPS. In my last semester, now a passionate supporter and member of the SPS community, I look back on the last several years of my life and think to myself, “How the hell did I manage to pull that off?”

The online degree finally appears to be bypassing the stigma that it is somehow “lesser than” the typical classroom environment. The stigma, of course, is not true in the slightest. Online courses possess more material to read and therein more material to write about, a huge degree of independence and discipline that will make or break your success, as well as the fact that, much unlike a typical classroom, there’s nowhere to hide online. There’s no chance of cramming the moment before the assignment is due or piggy-backing off others’ responses and “faking it” (something I was certainly guilty of in classes).

Receiving an online degree comes with its advantages as well as its challenges, particularly when classes are supplementary to a 40-hour work week. The work-life-school-sanity balance is one that doesn’t come without effort, but is one that is critical to being able to shoulder the weight of the work in addition other life callings. In the thick of it all, it can be easy to forget why we’re all here in the first place. At this point in our lives, whether it be returning to college to finish a degree or matriculate for the first time, we must remember that education is a gift to ourselves. So, in hopes that my experiences may help you not lose sight of that, here are a few tips I found vital to my academic and work/life/school/sanity balance:

  1. Meditation and gratitude—a little goes a long way.

I’m a relative newcomer to meditation (less than five years) and have found that 10 minutes at some point during my day does wonders for my concentration and quelling anxieties. There are a number of excellent apps out there for free to help you practice for all levels of experience (my favorite is Brain Wave by Benzai Labs; Stop, Breathe, and Think: Meditation Tailored to Your Emotions by Tools for Peace is also excellent). Every day of the week would be great, sure. But is it realistic? Probably not. I find that meditating for a short time is extremely beneficial when transitioning from my job work to school work as well as before bed, a time when the minds has a greater tendency to replay all of the goings on in the upcoming day or weeks ahead.

Remember, meditation is all about practice, routine, and appreciating where you are in that moment—be it distracted or not. Be gentle with yourself through the process. Starting with a guided meditation may be best for newcomers, as it can familiarize the mind and body with the state of being associated with a meditative state.

If meditation isn’t for you, try writing or speaking out loud a list of things for which you have gratitude. Again, while this technique is best effective when employed each day, I found it incredibly centering in moments of frustration and apathy.

Don’t forget to check out adult coloring books, either—yes, I get it, and I know how that sounds, but hear me out. I received one from a dear friend for my birthday last year and, aside from the beautiful detail and general nostalgic fun, the calming effects of this activity are undeniable.

Taking 15 minutes to color leaves winding down a vine or a distant cityscape against the night sky may sound ridiculous or feel silly or even counterintuitive, but there’s actually a lot of science behind the effects it has on the brain. What’s more, since the adult coloring book market has been up for grabs for a little while, there are all types of themed coloring books that are sure to suit your level of artistic ability (minimal, in my case), style, and interest—like these:

ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz

There are 40 ornate eggs in that coloring book for the ornate egg-lovers out there. Forty!

ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz






There’s even one called Sexy Girls Coloring Book for Grown-Ups 1.

I recently purchased one for my younger sister who is beginning medical school at Mt. Sinai this fall. She was preemptively, very grateful

  1. Keep good with the holy trinity: sleep, nutritious food, and exercise.

Are you getting enough quality sleep? The eight-hour mantra we’ve all been accustomed to saying, hearing, and striving for may not be true, it turns out. Daniel Kripke, one of the most acclaimed sleep researchers, has now found that getting between 6.5 and 7.5 hours a night leads to a longer life as well as increased happiness and productivity. It’s not a matter of being tired the following day (or week), it’s a matter of keeping focus and our brain’s ability to refocus.

Likewise, napping for 30 minutes or less (quite literally, do not sleep for more than 30 minutes). provides numerous advantages and is much healthier than trying to push through with energy drinks, soda, or coffee—all destructive decisions in the end. Napping has a plethora of benefits that will make you reconsider incorporating this childhood-era activity back into your schedule.

Afraid that you’ll fall asleep and won’t be able to wake up? Well don’t be. Drink a cup of coffee before lying down to make the wake-up-get-up process less arduous. On another note, we all have very loud and annoying alarms on our cell phones in these modern times. In a simple search in the iTunes App Store, I came across several apps you might find useful for those days when it may be extra difficult to pry yourself out of bed or off the couch.

  • SpinMe Alarm Clock: The alarm shuts off only after you have gotten out of bed and physically spin yourself around until the alarm stops.
  • Math Alarm Clock: A terrifying prospect for a words-not-numbers gal like myself, this alarm clock requires you to do math out loud, correctly, to disable it.
  • FreakyAlarm: This alarm doesn’t stop ringing until you solve a series of logic games and scan pre-determined items around your house.
  1. Leave time for yourself and actually use it.

American culture is well known for its “work hard and then work some more” attitude (not to mention New York’s amplified version of that whistled tune). Breaking away from partners, family members, friends, situations that require us to be “on,” and, most importantly, screens lends itself to improved physical and psychological health.

This is yet another task that is easier said than done. For simple ways to incorporate your ‘you’ time, try waking up a half-hour earlier than the rest of your household, close your door, go for a walk, read during your lunch hour, or exercise. It could even be as simple as taking one hour every Saturday to walk to a coffee shop, grab a drink, and sit on a nearby park bench for some people-watching. Find out what “me” time means for you and make it part of your schedule.

  1. Reach out, don’t freak out.

If there’s one thing that has been at once extremely difficult and incredibly rewarding for me at SPS, it has been the ability to reach out when I have felt like I was in trouble. I’m still bad at it—I want to do everything to fix it first but sometimes find myself spinning in a sea of make-up work after a semester of unexpected roadblocks. Reaching out to professors has been one of the most effective ways in which I’ve been able to keep calm and carry on throughout the difficult moments. The SPS team knows who its students are—we are professionals young and old, mothers, fathers, caretakers, and sometimes, long-time outsiders to academia. The faculty at SPS also knows that each and every one of us is there because we want to be. We share a sincere desire to pursue education for personal growth, not just a letter grade. More importantly, being there doesn’t mean that everything else in life comes to a screeching halt—quite the opposite, actually.

In my experience, professors have always been sympathetic, understanding, and willing to work with me through the tougher times. Do not suffer silently—there is no need. Suffer out loud! Express yourself and the challenges you are facing along with the ways in which you aim or hope to overcome them.

So there it is—a few words of wisdom from a young woman who now questions what it is that she can’t get done with her evenings ahead, each extending the promise of freedom from eternal ‘to-dos,’ and each one bearing a red, flashing VACANCY sign posted where all of the homeworks used to live.

We are a group of courageous and extraordinary individuals, all with different, wonderful stories of how we arrived. At CUNY SPS, we are celebrated, encouraged to be proud of ourselves, and inspired to do great thing. In moments of uncertainty and lack of confidence, I was met with understanding from the people at CUNY. I was taught that those less-than-stellar perceptions of myself were not true; they may have felt real, but they were not true.

In my final moments as an undergrad I am content. I am proud. I am so thankful to be a part of the SPS family.

Remember why we’re here. Remember that it’s not easy and that is okay. I’ll be the first to tell you that the tough times make us stronger, but in those moments you must also find grace. What we’re all doing here is not easy; I would even argue it is a more difficult path (I would also argue that it’s been a million times more beneficial for me to return to school as a working professional but that’s a whole different blog post). Take the time to pause and reconnect with your inner drive and the reasons you’re really here. Don’t forget that sometimes, it takes stepping back for a moment to regain perspective and remember to keep your eye on the prize. To everybody: good luck and godspeed.

Alexandra Schonholz is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Communications and Media degree program in June 2016.


Dear Journal,

In this line of work, it is not that hard to consider coworkers as close friends since they also fight that same fight each shift next to you.  And just like when patients come and go on the job, so do fellow nurses you will always remember working with, even after they have gone on to do other, better things.  Here is an ode to you all out there in the greater expanse, to whom others have so depended on (to the previous members of our “A” Team):

I got you…I got you…

at work a dear friend is moving on

like the everyday shifting of a vagabond

taking with it a continent of years of routine

to the motto of: “I swim, You swim. You swim, I swim” until the waters we fight through are clear and pristine

one last time I’ll pass your meds, you take the MD orders. Will be hard to see choppy waters

not the same feelings the next time around me it gathers

no more that one to dare me further, as that feeling of my strength starts to weaken

to another shift with no break, no time to eat and…

so here’s another thought for you to take on the road

put your worries down for more than a while

and I, rescuer of short shifts, will share your load

while incessant insults jokingly, at you, will be thrown in exchange for a laugh and a smile

—Inah Castro

Inah Castro has been a practicing nurse since 2009. She first started out as an LPN and is currently attending CUNY SPS for her BS in nursing. She is bicoastal, as she is licensed in California as well as New York, and has over the years worked on both ends of the country. Inah enjoys writing, cooking, and boxing/kickboxing. 

Roots will be broadcast on the History Channel from May 30 to June 2.  It’s not a rebroadcast of the original series made in 1977, but a brand new production.  I got a sneak preview at the National Action Network Convention.  The new series is just as powerful as the original.  An elementary school teacher told me that textbook publishers are attempting to whitewash American history by trying to imply that Africans immigrated to the United States like everyone else.  The truth of slavery must continue to be taught.  If the whole series is as promising as the sneak peek I got, people will get a glimpse into the unimaginable horrors of slavery.  African Americans endured a tremendous ordeal, and we should be proud of all the progress we’ve made since fighting for our freedom.

Rhonda Harrison completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.