Thursday, June 2, 2011

May 4th - Community Board 2 Youth Awards

Every year Community Board 2 on Staten Island awards college scholarships to high school seniors in two categories: lifetime achievement and community involvement. This year the awards dinner was held at the Renaissance, a catering hall on Staten Island, and approximately 25 scholarships were given out to high school seniors from across the island.

The scholarship recipients, Assemblywoman Malliotakis, & Me
Through my involvement with Annette Esposito, the chair of the event, I was invited to be a keynote speaker along side Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. I was able to congratulate each scholarship recipient personally and spoke the group about dedication, hard work, and flexibility as they begin their college career. This was particularly poignant for me as I was anticipating my college graduation, only 16 short days ahead.

It was great to hear the individual stories of these young people who are all so active in their school communities as well as the Staten Island Community.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May 1st - March of Dimes "March for Babies" & Kickoff Breakfast for Assemblyman Michael Cusick

My very first appearance as Miss Staten Island, the morning after I was crowned was for the March of Dimes. Since that morning on I have been privileged to be involved with several March of Dimes events. Sunday I attended and sang the national anthem for the organization's annual "March for Babies." I spent most of the morning speaking to the volunteers and children involved in the March of Dimes. This organization is truly about the families and children affected by premature births. It is warm and caring.

Through the March of Dimes I have met a wonderful set of twins, Jamie and Jianna Romano. Jamie and Jianna were born 14 weeks premature and weighed just 2 ½ lbs. combined. The girls were in Richmond University Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 3 ½ months. They were given only a ten percent chance of survival and were fighting to stay alive. Today, Jamie and Jianna are thriving thanks to the many advances in neonatal research and care that March of Dimes has supported. These girls are a true testament to the March of Dimes. They are now full of life and happiness. I met the girls at my first appearance and then again when I visited PS 53. I was thrilled to be met with their smiling faces on Sunday morning. They give the warmest hugs and I was thrilled that the girls wanted to sit with me on stage during the opening ceremony. Seeing the smile on their little faces when they get to touch and wear the Miss Staten Island crown is what the Miss America Organization truly means to me.

National Anthem

With Jamie & Jianna

With Madison Finkelstein who was born 8 weeks early weighing 2lb 7oz. The Finkelsteins are the Ambassador Family for 2011. I met Madison the day after I was crowned and I look forward to seeing her at all of the March of Dimes events. Here we are at the March for Babies.

After leaving the March for Babies I headed over to the Staten Island Hilton to attend Assemblyman Michael Cusick's kickoff breakfast. The speakers all emphasized the importance of always striving for your best and recognizing that even if you meet your goals, you can always do a little better. It was an empowering message that I try to implement in my own life on a daily basis. It was a great way to end such an amazing day.

With Assemblyman Michael Cusick

Two National Anthems before 12pm. Great way to start off May!

April 21st - South Shore Rotary

My father, Robert DeSantis, has been a member of South Shore Rotary for about 25 years. He was President in 1989, the year I was born. I grew up with the men and women of this club. My first volunteer experiences in the Staten Island community were along side the member of South Shore Rotary. I remember begin about 3 or 4 and helping make Thanksgiving baskets for the needy. I couldn't reach the table yet so I stood on a chair. This is probably the most important lesson that I learned from the member of this club, just because you cannot accomplish something in the "traditional" way does not mean that it cannot be accomplished.

On Thursdays the South Shore Rotary meets at the Marina Grand to discuss current community involvement projects. On April 21st I was the key speaker for the weekly meeting. I informed the club about my reign as Miss Staten Island so far and discussed my platform and preparation for Miss New York. It was great to be able to see so many supportive familiar faces.

With my parents, Robert & Laura DeSantis, and South Shore Rotarians Terry Tarrangelo & Mitch Lowell

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 8th - Grace Foundation Fashion show

At the event for the Gift of Life last night, I ran into Frado from the Biggest Loser who I know through other community events and he invited me to take part in a fashion show that he was hosting for the Grace Foundation the following evening. I was able to meet with the children and their parents and model in the fashion show along with the kids!

The Grace foundation is a non-profit organization established to offer services and support for families affected by autism spectrum disorders. They offer a broad range of services, activities, and classes for Staten Island families affected by autism.

April 7th - Gift of Life Fundraiser

On April 7th I was invited to the Staaten to be a part of a fundraiser for the Gift of Life Transport vehicle. The Gift of Life Family Transport was established to honor the memory of Amanda Forsyth whose organs were donated after a fatal car accident in 2006. Her family was helped through the ordeal by transportation service to and from the hospital which is provided by the city Fire Department to its members. The family decided to extend that service to all families of organ donors. Initial fundraisers went toward the purchase of a 2009 Chevy Suburban. This year's proceeds will go toward the vehicle's maintenance, gas, tolls and insurance. Driving is done by volunteers from the city Police and Fire departments. It was great to be able to help such an important organization.

April 2nd - Great Kill Little League Parade

Finally, beautiful weather for a parade! This Saturday I was a part of the annual Great Kills Little League Parade along with Shreya Jain, Staten Island's Outstanding Teen and Victoria Dugay, Richmond County's Outstanding Teen. We had a great time in the sunshine meeting with the teams and talking about how important it is to be active. The Great Kills Little League has been a tradition in the Staten Island Community and encourages our boys and girls to get outside, play ball, and socialize. Here are some pictures of the girls and I at the parade and at the opening ceremony.

March 30th & 31st - PS29

New week, new elementary school. This week I spend 2 days at PS 29. My agenda there was slightly different than that at PS 53. At PS 29 I held assembly programs for the different grades. First, as usual, I allowed the students to ask me questions and then we played a jeopardy style game. I had 4 students compete and 4 students keep score. They answered questions about the food groups, identify which food is healthier, answer questions about exercise and also perform some physical activities. We had a blast!

With Principal Manfredi

I also had the opportunity to take the kindergarten classes into the gym and spend some special time with them. First we all sat in a circle on the floor and discussed why I was there, who I was, and I answered any questions they had for me. Then we talked about eating healthy and exercise. I had the students go into the middle of the circle and demonstrate their favorite ways to exercise. They loved showing the rest of the class what they could do. One little girl even impressed everyone with some amazing push ups. Then we all got up together and I led them in a 20 minute aerobic style exercise session. It was so much fun.

March 24th & 25th - PS 53

Over the last two days I had an experience that I know will be one of the highlights of my entire year. I was able to spend 2 days going into every class room at PS 53 in Bay Terrace and speaking to the children about my platform.

I knew from the moment I spoke to the Principal Annette Esposito on the phone about my visit to PS 53 that this was was going to wonderful but my experience even surpassed my expectations. I was welcomed with a beautiful sign that some of the art student made for me and with a warm feeling from the staff and students. Principal Esposito gave me total discretion about what exactly I wanted to do with the students which was a bit intimidating at first but extremely exciting for me.

With the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes I started my 1/2 an hour lessons by allowing the students to ask me questions about myself, the pageant, what it is like to be Miss Staten Island, anything they wanted. It is amazing to hear what the students are curious about. After the questions, we labeled a food pyramid which I previously constructed. Then after the sections of the food pyramid were labeled, I asked the students to draw me a picture of any food. After they finished drawing we sorted the foods into the food groups and glued them onto the pyramids. Then we spoke about the importance of eating foods from each food group every day and the amounts that we should be consuming. Then the conversation turned to physical activity and we discussed some of the students' favorite ways to get their needed 1 hour of daily exercise. We had a blast.

With the Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade classes I started our lesson similarly, by allowing them to ask me questions. Then I read each class a book titled "Gregory the Terrible Eater." This is a story about a goat who wanted to eat food that would be considered healthy for people, however, his parents are concerned because this food is not what goats generally eat. The children loved the silly story and it was a great way to transition into a conversation about what foods are healthy for them to eat on a daily basis. Then, as in the older grades, we spoke about their favorite ways to exercise.

At the end of the two days at PS 53 I simply didn't want to leave. Many of the student had written me thank you letters and explained what they learned in our lessons, which is the most gratifying thing for me to hear. My time at PS 53 was a lot of fun and more importantly, I know the students were able to take some new knowledge about keeping their bodies healthy from our time together.

March 19th - Unity Games

This Saturday I was invited by Dr. Mark Sherman to be involved in an event called the Unity Games. The Unity games were founded by Dr. Mark Sherman and Jacob Carey in 2006 as a way to get intermediate school students together from around Staten Island and teach important lessons about diversity and tolerance. It is a weekend of basketball games and workshops about cultural diversity, arts and crafts, internet safety, health and much more. I was able to walk around the different classrooms at Petrides and speak to some of the students involved in the program and also cheer on some of the basketball games.

With Unity Game founders Dr. Mark Sherman & Jacob Carey

With Frado from the Biggest Loser who was also there to talk to the kids
With Borough President Molinaro

Singing the National Anthem at the opening ceremony

It was amazing to speak to some of the children about their experiences at the unity games. Some students return year after year and they explained to me that it is a relaxed atmosphere to meet interesting new kids that they wouldn't have met otherwise.

I was thrilled to be part of this event which really gives back to the youth of Staten Island, not only by getting them physically active which is extremely important to me but also by reinforcing a sense of community and acceptance among the young Staten Islanders. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

March 13th - State Sweeper

On March 13th, 7 Miss New York local titles were given out and I was lucky enough to see 6 of my local miss titleholders crowned. Congratulations!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 18th - Staten Island Technical HS

I woke up on Friday at what seemed like the crack of dawn to prepare for my appearance at Staten Island Technical High School. Those of you who know me, know that I am far from a morning person, so I left some extra time in my morning ritual to make sure I was approachable by the time I arrived at the school at 7:30am.

I graduated from Tech in 2007 so returning to the school as Miss Staten Island certainly had some special meaning to me. It was great to see a lot of my old teachers and be welcomed back into that familiar building. I took part in two assemblies marking the culmination of health and fitness week in the school. This was the 6th year of health and fitness week at SI Tech and the program has expanded every year. The week focuses on maintaining a healthy lifestyle through the incorporation of physical activity and proper nutrition (sounds familiar right?). The programming is entirely student run and included classes in self-defense and zumba this year. The students that I spoke to seemed to really enjoy learning about some unconventional ways to stay fit.

I tailored my usual presentation, which is geared toward younger audiences, to a higher level and included some different points. I spoke to the auditorium briefly about my experiences with health in high school and how I was obsessed with calorie counting and not necessarily the nutritional value of my food and explained to the students that when I shifted my focus to healthy foods instead of just low calorie foods the way my body functioned and looked drastically improved. I also touched on some of the most important things to look for in your foods, proper meal composition and the importance of eating smaller meals throughout the day.

After I spoke the students had a video recapping the week and, my favorite part of the assembly, a push up contest which I participated in. It was hysterical.

Assistant Principal Mr. Andrews

Shelly Jain (Miss SI OT 2010) & Shreya Jain (Miss SI OT 2011)