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)

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 12th - Casa Belvedere

Casa Belvedere is a new Italian heritage organization on Staten Island which is based out of a beautiful home on Howard Avenue. In November 2008, Staten Island residents Gina Biancardi-Rammairone and Luciano Rammairone purchased a mansion with dreams of restoring it to its original splendor while converting it to an arts and cultural center for the Staten Island community to enjoy. Through innovative programs, exhibits, and events, the Foundation seeks to preserve and promote an appreciation of Italian language, arts, literature, history, fashion, cuisine, and commerce while also celebrating the Italian heritage and the contributions of Italians and Italian-Americans to the fabric of the United States. Although Casa Belvedere plans to officially open its doors to the restored mansion in September of 2011, they have been running fundraisers to raise awareness and funds for the organization.

Having met the Executive Director, Louis J. Calvelli, at a prior appearance I was invited to sing a few Italian selections at the latest fundraiser at Casa Belvedere called "An Evening in Venice." The night included a silent auction, dinner, and entertainment and the guests were encouraged to dress in Venetian attire. When I first arrived to the mansion I marveled at the beautiful architecture and mingled with the guests before performing a few selections on a graceful staircase in the main room. It was a very elegant event which had an old world feel to it.

Being of Italian decent, I am thrilled to have such a positive representation of Italian culture on Staten Island. The media bombards us with stereotypes of Italian-Americans, for example the Sopranos and the "characters" on the Jersey Shore. It is refreshing to have a true representation of Italian-American culture here on Staten Island.

A special thanks to Louis Calvelli and Gina Biancardi for including me in this event.

With Arturo di Modica - sculptor of the "Charging Bull" near Bowling Green

With Assemblyman Michael Cusick
With Gina Biancardi

March 9th - Staten Island Slim Down

I recently found out about a relatively new initiative on Staten Island called Staten Island Slim Down. Staten Island Slim Down is powered by a not-for-profit organization developed for the purpose of providing Staten Islanders with information, inspiration, strategies, tactics and tools. Along with their sponsors it is their sole intention to assist in the process of personal development of all participants with the provision of all resources FREE of charge. The program provides weekly surprise fitness classes for the Staten Island community on Wednesday nights at 8pm at the College of Staten Island. The coordinators keep the activity of the week a surprise in order to keep the participants on their toes. Also, you can find the group walking Wednesday and Sunday mornings at the Staten Island Mall.

After some interactions with Tony Books Avilez and Dr. Maureen Becker who run Staten Island Slim Down, on March 9th I happily accepted an invitation to attend one of the weekly workout sessions. As I entered the gym at CSI I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The gym was full of Staten Islander's from all different walks of life, different ages, elasticities, some people came in couples, some with friends, some with children, but they all had a few things in common. Evey single person there was eager to exercise, try new things, even though they may be challenging, and what touched me the most was the sense of camaraderie. There was no judgment in that gymnasium. People helped each other and they were supportive. It was honestly pretty amazing to be a part of.

I urge you all to visit the website and get involved with this amazing organization. I have some future events planned with Staten Island Slim Down which I am really looking forward to.

March 6th - Soggy St. Patrick's Day

Even though I crossed my fingers, after a week of absolutely gorgeous weather, the day of the Staten Island St. Patrick's Day Parade came and, of course, it rained. After much debate over what to do, I canceled my convertible (a special thank you to Nick Williams) and weighed out my options. Finally, Miss Richmond County's Outstanding Teen, Victoria Dugay, and I decided to walk in the parade, with big umbrellas, to show our Staten Island pride.

The weather held out for most of the parade except for one downpour near the beginning. Executive Director trailed us in his car with Miss Staten Island magnets just in case the weather got too grim. It was a great feeling to see all of the Staten Islanders who still made it out in the rain to see the parade. It ended up being an exciting, albeit soggy day. I am trying to locate a picture of Victoria and I with our umbrellas. (It was pretty precious).

March 4th, Jim's Birthday

I have gotten far behind on my blogs again. I apologize.

On March 4th I helped celebrate Jim Smith, Executive Director of Miss Staten Island's, birthday. Jim and I became close when I competed in the teen system in 2006 and I have grown pretty attached to him over the years. He is an amazing support system for me and for the other girls in the system. Jim embodies what the Miss America Organization is all about and I was never more aware of that fact than I was at his birthday party, surrounded by people from all different aspects of the Staten Island community, united to celebrate this generous man. He is as dedicated to his community as he is to his friends and family and it shows through his every action.

Happy Birthday Jim! I am lucky to have such a positive influence in my life.

With Jim Smith - decked out for his birthday celebration!

Jim and some of his Miss Staten Islands

Dancing with my father <3