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It is very easy to see that the homeless population of New York City is on the rise. We see it every day in the area surrounding NYIT’s Manhattan campus. According to a recent report from the Coalition for the Homeless, NYC’s homeless population is at its highest rate since the 1930s, with a record being set this June of over 52,000 people, with 22,100 of them being children, seeking refuge in New York City’s municipal shelters. While we walk past many of the city’s homeless on our daily commute, rarely do we stop and really think about their circumstances. Charitable organizations like the Church of St. Paul the Apostle’s soup kitchen provides a very important necessity to many of the city’s homeless, a hot meal. Not everyone who utilizes the soup kitchen is homeless, but they certainly are appreciative of the kindness. Students from Chi Alpha Epsilon (XAE) National Honor Society have been volunteering at the soup kitchen for the past 2 years. They do this as an ongoing community service event every semester and also as a way to annually take part in Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. On Tuesday, November 19th a new group of volunteers went to the soup kitchen, which brought about brand new reactions to the day. XAE Treasurer Nusrat Lima describes her visit to the soup kitchen below.
“This was my first time ever going to a soup kitchen and I was excited despite the cold weather. I met two kind senior citizens while making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They have been volunteering in the soup kitchen for more than a decade. After all the sandwiches were packed by Sadia (XAE Secretary) and myself, we got ready to serve whoever came through St. Paul's door. I was stationed as a server for pasta and meatballs. I was really surprised to see a young girl who looked my age in the line for food. When I saw her enter the soup kitchen at first I thought she was a student from another college coming to help out, but to my surprise she was the one who needed the help. It was shocking to see someone so close to my age at a soup kitchen. It made me wonder what her circumstances were and if she was part of the growing number of homeless in the city. It made me feel sad for that brief moment. Honestly, even though it wasn’t easy, this was a great experience and I recommend everyone to go out and give a little of your time to helping out the less fortunate.”
Coalition for the Homeless. (2013) Figures for homelessness in New York City retrieved from http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/pages/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city
It was “peanut butter jelly time” on Thursday, November 14th when members of Chi Alpha Epsilon (XAE) National Honor Society organized a sandwich making party. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were made to be delivered to New York Common Pantry, an organization whose mission is “to reduce hunger throughout New York City while promoting dignity and self-sufficiency”. Even more students turned out than were expected, and within 30 minutes all the sandwiches were made! Many thanks to everyone who came by to lend a hand. If you would like to host your own sandwich making event or find out more about New York Common pantry, please visit nycommonpantry.org.
The members of Students Working to Achieve Greatness (S.W.A.G), along with representatives of the NYIT community from the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) and Residence Life and Off-Campus Housing, painted the town PINK on Oct. 20 at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. For the past two years, S.W.A.G. has helped lead the efforts to raise funds and awareness for this important event, led by President of S.W.A.G. and Resident Assistant Oshane Cooke. In October they kick start the fundraising and awareness campaign with their PINK EVERYWHERE event. PINK EVERYWHERE takes place in the student lounge of the 26 West building a week before the walk, this year on Wednesday, Oct. 16. The students covered the entire lounge in pink. Even the vending machines turned pink for a day! They raised funds by selling baked goods, bracelets, pencils, and their one of a kind pink S.W.A.G. t-shirts. S.W.A.G. had a record turnout this year for the walk with more than 25 students showing up at 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning no less. Congratulations to S.W.A.G. on its continued success with this noteworthy cause.
Two years ago, the members of NYIT’s Zeta Lambda chapter of Chi Alpha Epsilon (XAE) National Honor Society established a relationship with the High School of Arts and Technology of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Campus. The students of XAE have visited this school every semester for the past 2 years to speak to students and answer their questions about college. This semester, members of XAE invited other student leaders from the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) and a member of the Student Government Association (SGA) to share their knowledge and experience with the senior class on October 18.
The high school students soaked up the information like a sponge. It was amazing to see the transformation of a rather boisterous and distracted group of teenagers suddenly silenced and giving their undivided attention to their guests. After the NYIT students shared their own personal stories they opened the floor for questions. Once the questions started, they did not stop until well after the bell rang signaling the end of the advisory period. Realizing that there was not enough time for all of the students’ questions, Oshane Cooke (B.S., Advertising, ’14) gave his contact information to them, offering help with the college application process and even tours of NYIT if the students wanted to get a sneak peek into college life. Orin Pramanik (B.S., Life Science/Biomedical Engineering, ’14) got more than she bargained for when one of the students came up to her and gave her a big hug in thanks for the inspiration. The student had yet to meet someone in her aspiring field of Biomedical Engineering until Orin. Hearing Orin speak about the major was very motivating as she begins to plan for her career goals.
All of the guests left something important and inspiring with the students during their trip. Whether it was simply a description of their residence hall or stories of the life altering effect college has had on them, they gave a piece of themselves to the students at the High School of Arts and Technology that day. They explained not only the importance of finishing high school and going on to college but the possibility of making it a reality. For many students, especially those from a low income household or community, college can seem like someone else’s dream. The NYIT students reflected on their own experiences and even shared that they too had some of the same doubts and obstacles that these high school seniors were now facing. They then went on to share how they overcame those obstacles, whether it was finding motivation through participating in college tours, finding a way to open doors through opportunity programs such as HEOP, or taking advantage of leadership opportunities at NYIT. Thank you to Jeremy Ducos, Assistant Director of Student Activities and Leadership Development, for helping to make this visit possible.
The students and staff of Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) and Chi Alpha Epsilon (XAE) ventured on their bi-annual journey to St. Paul the Apostle soup kitchen not knowing that an unexpected surprise awaited them. Not everyone realized that Thursday, Mar. 28 was Holy Thursday, a day celebrated in the Catholic Church to commemorate Jesus’s last supper with the disciples. When the XAE members arrived at the church they were informed that a special guest would be joining them to serve the food, Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan! After hearing the exciting news the students and staff organized the pantry, which is something they must do quite well since the church staff makes sure this is completed every visit. Once the pantry was in order, it was almost time to start serving. The Archbishop arrived and got on the serving line right next to the students. The students found him to be friendly and down to earth. Everyone was excited about the surprise guest, especially the soup kitchen patrons. People were asking for pictures, prayers, and blessings along with their special lunch of ham, potatoes, veggies, and cake.
The visit to St. Paul the Apostle soup kitchen is always a special treat, particularly because of the warm and inviting staff, volunteers, and patrons. This visit was extra special, not only because of the surprise guest but because of the extra enthusiasm of everyone that was there. Not only are the members of XAE looking forward to returning to the soup kitchen, but the staff and volunteers who “love to have us” are looking forward to it as well!
Pictured (left to right): Kayla Harley (guest), HEOP alumna and Chi Alpha Epsilon member Carine Harley (B.S. '12), Diane Moya, Daniel Dixson (guest), Benjamen Chen, Rafael Martinez, HEOP student Jaishel Linch Bennett, and HEOP counselor Vanderie Vielie.
On Nov. 10, 2012, nine NYIT students, two guests, and two staff members met in Sunset Park Brooklyn at St. Jacobi Lutheran Church, one of several Occupy Sandy relief hubs located throughout New York City. Students and staff registered with the volunteer group and participated in a brief orientation program. Several students opted to stay at the church to help with Occupy Sandy efforts by sorting and organizing much-needed goods to be sent to affected families.
The group loaded an NYIT van with boxes of supplies, including blankets and baby items, and headed to Far Rockaway, where they arrived two hours later to find military helicopters, trucks, and tankers in the area. Upon entering Rockaway Beach, the group drove past what appeared to be a landfill but later learned was a beach parking lot being used as a temporary dumping site for storm wreckage. The volunteers met with a resident from the community who served as their guide and showed them where to distribute meals. While there was no electricity, traffic lights, working toilets, or heat, there was plenty of unity in the Rockaways—an inspiration to the students and staff members who were deeply impacted by what they saw. They returned home with a renewed appreciation for simple comforts and a strengthened commitment to Sandy relief efforts.
Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) students and staff returned to Central Park for another Making Strides Against Breast Cancerwalk. This year’s walk was coordinated by the student group Students Working to Achieve Greatness (S.W.A.G.). S.W.A.G. President Oshane Cooke and Vice President Cody Souffrant arrived bright and early on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, to help in the fight against breast cancer. After meeting up with 10 NYIT students and several guests, the group set off on their long walk for a great cause. The group raised more than $440!
For the past three semesters, the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) national honor society, Chi Alpha Epsilon (XAE), has made a trip to the St. Paul the Apostle soup kitchen to lend some extra hands. This semester, XAE collaborated with the Community Service Center (CSC) to open the event to the general student population. On Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, eight students and one staff member made their way to the soup kitchen and spent the morning doing some much-needed unpacking, stocking, and organizing of the pantry. The church staff was very appreciative of the group’s efficient work. During the afternoon, NYIT group shared some laughs and smiles with the church staff, fellow volunteers, and soup kitchen patrons. One longtime volunteer always plays light music to make the atmosphere a bit more “homey,” and the selection that week was the soul music of Nina Simone. The students had a productive and fulfilling day and many have already expressed an interest in returning soon.
Great causes bring great groups of people together, and on Nov. 14, 2012, that is exactly what happened when students joined up for the Great American Bake Sale. Members of the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), Chi Alpha Epsilon (XAE), Community Service Center (CSC), S.W.A.G., and Bear Hug Club all came together for a bake sale. The funds raised through the Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale were donated to the No Kid Hungry Campaign, a national effort to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. The students wasted no time in their offers to bake cakes, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and even some empanadas to mix things up. The event was a great success, with $288 raised toward ending childhood hunger in America. If you are interested in hosting your own Great American Bake sale, visit strength.org to learn more.
This holiday season, the students of HEOP and XAE were in the spirit of giving. At the HEOP holiday party on Dec. 6, 2012, students and staff were asked to give a toy, game, or gift card for the children of Abbott House, an agency that provides services and support to children and families in foster care or with developmental disabilities. The toy drive yielded a tremendous amount of toys and almost $100 in gift cards, but it did not end there. Even after the HEOP holiday party and toy drive was over, students continued to donate.
Two lucky students, Jaishel Linch Bennett and Lakisha Scott, had the opportunity to attend the Abbott House holiday party on Dec.19 and meet some of the staff and residents. It was a great experience for both young ladies as they were able get an inside look into the field of social work, which they both plan on pursuing after graduation. The students look forward to a continued relationship with Abbott House in the future.
For more information about Abbott House’s services and how you can get involved, please visit abbotthouse.net/.
The members of XAE hit the ground running this semester taking part in the Making Strides Walk against Breast Cancer on October 16 in Central Park. In only five short days the members of XAE raised over $200 to help The American Cancer Society in the fight against breast cancer. XAE members and other NYIT students woke up in the wee hours of a chilly Sunday morning to join the crowds of thousands walking in the fight against breast cancer. Several hours and many sore feet later, the members of XAE crossed the finish line, proudly completing their first community service project.
A special thanks to all who walked and those who contributed to the fundraising efforts.
An important part of the mission and purpose of Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Society is to “promote academic excellence in others and to help those who genuinely aspire to the same goals.” With this mission in mind, members of XAE worked with Rick Bonacorsi, Director of the Community Service Center to develop a relationship with local high school seniors who could benefit from the mentoring of successful college students.
On Friday, October 21, 2011, members of XAE along with Deepa Bhalla, HEOP Director, Vanderie Vielie, HEOP Counselor, and Mr. Bonacorsi, took a trip to the High School of Arts and Technology. XAE members Katherine Javier Aguilar, Ting Ting Mei, Jissela Murillo, Emmanuel Sanchez, and Ramon Valentin stood before a crowd of 75 high school seniors answering questions about their majors, career goals, and getting into college. The seniors were extremely engaged and had many questions about NYIT and HEOP.
Afterwards several students said how the members of XAE “reminded them of themselves” some coming from the same neighborhood, or having similar backgrounds. Several of the high school students were so interested by the discussion that they attended the NYIT Manhattan campus Open House held the following Sunday. This visit to the High School of Arts and Science will be the first of many.
On November 18, 2011 members of XAE returned to the High School of Arts and Technology for a second visit. They spoke with a different group of seniors about applying for scholarships, HEOP, why college is important, and how to figure out what you want to major in. The XAE members discussed their majors and career goals. Juan Pablo Mejia, an alumna of NYIT actually took time off from his job to come and talk to the students about his career and the importance that a college education had in shaping his career.
During the second week of November 2011 people across the country participated in activities to bring awareness and assistance to the increasing population of those affected by homelessness and poverty. Chi Alpha Epsilon along with members of NYIT’s Community Service Center motivated their peers to clean out their closets and bring their gently used clothes and coats to campus for donation to those in need. The drive was so successful that it was extended until early December. All donated items were brought to the Bowery Mission which helps to provide food, clothing, and even doctor appointments to thousands of New Yorkers in need.
On Thursday, November 17 members of Chi Alpha Epsilon along with students and staff of NYIT served up some hot meals and smiles at the soup kitchen of St. Paul of the Apostle. The Church of Saint Paul of the Apostle has on ongoing soup kitchen and shelter program that feeds up to 100 people every Tuesday and Thursday. It was a wonderful experience for all, and the members of XAE plan to volunteer their services to the soup kitchen again in the very near future.
At the start of the spring 2012 semester, the students of XAE teamed up with NYIT's Alternative Spring Break Program and Community Service Center to host a dual campus school supply drive for an orphanage in Peru. This drive yielded hundreds of school supplies. These supplies were then delivered to the orphanage in Peru by the NYIT students participating in the Alternative Spring break trip, two of which were XAE executive board members Emmanuel Sanchez, XAE President, and Oliver Vasquez, XAE Vice President.
Members of XAE and the NYIT community enthusiastically returned to St. Paul the Apostle Church to offer their services at the ongoing soup kitchen. Both students and staff enjoyed seeing some of the same workers, volunteers, and patrons that they met during their soup kitchen visit in the fall. The workers and regular volunteers were happy to receive the help as serving up to 200 people can take quite some energy. It was a wonderful experience for all, and XAE looks forward to returning to such a warm and friendly environment soon.
On Sunday, April 29, students of XAE hit the pavement along with classmates, friends, and staff members for the March For Babies walk. The weather cooperated, and it was a beautiful and sunny day that all the walkers enjoyed. Most importantly the Chi Alpha Epsilon team raised $330 to aid the March of Dimes in its efforts to prevent premature birth and aid those who have newborns in intensive care. Thank you to everyone who participated and contributed in supporting stronger, healthier babies.