The City University of New York celebrates the accomplishments of some of its most promising graduates, who have been selected as Class of 2014 Valedictorians for their respective campuses. Valedictorian honors this year are as follows:
Esther Lykes is graduating summa cum laude from Baruch College with a B.A. in Business Management and Entrepreneurship. A member of Sigma Iota Epsilon National Honor Management Society, Esther also participated in a variety of entrepreneurship competitions that included serving as a team member in the 2014 Idea Brewery Hackathon and on the 2012 Fast Forward Leadership Program with KPMG in Hollywood, Calif., winning first place in each instance. In the summer of 2010, she also served as team captain of the Oceanic Leadership Team, where she led her team to raise $60,000 for community service projects in Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
Cindy Stephanie Salazar earns her degree as a Business Administration major from the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). The daughter of immigrant parents, she is one of the first in her family to graduate with a higher degree. A member of Phi Theta Kappa, Cindy has been an Each One, Reach One peer mentor, a Peer Achievement Leader, a participant in the Goldman Sachs Leadership Program at BMCC, the Leaders in Investment Banking workshop, and the Financial Literacy workshop at Macaulay Honors College. She was also a Rebecca Minkoff intern and a Citigroup/BMCC internship participant.
Afrah Abisse celebrates her accomplishment from Bronx Community College as an immigrant from a country where education for women is undervalued. With the support of her family she worked hard to learn a new language, become successful in her studies completing high school, and obtaining a two-year degree. Recently accepted to City College with plans to become a physician assistant, Afrah is one of the first females to have gone to college from her town in Yemen.
Brooklyn College’s Jenna Peet, a science and physics education major presented her senior thesis, “Thinking with Portals: Teaching Physics through Video Games,” which was accepted by the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. As the co-founder and president of the Brooklyn College chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), she seeks to assist people struggling with mental health issues including depression, addiction, self-injury and attempted suicide. She uses her training skills to teach about the prevention of, and intervention in, occurrences of bullying and harassment while working toward preventing school violence and identifying child abuse.
Graduating from the City College’s Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education with a B.S. in biomedical science, Golden Key International Honor Society member, Arielle Elmaleh-Sachs focused her studies on health policy, particularly on marginalized communities in the United States. As a Colin Powell Leadership Fellow and Sophie Davis student, Arielle also traveled abroad to Paris in 2013 as a Mack Lipkin Broader Horizons Fellow to work on a national study, “Care of HIV-HCV Co-infected Patients in France.”
She also helped develop and implement a curriculum for the Health, Medicine and Society II: Community-Oriented Primary Care course, examining social determinants, health disparities and the role of physician bias in health, which was published fall 2013 in the Journal of Student National Medical Association.
College of Staten Island’s Blaze Fraser is the fourth proud member of his family to graduate from CSI, where he obtained a B.S. in biology and a minor in chemistry. His undergraduate research was based on the subject of taurine, an effective osmolyte in the body, and its physiological consequence upon different tissues. This fall, Blaze will attend Rutgers School of Dental Medicine in pursuit of his long-term goal of becoming a dentist.
As the CUNY Baccalaureate Program‘s valedictorian, William Cheung, whose area of specialization is philosophy, also studied political science and individual responsibilities toward collective social movements. A national-level, collegiate policy debater with many titles and awards, William, who has plans to pursue a Ph.D., was named a Fulbright English Teaching Fellow and will travel to Germany in the fall. He plans to focus his works on power structures, like the criminal justice system, that contribute to the violence in society, as well as on the war on terror which appear to him to be a continuation of sentiments developed in the eras of slavery and colonization.
Daniel Harris receives his Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center. His dissertation, “Speech Act Theoretic Semantics,” develops a new theoretical foundation for the study of linguistic meaning and human communication. Daniel also received several prestigious awards including: Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellowship (2008-2013); Dissertation Fellowship (2013-2104); SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship (2009-2012); Kripke Center Research Assistantship (2008-2012); and Doctoral Student Research Grants (2010-2012). In August, Dr. Harris will begin his appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Hunter College.
Heather Martino, this year’s CUNY Graduate School of Journalism valedictorian graduates with a Master of Arts in Entrepreneurial Journalism. While in the Entrepreneurial Journalism program at the CUNY J-School, Heather founded Hashtag That, a site that educates journalists and social media professionals on successful hashtag strategies for brand awareness. Her work has been published in Salon, PBS Media Shift, the International Journalists Network, and Voices of New York, among others. She is a recipient of the J. Douglas Creighton Scholarship from Digital First Media, the Abe Schecter Graduate Scholarship, and the Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation Graduate Scholarship, which she received twice. She was also selected for the Knight Foundation Scholarship to attend the Investigative Reporters and Editors annual NICAR Conference earlier this year.
Somalia Samuel received her bachelor’s from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and just recently earned her J.D. from the CUNY School of Law. At John Jay, she was awarded the Undergraduate Research Incentive Scholarship for her senior thesis — a historical and philosophical critique of the Thirteenth Amendment’s slavery proviso and its impact on prison slavery. Before entering CUNY Law, Somalia interned at New York City Treatment Alternative for Safer Communities, where she acted as a court liaison for eligible offenders who participated in drug treatment programs in lieu of incarceration. She served as the Vice President of the Black Law Students Association; as a student representative for second-year law students; and a staff member on CUNY Law Review. As a first year student, she also participated in the New York City Bar Association’s Diversity Fellowship and interned in Prudential’s legal department advising on enterprise regulatory law.
School of Professional Studies graduate Peggy Ann Heeney has been working in the nonprofit sector in New York City for five years: first at an arts-based organization and currently at The Renaissance Charter School, where she writes grants, organizes annual special events and workshops, and handles the school’s electronic communications. She currently works with Ballroom Barks, an organization that advocates for animal rescue, and is looking forward to working with Unity Stage, a grassroots performance company that produces live theater for children and adults.
Amy Freeman will complete her master’s in Public Health in Epidemiology at the CUNY School of Public Health this summer. Since 2012, she has been the Survey Coordinator of the NYC Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NYC HANES 2013), a major research initiative of the CUNY School of Public Health and the NYC Health Department. Previously, Amy earned a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Washington (2004) and conducted research in France and Morocco. After teaching geography in the New York area for three years, she decided to return to school to study epidemiology, understanding the distribution of health and its disparities.
When Shalim López Bisono and her family migrated to New York City from the Dominican Republic, she did not speak any English. She enrolled in the Hostos Community College CUNY Language Intensive Program (CLIP), a rigorous ESL program that includes 25 hours of instruction each week. After three semesters in CLIP, Shalim matriculated in the Liberal Arts program at Hostos and began to work for CLIP as a tutor. Developing her leadership skills through her work as president of the Connections Club, she took part in volunteer initiatives like AIDS Walk New York and campus-based opportunities to mentor her peers. Completing her associate degree a semester early, she enrolled in Lehman College’s Social Work program, where she hopes to work with individuals who faced many of the same obstacles she faced when she first came to the United States.
Hunter College graduate David Liao is the first college graduate in his family. He attributes much of his academic success to the values his immigrant parents instilled in him, leading by example and showing what sacrifice and delayed gratification meant. While his parents never attended high school, he knew it was important for him to be proactive about his education and his life. David will begin applying to medical schools this June with plans to start in fall 2015.
Cristine Fredericks moved from Ecuador with her two young children to fulfill her American Dream. Earning her associate degree in Paralegal Studies at Nassau Community College, where she graduated summa cum laude, she will now be awarded a B.S. degree in Legal Studies from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Currently employed as a legal assistant and interpreter at an immigration law office in Long Island, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in Migration and Global Cities. Her ultimate goal is to obtain a law degree with a concentration in immigration and public service.
Kingsborough Community College graduate Rachel Lazar is a Presidential Scholar honors student at KCC, and one of four students in New York State to receive the highly prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, the largest private scholarship for two-year and community college transfer students in the country. A member of Phi Theta Kappa, she plans to attend NYU in the fall to pursue a career in the mental health field. She has conducted independent research on psychiatric disorders as well as on the psychological and neurobiological roots of evil. She has been published twice in Kingsborough’s Honors Journal, “Distinctions.” Rachel’s unique twist on the Disney film “The Little Mermaid,” diagnosing Ariel with Compulsive Hoarding Disorder, resulted in her presenting her findings at the Northeast Regional Honors Council Conference in April 2014.
Julio Trinidad discovered his passion for acting at LaGuardia Community College where he enrolled in its theater program in 2012 — winning awards along the way. He demonstrated his talent during his participation in the 46th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), which gives exceptional theater students from noted theater programs across the country the opportunity to attend master classes. Julio took top prize in the Irene Acting Scholarship Auditions, with an intense six-minute, two-scene performance and a monologue at the regionals, earning him a scholarship and a chance to compete as a finalist at the national competition in Washington, D.C. After graduation, Julio plans to continue at a four-year institution for fine arts and has his eyes set on Lehman College, Brooklyn College or the conservatory program at Julliard.
Ibrahima Souare, a native of Conakry, Guinea, is the eldest of three siblings and a first generation college student. A graduate of Lehman College holding a B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in international affairs and governmental law, Ibrahima plans for a career in International Business Relations. Ibrahima excelled in the classroom, as Track & Field captain for two years, and most recently as a member of the Men’s Volleyball team. He also served as Club Board President with Student Government and graduated from The Herbert H. Lehman Center for Student Leadership Development in 2011. He recently represented Lehman College as one of two students at the Model New York State Senate in Albany.
Cynthia Perez Beltethon graduates from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College with a major in Psychology and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. She is a research intern at the Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), where she is completing her theses for both Macaulay and the CUNY Pipeline Fellowship Program. She will join Teach for America in the fall and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Chana Heintz graduates from Medgar Evers College with a B.S. in Biology. A native of the Netherlands, Chana’s tenure at the college has encompassed a wide-array of academic and extracurricular experiences. She is a co-founding president of the college’s chapter of the Global Medical Brigades, which has set up clinics in Ghana, Honduras, and this summer in Panama. She has served as member of the Student Faculty Disciplinary Committee; was inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success; and is an active member of the Medgar Evers Science Association. She is the recipient of several accolades including the Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Leadership Award; Distinguished Service Award, Biology Department; and Mohamed Saleh Role Model Award. Next year, Chana will begin medical school at St. George’s University.
Maritza Lopez, a newly-minted graduate with a degree in Health Services Administration from New York City College of Technology, learned from an early age to advocate for her father—often hospitalized with complications from diabetes. Completing an Associate Degree in Radiologic Technology and Medical Imaging in 2012, she was immediately hired by Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital as a licensed radiologic technician. She continued her studies at City Tech while maintaining an outstanding academic record including membership in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, receiving the Philips Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement, and participating in the Honors Scholars program and the CUNY Pipeline Honors program.
Patryk Perkowski is a graduating senior from the Macaulay Honors College at Queens College with a double major in mathematics and economics. He is a first generation college student originally from Lapy, Poland. He has served as a research assistant investigating relationships between cost sharing, health expenditure, and health utilization. Patryk has presented research on health policy, college admissions practices, and urban homelessness at national conferences throughout the United States. His health policy research won him first place in the 2014 Baker Institute Student Forum National Public Policy Competition. He is a Horace W. Goldsmith Scholar, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and also the 2014-15 recipient of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Malaysia. Upon graduation, Patryk will join the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco as a Research Associate in the Applied Microeconomics division and in future, plans to pursue a Ph.D. in economics or public policy.
Yueting Chen is a recipient of a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, the first of its kind awarded to a Queensborough Community College student. Yueting, who graduated with an Associate degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences is now a junior at Stony Brook University and is conducting research in genetics. Despite not knowing any English, she enrolled at Queensborough in the fall of 2011 taking English as a Second Language classes in the CLIP program. She was accepted into the Accelerated Study in Associate Program, designed to provide qualified students with the support they need to graduate in a timely manner.
Kristine Anne Perez completed her A.A.S. in Information Technology at Stella and Charles Guttman Community College. A writer and artist, she has joined several online competitions for fiction writing. Her goal of becoming an animator has been the incentive for her to take up drawing seriously and her specialties are Young Adult fiction—for writing, and pens and colored pencils—for drawing. Kristine has been accepted to City College where she plans to get her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.
York College graduate Katsiaryna Hud plans to apply to medical school where she hopes to specialize in either ophthalmology or dermatology. Her route to York College began in the northern part of Arkhangelsk, Russia, then to Belarus, and eventually to the United States in Miami as a refugee, and ultimately New York. She chose York College for its Pharmaceutical Science program and also enrolled in the college’s CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP). Katsiaryna later changed her major to Chemistry, affording her more options in the science field. For the past two years she has conducted research analyzing the protein that causes Type II diabetes. She has also presented her research at York’s Undergraduate Research Day and will be presenting at St. John’s University this summer while awaiting response to her application for a research opportunity at the Mayo Clinic.
About The City University of New York:
The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health. The University serves more than 270,000 degree-credit students and 218,083 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. Nearly 3 million unique visitors and 10 million page views are served each month via www.cuny.edu, the University’s website.