Sunday, June 12, 2011

Where my journey began...

That's me at the Richmond County Fair with Kristina Ferraro, Miss Staten Island 1994. This is where my journey in the Miss America Organization began. I have had the privilege to grow up in an environment full of service, scholarship, style, and success. I was enamored by every new Miss Staten Island; I looked up to these women as the big sister I never had. Miss New Yorks and Miss Americas also became my role models, traveling every year to Watertown, NY and Atlantic City, NJ to witness the crowning of a new queen. These were my role models as a child. And I always hoped that one day I could also be a role model to the younger generation.

Part one of my dream came true when I was crowned Miss Staten Island 2009. It became clear to me that God had big plans for me as I became Miss Richmond County 2010 and Miss Liberty 2011. These past three years have been a dream come true. It is an honor to say that I have represented my hometown for three years. There were so many opportunities granted to me that without these titles I never would have achieved them. As I reflect on the week ahead, understanding that this will be the last time I compete for Miss New York, I visualize my past three years as successful ones. I am excited to compete in my hometown for the last time, ending the journey where it all began. It has been a privilege to have held three amazing titles and represent the greatest city in the world! I am the woman I am today because of the Miss America Organization. My gratitude extends to everyone who has been a part of my journey. So here's to the continuation of my journey. Because for me this is not the end. It's only the beginning.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Relay for Life and Kids Against Tobacco Film Festival

Today I made my last appearances as Miss Liberty prior to competing for the title of Miss New York 2011. My day started at my alma mater, Wagner College, for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. I was the Team Captain for Silver Lake Specialized Care Center. The event did face some rain but that didn’t stop the celebration of survivorship.My second appearance was at Richmond University Medical Center for their sixth annual Kids Against Tobacco Film Festival. This is one of my favorite events to participate in because it shows teens understanding the message of saying no to smoking simultaneously giving them the opportunity to spread that same message to their peers. Kids from various public schools across Staten Island spent an entire year producing, writing, editing, and directing films that promote the anti-tobacco campaign. Every June those films are nominated for Oscar type awards that are presented at the festival. This was my third consecutive year acting as a presenter. Let me tell you…these were probably the best anti-smoking films I have ever seen! These kids truly outdid themselves. The work the produced was absolutely outstanding and I couldn’t be prouder. Joining me as a presenter was Miss Staten Island’s Outstanding Teen, Shreya Jain, and Miss Teen Earth Staten Island, Alexandria Robinson. A special thank you to Dr. Cynthia Wong, the director and founder of this event, for including me in the festival and for spearheading the tobacco prevention campaign at RUMC.

Mom and I
Dr. Cynthia Wong
A few students who participated in Kids Against Tobacco Film Festival
Miss Staten Island’s Outstanding Teen, Shreya Jain, and Miss Teen Earth Staten Island, Alexandria Robinson
Miss New York City Outstanding Teen, Shelley Jain

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Back to the Beach Press Conference

Miss New York is a week away! And there’s no better way to gear up for it than promoting the pageant throughout Staten Island. Borough President James Molinaro held a press conference at South Beach to kick off his Back to the Beach events. I, along with some Miss New York Board Members, Miss Staten Island Maria DeSantis, and Miss Richmond County Amanda Alicea, was invited to attend the press conference to spread the word about the pageant’s debut at the St. George Theatre next weekend. Kenny Mack spoke about the pageant and all the exciting events planned for the week, including the first Miss New York Parade, which is in conjunction with Back to the Beach. Each of the three titleholders had the opportunity to share with the community a little biography and our issues of concern.

Click HERE to see the article in the Staten Island Advance

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Telethon

Early Sunday morning, Amanda Alicea (Miss Richmond County 2011) and I carpooled to Albany to attend the 26th annual Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Telethon. This marks my third year volunteering for the telethon. We met up with Kaitlin Monte (Miss Southern New York) who also drove up from the city to the WXXA Fox 23 studio. The three of us had a great time bonding as we worked diligently answering the phones to a number of donors. Madison Manuel (Miss Upstate New York Outstanding Teen 2011) joined us on the phones later on that day. I even got the opportunity to sit next to one of Albany's Senators. Senator Neil Breslin was a great guy who was very impressed that I knew all of my Senators and Assemblymen! Corporate sponsors were present to hand deliver their generous donations. Miracle kids gathered in the studio to share their inspiring stories to the millions of viewers watching the telethon. The impact of this event reminds me of my job as a titleholder; it reiterates why I am so passionated about this cause. Special thank you to Art Hunsinger who has invited the Miss New York contestants to participate in the telethon for the past three years.

Miss Richmond County Amanda Alicea and Miss Southern New York Kaitlin MonteChatting with Albany Senator Neil Breslin
Working the phones during the telethon Art Hunsinger, WXXA Fox 23 Manager
Madison Manuel, Miss Upstate New York Outstanding Teen 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011

LGBT Pride Parade

Today marked the seventh annual Staten Island Gay Pride Parade, and my third year participating in this parade. Many people have questioned why I would attend this specific event as a "beauty queen." As I stated in the Staten Island Advanced, "I am a straight ally for my many friends in the LGBT community. I am here to show that there is support and that there is an alliance."

Thousands gathered under the trademark rainbow balloon arch to share with the borough their support for the LGBT community. This year was extra special because the Grand Marshall was none other than Claire Buffie, Miss New York 2010. Claire has pioneered the gay rights movement during her year of service with such conviction. Her platform, Straight for Equality: Let's Talk, has been promoted throughout the country as the first platform of its kind at the Miss America Pageant. There is no better candidate to have the honor of being named Grand Marshall than Claire.

Miss New York Claire Buffie as the Grand Marshall

Jim Smith, Miss Staten Island Executive Director and Grand Marshall 2005

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

World No Tobacco Day

Big Tobacco marketing is affecting our communities now more than ever. There are too many stores with too much tobacco marketing. Almost 90% of regular smokers start smoking before the age of eighteen; tobacco companies know this and target their marketing to the youth for this reason.

Today marks World No Tobacco Day, originated by the World Health Organization. World No Tobacco Day acts as a platform to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for effective policies to reduce consumption. Tobacco use is the second cause of death globally (after hypertension) and is currently responsible for killing one in 10 adults worldwide. The World Health Assembly created World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and its lethal effects. It provides an opportunity to highlight specific tobacco control messages and to promote adherence to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Tobacco use is the number one preventable epidemic that the health community faces.

Staten Island University Hospital held a Youth Rally to commemorate World No Tobacco Day. It was a great opportunity for the Staten Island Youth to take a stand and send the message it is time to change the way tobacco products are marketed in our stores. I was invited as a guest speaker at the rally. Maria DeSantis, Miss Staten Island 2011, was also in attendance. What makes events like this one the most rewarding is when you see teens acting above the influence and saying no to tobacco. As I was watching the rally unfold, I couldn't help but feel incredibly proud as I witnessed groups of middle, high school, and college students sending a powerful message to tobacco companies. Our youth is tired of the advertisements being solely targeted to them. In honor of World No Tobacco Day, we all say to tobacco companies that "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!"

Assemblyman Lou Tobacco

Reality Check; I was affiliated with this organization when I was in high school

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May is for Miracles

May is certainly for miracles for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. May is the peak of the organization's fundraising season. CMNH partners all over the country sell miracle balloon icons, host grassroots fundraisers, and even shave their heads to raise money for their local CMN hospitals.

As a local ambassador for the national platform, I have organized two fundraisers and volunteered with a Children's Miracle Network hospital located in New York. My first fundraiser was organizing a Dress Down Day at my work place. Casual Friday for Kids was a fun day where the entire staff got the chance to either wear jeans to work instead of the usually uniform or wear the official Casual Friday for Kids button. This is an event I plan to continue as an annual fundraiser due to its success.

My second CMNH fundraiser was a Zumbathon that took place at Rhythm Central Dance Studio. Libby McPike, certified Zumba instructor, volunteered her services and lead the class in an energetic workout! Libby and I were members of the Wagner College Nationally Ranked Dance Team so it was great to reconnect for this event.

The Children's Hospital at Montefiore held their annual Spring Fling to benefit Camp CHAM, a day camp for children with diabetes. The mission of the Camp of the Children's Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) is to provide an enriching and enjoyable experience for children in a summer camp, together with other diabetic children and their families. This was my second consecutive year volunteering with Montefiore Hospital. I would like to thank Lili Beit, Senior Application Manager for the Professional Services Department and Organizer of the Spring Fling, for inviting me once again to participate with the Spring Fling. For more information about Camp CHAM visit there website at