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New York City
June 2001

Ten Future Teachers Receive Scholarships from MCC

by Sarah Elzas

“Within this room are the elements of your success: power, the press, money (I’m going to say it), and the love of teachers and parents,” said Superintendent W.L. Sawyer to the students gathered in the cafeteria of the Richard Greene High School for Teaching. In a deep voice that evoked cheers, he continued, “Use them, and use them well.”

Sawyer was addressing ten students in particular: the winners of $1,000 college scholarships from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce (MCC)—Carmen Barahona, Karen Cooper, Su-Elene Cuevas, Margaret Diaz, Venus Hernandez, Suzie Ip, Michelle Mapp, Nydia Southerland, Shaneika Swinton and Carmen Tavarez, all college-bound seniors.

Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy has challenged the business community to become more involved in the schools. “The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce has taken up the Chancellor’s request,” said Deputy Chancellor, David Klasfeld, referring to these scholarships, the first ones ever donated by the Chamber.

“The best way we can support the business community is to invest in educational programs,” said Don Winter, President of the MCC. The Chamber raises money at an annual street fair on the East Side that is “returned entirely to the community,” explained Hedi White, Chairman. When the Chamber decided to give $10,000 of that money to a school this year, they chose Richard Greene because of its mission to train future teachers.

“I will revolutionize education,” said Mapp, who, along with Diaz and Southerland, read her winning essay aloud at the ceremony. The Richard Greene curriculum prepares students to become teachers through teaching seminar classes, where they learn, among other things, how to create lesson plans. Students also participate in internships in schools throughout the city. Mapp helped prepare second grade lesson plans and worked one-on-one with students at PS 305 in Brooklyn.

What is striking about all the winners are their statements that they have always wanted to work with children, and many have wanted to become teachers since they were very young. “I remember pretending to be a teacher,” wrote Hernandez. “I even made my siblings pretend to be my students.” Cooper also pretended to be a teacher with her siblings, and has been able to be a real teacher for fifth graders as an intern at IS 116 in the Bronx.

“My dream is to become a great Kindergarten teacher,” said Diaz, who has worked with children in her church since she was seven years old.

The awards impressed the students in the eight teaching seminar classes attending the presentation, as well as other students in the school. In a thank-you note to the Chamber, the winners asked “a favor”: that the MCC consider “adopting the High School of Teaching and giving this scholarship every year for the many worthy kids in our building.”

The students were not the only ones elated by the award. “I’m going to leave here walking on air, I feel so good!” exclaimed White.

“It is so encouraging for us to realize that there are so many well-intentioned people who don’t even know us offering support both financially and in spirit,” the winners continued in their thank-you letter. “So often as minority teenagers, we assume that people really don’t care about us; this grant changed our minds.”

The Chamber certainly wants to show they care and are connected to the community. Nancy Ploeger, Executive Director of the MCC, told the gathering that she wants to be accessible. “If you see me in the street, don’t hesitate to stop me and introduce yourself,” she said.

After all the introductions were done and speeches made, the ten smiling winners, all wearing rose wrist corsages, were presented with their checks by their Principal, Elaine Goldberg as cameras flashed and parents and friends cheered.

“I am an African American female determined to succeed,” said Southerland, summing up the goals of these young women. Her years at Richard Greene made her realize what it takes to be a teacher. “You shouldn’t teach if it is not what you really want to do,” she continued, because “not only are you cheating yourself from achieving your goals in life, you are cheating the children that you are teaching out of a good education.”


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