January 15, 2015
Cliff L. Wood
The Selfless* Selfie
(*Adjective: Having or showing great concern for other people and little or no concern for yourself)
RCC’s Album of Random Acts of Kindness
Over the last several weeks, a number of students have made their way to my office to ask for assistance with tuition, books or letters of recommendation. I continue to be impressed with these students’ interest and commitment to earning an associate’s degree. I am pleased when they tell me about their classroom experiences, and the great respect and appreciation they have for so many excellent professors at RCC. I am also impressed with their involvement outside of the classroom and their concern for the world in which they live.
One of our goals at Rockland Community College is to provide students with experiences both in and out of the classroom, and, as antiquated as it may sound, I still firmly believe that one of the goals of higher education is to help students live in a democracy and become good citizens.
Being a good citizen includes making a commitment to your community and helping those who are less fortunate. Again, this is something I think the College does extremely well. As I look back at images I have of activities on the campus, I am impressed with what I will call “acts of kindness,” which provide support to others. I am pleased to share with you several photographs showing the good works of our students and our student organizations.
For the last several years, the student government association at Rockland Community College has joined the Center for Safety & Change and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee to bring attention to domestic violence through a number of activities during October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. A highlight of the group’s activities is a walk to end domestic violence, where students with banners and posters march around the entire RCC campus.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, also in October, the campus was ablaze in pink as a group of student government leaders held weekly activities to bring attention to the issue of the need to expand research to eradicate breast cancer. This year’s group sold special t-shirts, bracelets and scarves to raise funds for this important cause.
Celebrating the life of Melissa Dimatiris has been a major activity of Performing Arts students over the last two years. While a student at RCC, Melissa became critically ill with cancer. For a period of time, the cancer went into remission and Melissa graced the RCC stage on several occasions with her extraordinary talent. During that period, students raised funds to support Melissa, but unfortunately, in Fall 2013, Melissa passed away. The Performing Arts students, however, continued their good work, and have now raised over $20,000 and established scholarships in Melissa’s honor.
Above are students from RCC’s Center for Jewish Life/Hillel, who lent their support to the Jewish Family Service Food Pantry in West Nyack.
Each year, Student Involvement conducts a Food Drive, and members of the College community volunteer to solicit food donations from shoppers at area supermarkets. This past year, RCC provided more than 2,000 pounds of donated food to food cupboards in Rockland County.
Habitat for Humanity is an organization with a long history at RCC. The College’s chapter has worked on a number of houses both in Rockland County and in locations across the country. Pictured here are students assisting in building a home in New Orleans, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
Also impressive is the good work that many of our students continue after their graduation. Pictured above is Mark Svensson and his wife Ismini. When they decided to get married, instead of having a big wedding reception and honeymoon, Mark and Ismini used the funds to perform charitable acts across America. Through the support they received along this journey, they founded StayUNITED.
Shown here is tutor Kuldip Singh (r) , who while at RCC served as Treasurer of Student Government and was actively involved in a project, Just Save One, which provides water filtration systems to schools in Kenya. Kuldip has now graduated from Cornell University, and while he spends the year preparing for his MCATs, he volunteers his services as a tutor in CAPS.
Pictured above is RCC and Cornell graduate Kennedy Ogoye. While at RCC, Kennedy and a group of his friends established an organization, Just Save One, which they continued to operate throughout their college years and now as college graduates. Just Save One is a non-profit committed to developing sustainable solutions to the water crisis that has affected many underprivileged communities.
Kennedy was inspired to become involved in community service because of his personal experience of being raised in poverty in Kenya and lacking clean water.
Perhaps one of my favorite stories of RCC students and their good work is captured in the picture below. This photo was taken in the nation’s capital on the portico of the office of the most distinguished Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. Congressman Lewis is the only person still alive who spoke at the historic March on Washington in August 1963. In 2011, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The RCC story begins when a group of three students decided to collect signatures in support of federal legislation to create an international commission to end human trafficking. These students included Tarik Abdelqader, an RCC and Cornell University graduate who is now an entrepreneur seeking to establish his own business; Mark Svensson, an RCC and Georgetown graduate who will enroll in law school in the fall; and Andrew Newmark, an RCC and Pace University graduate, who last year received a Master’s degree from Teacher’s College Columbia University and teaches 5th grade in an upstate rural and underprivileged town, Gloversville, NY.
All of these RCC alums continue to do good work and we at RCC are very proud of them. What is most impressive to me about the image below is what is not seen. The three young men standing on the portico in the nation’s capital are a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew, who came together at RCC because they shared a common goal of doing good work and honoring the worth and dignity of all individuals. For me, this picture is a metaphor of a way in which the world must learn to live if we are ever to achieve peace and equality for all of the world’s citizens.