Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Staten Island Tech Interview

Now for what will be the last post of 2011!! Last Thursday I visited my alma-mater, Staten Island Technical High School. I was so nice to see that they haven't forgotten me ;] I guess it would be kind of difficult since my brother is a junior there and my mother is the PTA President...

I was invited by Mr. Mazza, a faculty member at the high school, to be interviewed in their brand new recording studio! I was joined by Shelley Jain, Miss Staten Island's Outstanding Teen 2010.

Just to further prove how far the Miss Staten Island Organization has taken me, I was not nervous for the interview at all! I knew that the entire show would be taped and aired on a special TV channel, and yet I was not bothered one bit. If I had to do this three years ago, before I became a part of the organization, I would have been completely lost!

My mom and dad came to watch, and the interview began. Mr. Mazza asked me and Shelley about our "transformations" since becoming involved and advice we would give to aspiring young pageant queens. He then asked me what I have personally done, so far, with my title, and gave me the chance to speak a little about my platform, The Make-A-Wish Foundation: Encouraging Others to Share the Power of a Wish. One question, in particular, that sticks with me is, "What would you tell young women who want to get involved in something like this, but don't think they can?" Shelley and I completely agreed on the answer. There is no girl that this pageant is not right for. No matter what you want to do in life - anything is possible if you put your mind to it! This is something that I learned this year : ]

The interview was enjoyable and very laid-back. I was comfortable, and cannot wait to do it again! Mr. Mazza and I are working on a way to publicize the Make-A-Wish Foundation through this network. I think it will be extremely successful. Thank you for having me, S.I.T.H.S.! I look forward to the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Television Production Studio on January 11th!

Macy's Million Reasons to Believe - COMPLETE!

I have decided to postpone my blog post about my interview at Staten Island Technical High School until I have the pictures! So for now I will skip to my Friday appearance, which was so exciting!!

On Friday, I was finally able to deliver all of the letters collected for the Macy's Million Reasons to Believe Campaign! I made my way into the Staten Island Mall (crown, sash, & all) with a huge box and bag full of "Dear Santa" letters - just in time for Christmas!!

After all of the appearances (and tireless hours) the grand total is....

1,431 letters!

This equals a total of $1,431 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In the entire country, over 1 million letters were delivered. This year, Macy's donated a total of $1,400,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I couldn't be more proud of all those who were involved! The average cost of a wish is $7,500. It is because of the kindness and generosity of others that over 180 wishes can now be granted!

I would like to thank all of the parents, faculty, and students who made this a reality. While it is impossible to personally thank every person who has helped me in this venture, there are a few who I could not have achieved this without:

Jennifer Casey, an Assistant Resident Director at Wagner College
Kelly Lam, who brought me into Our Lady Queen of Peace School
Ms. Signorile, the principal of Our Lady Queen of Peace
Lisa Esposito, the principal of P.S.8
Aunt Paula, who brought me into St. Charles
Terry Guthrie, the Parent Coordinator of P.S.48
Darline Woodhouse, a member of the PTA at P.S.29
All of the assistant principals at Staten Island Technical High School
Ms. Fusaro, the COSA at Staten Island Technical High School

Of course I also have to thank some other very special people:

My mother, father and boyfriend, Nick,
who helped me organize and count all of the letters & deliver them to Macy's
(In addition to EVERYTHING else they do for me)

It is amazing to see a community coming together for a cause that is so dear to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

St. Charles School

Hello, everyone! After a bit of a break, I'm back to writing my blog and keeping you updated on all of the exciting things I am doing across the Island. Last Tuesday, I wrapped up my official visits for Macy's Million Reasons to Believe campaign by visiting the St. Charles School in New Dorp.

On this "dark morning," I was welcomed by the 2nd and 3rd graders of the school. It would not have been possible, however, without the help of my Aunt Paula, whose three children have attended St. Charles since Pre-K. Eddie, Michael, and Catie were all very excited for my visit - especially Catie, who was able to be a princess for a day : ]

St. Charles has two "tracts," which means that there are only two classes in each grade! These students are together for their entire Pre-K to 8th grade schooling. It is something I have never seen before, but when I had the opportunity to interact with the children, I knew that the school was doing something right! These kids were all so well-spoken, kind, and respectful! Each time I walked into a classroom I was greeted with a collective, "Good morning, Miss Staten Island!" and every time I left I heard, "Thank you, Miss Staten Island!" They were absolutely adorable!

What was unique about this appearance was that the students wrote the letters while I was there. Because of this, I was able to see what they wrote to Santa, and even help with a few spelling questions : ] The typical letters to Santa were written by the majority of the students: "Dear Santa, I want an iPod, a camera, an iPad, a puppy, a baby doll..." However, I was delighted to see that I had really reached some of the kids. One girl wrote, "Dear Santa, Please help all of the poor and sick children and bring them money so they can go shopping at the mall." - (a kind thought from a 2nd grader!)

 I even got a surprise visit from one of my dance students (and this year my duo partner), Ally! She is a 7th grader at St. Charles and an extremely talented young lady : ]

It was wonderful to be able to complete my "holiday school appearances"with such wonderful and mature children. I finished off my morning by signing a few autographs (at the demands of Catie's classmates), and being sung a Christmas song!

Thank you to St. Charles School for having me, and to my Aunt Paula for putting this plan into action! To see how many letters were collected, and the final news on the Macy's Million Reasons to Believe campaign, see my next post!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rainbow's Hope

On Saturday, Stephanie and I were invited to attend the Rainbow's Hope Christmas Party.  Rainbow's Hope is a Staten Island organization devoted to the needs of chronically and terminally ill children. It supplies equipment to disabled youngsters, helps build ramps for wheelchair users, hosts holiday parties and provides a support network for families. At this, the 25th annual holiday party, each child and young adult received a gift from Santa - one thing they truly desired. For some of them, this would be their only Christmas gift this year. It is too easy to forget how lucky we are.

It was such an honor to have been asked to be a part of this special event. I was able to speak with many families and get to know the kids. The Staaten was packed! There were many well-known members of the community present, including Congressman Michael Grimm.

Linda Angelone, Executive Director of Rainbow's Hope, interacted with all of the children, dressed head-to-toe in a Sleeping Beauty ensemble. You can clearly see the great amount of joy she receives from working with this organization.

Volunteers from a local high school worked hard to make the day extra-special. Once again I was able to see young adults who really do want to make a difference in their community.

When my mother found out I was attending this party, she told me she actually knew Linda! My mom is PTA president at Staten Island Technical High School (my alma mater) and it turns out they had previously donated money to Rainbow's Hope. What a small world ; ]

I had a wonderful time at the Rainbow's Hope holiday party. As Linda Angelone told us, "This is a day you will never forget for the rest of your lives." I'm sure of that, too.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Official "Miss Staten Island Day"

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to visit my "home" and it truly was a magical homecoming. I was welcomed into my elementary school, P.S.8, with open arms and lots of smiles. They even changed the sign outside for me, and made me a banner! And there was a board of the newspaper article from when I became Miss Staten Island!!

The memories all rushed back to me as I entered the building. It seemed so much smaller than I had remembered it to be. I couldn't wait to speak to all of the children because the principal, Ms. Lisa Esposito, told me that they were looking forward to meeting me! However, I was given an agenda which planned out my entire day at the school, and the assemblies had to wait.

1. Morning Announcements
2. Assemblies
3. Student Lunchroom Visit
4. Luncheon with Miss Staten Island
5. Classroom Visits
6. Christmas Caroling!

#1. Morning Announcements: I never knew that the morning announcements were done by telephone! I was actually a little bit nervous to use the "new" system (well, new to me, anyway), but I was surrounded by a support system of students, including one of my Princesses from the pageant, Emma Vitale! She was able to spend the entire day with me, wearing her own crown!

#2. Assemblies: It was time to speak to the kids about myself, volunteering, the pageant, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Much like at Our Lady Queen of Peace, the kids were excited to hear how much I was like them. I first had an assembly with the younger grades (Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd). Then came the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.

In each one, after I spoke, I opened up for questions. The younger students had A LOT of questions about how I deliver the letters to Santa! And one young boy simply stated, "I love you," after I called on him - it was too cute! The older grades, though, had quite interesting questions. I was very impressed! I was able to explain the pageant and Make-A-Wish Foundation to them, and even threw in some little things about myself. One little girl asked me, "Did you get nervous when you had to perform at the pageant?" "Of course!" I told her, "I've been dancing for over 15 years, and I still get nervous!" I even showed her my nervous dance - when I jump around before I go onstage. Another student asked me "How does it feel to be Miss Staten Island?" What a difficult question to answer!! "Indescribable," I told him.

A few of the 5th grade girls even put on a holiday performance for me! And when the final assembly ended, I got a wonderful surprise. Dominic LaForgia's sister, Natalie, and her friend presented me with flowers from the P.S.8 family!

#3. Student Lunchroom Visit: Well, this part was more eventful than I had anticipated. The moment I stepped foot into the lunchroom I was swarmed by children! In fact, their hugs nearly made me fall over! I told my dad, it sounded like the girls were screaming for Justin Beiber : ] I signed a lot of autographs (to say the least), including one on a supply case! Even my dad got in on the autographs!

#4. Luncheon With Miss Staten Island: Next came my lunch! I love to eat, so this was great. Eveline Melis, a dear family friend who happens to be a secretary at P.S.8, provided me, my father, my Aunt Jackie (a former teacher at the school), and other faculty members with some of my favorite foods! It was delicious!

#5. Classroom Visits: I didn't get to do many classroom visits because of everything else that was going on during the day, but was fun to give the children an extra opportunity to ask me questions. The Kindergarten room was, of course, my favorite!

#6. Christmas Caroling: This part of the day was a little bit scary for me, I guess you could say. I am by no means a singer and I always refuse to sing for anyone! However, when I was placed in the middle of these 5th graders, I had no choice - I had to face my fear. I'm proud to say I handled myself quite nicely!

I finished signing the last of the autographs, took a few pictures, and began to say my goodbyes. While I enjoyed every second of my day, I was ready for a good nap - I don't know how these kids do it!!

I look forward to future appearances at P.S.8. We have a few BIG plans for Spring & Summer 2012!! A special thank you to both the principal and assistant principal - I felt so welcome and it was honor to be a part of this special day, which will now officially be known as "Jamie Macchia, Miss Staten Island Day!"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shopping Extravaganza

On Wednesday night, I was asked by an old friend, Felicia, to make an appearance at a fundraiser she was hosting. Felicia teaches dance at Dance Sensations in Great Kills. One of the students at her studio, Brianna Bove, is a 12-year-old who was recently diagnosed with leukemia and has been undergoing treatments. This fundraiser, held at Ruby Falls, was meant to raise money to help her with her expenses. Because one of my best friends, Dominic LaForgia, had leukemia, this cause truly hit close to home. Of course I told her that I had to be a part of it!

The venue was beautiful, and everything was set up so thoughtfully. Vendors set up stands to sell their products, many of whom promised to donate a large percentage of their profits. From candles, to pocketbooks, to jewelry, to candy apples the selection was enough to make you spend every dollar you had! There were also a variety of raffles, including baskets and a 50/50. The family sold T-shirts and bracelets - I loved them!

Felicia told me that not including the T-shirts and bracelets that the family sold, the event raised over $900. It was heart-warming to see such a close-knit group of people joining together to help this young girl. I know that she must be so grateful to have this support system behind her. We are all thinking about you, Brianna. You are so strong, and you have loving friends & family cheering you on every step of the way - keep on smiling : ]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Lady Queen Of Peace Visit

I began my week of appearances at Our Lady Queen of Peace school on Tuesday. Thanks to my dear friend, Kelly, I was able to collect letters from all of the students for Macy's "Million Reasons to Believe" campaign. I have not counted up all of the letters, yet, but we certainly had a lot based on how extremely heavy the bag was when we finished!!

I am a part of Alpha Omicron Pi, a sorority at Wagner College, and a few years ago, we "adopted" a little girl, Lauren, through the "Friends of Jaclyn" program. This makes her an honorary sister of AOII. Lauren also had a wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to swim with dolphins in Hawaii. Because this wish family is also a part of my sisterhood, I was delighted to be able to visit their school and share in a foundation that helped her personally. Lauren and her two sisters all attend Our Lady Queen of Peace.

I had the opportunity to host three assemblies, and talk to all of the students about myself, volunteering, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and why it meant so much to me that they all wrote their letters to Santa. Because this was my first official visit as Miss Staten Island to a school, I was very nervous, but it wound up being awesome!

The kids seemed surprised as I described how "normal" I really am. "I have two cats (Jynx and Shadow), I love to dance, and I love food," I told them. I think this made it easier for them to be more open with me and ask questions. I explained to them that I really do think children are the most important people in world, which is why I work so hard to help them! After I told them about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and what they do, I asked the children a simple question:

"Why do you think wishes are so important?"

One girl, in the second grade, hit the nail right on the head. "I think wishes are so important because they make people healthier," she said. And that is exactly it! The reason why the Make-A-Wish Foundation is unique and vital is because wishes bring people hope and joy, which makes them healthier! I followed up with another question that I, myself, was curious about:

"What would your one wish be?"

One little boy, in a kindergarten class, stole my heart - as well as everyone else's - with his answer. "If I had one wish, I would want to share all of my toys with the sick kids because I don't really need them, but I know they would make them happy," he said, in a much more "child-like" way. It's so amazing to see how children really do care about their peers and are willing to help them - at any age. This is why my platform includes getting children involved in volunteering. They have such huge hearts!

In each assembly, after I spoke, I took time to meet with the students and collect their letters. Of course, I stopped for photographs!

This girl lost her tooth while taking a group photo!

These twins have an older brother who is eligible for a wish!!

I was even able to sign a boy's cast! It's much more difficult than it looks. I've never done it before!

To end my day at Our Lady Queen of Peace, I joined the Pre-K class for some Christmas songs and questioning. My favorite quote? "When I go home, I'm going to tell my mom and dad all about you!"

It was a great way to begin my visits to schools on the island. Thank you, again, Kelly for all of your help! I couldn't have done this without. And to all of the faculty and students, especially the principal, Ms. Signorile, thank you for warmly inviting me into your school and for your participation!