Tuesday, February 21, 2012

PS 3: Respect For All Week

Last week, the NYC Public Schools were involved in "Respect For All Week," designed to encourage a safe and supportive environment for all of its students. Throughout this this week, schools chose their own ways to teach children about bullying, diversity, and other topics centered on respect.

I was lucky enough to have been invited to talk to the students of PS 3 on their last day of "Respect For All Week." I was first given a tour of the school, which seemed quite large for an elementary school! I visited the classrooms of kindergarten and 1st grade students, and was even sung a beautiful song by a pre-k class! The funniest part of my day was when a little boy asked me if I was wearing my crown because it was my birthday - too cute.

Next on the schedule was an assembly with all of the 4th grade students. At first, I found it difficult to think of a new topic to bring to the kids. After  thinking about it for a while (a very long while) I decided that I would speak to them about being yourself. "It is the most important form of respect," I told them, "to respect who you are and to not change for anyone."

I spoke directly from experience. Many of my closest friends know this story. When I was in pre-school, I was convinced that I was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I dressed like her, carried a dog that looked like Toto, and told everyone to call me Dorothy - to the point where all of my classwork said Dorothy on the front, and Jamie on the back (for my parents). As I told this story to the 4th grade students of PS 3, they laughed. "It's silly right?" I said, "But this is what people do every day."

I explained to them that every day people pretend to be things that they aren't, and although it may not be to the extent of calling themselves Dorothy, they are still not being true to themselves. What fun would life be if everyone was the same? I challenged the children to tell me something unique about themselves. I received some great answers, which proved just how much they've all learned throughout the week.

"I do gymnastics."

"I like to watch football even though I'm a girl
and boys think that I shouldn't."

And my personal favorite:
"My personality makes me unique."

The day went better than I could have even imagined! Both the students and teachers were extremely receptive and I appreciate all of the thoughtful questions and eager participation!

After the assembly, I was asked to visit the 5th grade classrooms and speak to them about "Respect For All." They, too, had great questions. They also informed me of all the community service projects they work on during the school year. I couldn't believe how many projects they have completed already! It's so nice to see young kids getting involved in helping others!

To complete my day, my tour guide, Linda Marone (the parent coordinator at PS 3), took me to the PS 3 annex, which is a separate building on the grounds of Mt. Loretto. The 2nd and 3rd grade classes are held in this building. It was very important to me to visit the annex because one of my princesses from the Miss Staten Island Pageant's Princess Program is a student there. Her name is Rose Gaetano and she was very eager to have me visit her school. She wore her crown and was so excited that I was able to make her truly feel like a princess. Again, I went into each classroom, spoke with kids and answered questions. The most common question: How did you get to be Miss Staten Island?

My day at PS 3 was both fun and inspiring. I would like to especially thank Linda Marone for coordinating my visit, and the two assistant principals, Ms. Lorrie Brown and Ms. Danielle Papa, who allowed me into the school and took time out of their schedules to accommodate me! And even though you could not join us, thank you to Principal Wilson for allowing me into PS 3.

As I say all the time, I love to see kids who are involved in volunteering at such a young age because it provides the foundation for them continuing on into adulthood. I'm very proud of you PS 3! Keep up the good work and remember: You can do anything you set your mind to if you stay true to yourself and never give up!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Training Week #1

Miss New York is in 18 weeks! You know what that means...workout time!! I am so excited to announce that I have found a personal trainer who has agreed to sponsor me and help me train!

Thank you so much, Jacki-Lyn Ricci!

Jacki & I began last Friday, and from the first day I knew that this process was going to bring great results. I've decided to post periodic updates on my blog of those of you who want to keep track of my progress! I hope that through this, some of you will begin to work with Jacki, as well. She can get you where you want to be!

So far, I have had two meetings with her, and will have another on Friday. Before the first day I was a little nervous, but it turned out to be a lot of fun! Jacki trains her clients right in her house, which allows for a more relaxed, and less "scary" experience. For those of you who worry about the "judgement" that may come from a more public setting - there's no need to worry about that here!

As a dancer, many things we train our bodies to do are opposite of what needs to be done during a workout. It's funny to try and stick my behind out, not arch my back too much, etc., but they are feelings I am getting more used to. Also from years of dancing, I have never paid much attention to working my arm muscles (mainly I work on my legs), but with Jacki's workouts, my arms are going to be strong and lean. I can't wait to see my transformation!

After yesterday's workout, my abs are feeling slightly sore. They are not overworked, though. It's just the right amount of soreness to let me know I did the right thing. I already feel a difference in myself! It's true when they say that working out gives you energy - I'm energized every time I leave!

I look forward to keeping everyone up-to-date with my workouts. I'm sure that this experience is going to be amazing and I thank you again, Jacki, so much for agreeing to sponsor me and for believing in me!

(646) 250-4557 or (718) 667-3722

Monday, February 6, 2012

PS 39: First "Kids For Wish Kids" School Program!

As Miss Staten Island 2012, I am working hard to get kids involved in both volunteering and fundraising. New York was ranked 51st out of the 50 states and Washington D.C. with our 20% volunteer rate (which I have stated before, and will continue to mention until it changes). If we can encourage kids to begin donating their time help others at a young age, they will most likely continue on through adulthood and help New York to raise this percentage!

This is where the Make-A-Wish Foundation comes in. The Make-A-Wish Foundation promotes a program for children entitled, "Kids For Wish Kids." The goal is to encourage kids to produce, organize, and "run" their own fundraisers, under the supervision of an adult, for the foundation. As part of my platform, I am introducing this program to schools across the island - beginning with PS 39.

I visited the school on Friday, February 3rd, wearing my red dress because it was also "Wear Red Day" (to show support for the National Heart Association's "Go Red For Women" campaign).  With the help of the Principal, Mrs. Tracey Wright, and my mother (and teacher at the school), Dawn Macchia, I was able to introduce not only the possibility of getting involved with "Kids For Wish Kids," but also the idea of "Wish For Change" - a specific fundraising project that they can work on!

"Wish For Change" began last Friday at this elementary school, and will continue until Friday, March 2nd! Each classroom will have a "change jar," which will be used to collect coins throughout a period of 3 school weeks (this is not including their President's Week break). All of this money will be donated directly to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York and Western New York upon completion!

I told the children that I did not want them to simply ask their parents or family members for money, but rather to try to raise it on their own - through doing chores, selling baked goods, etc.! They seemed extremely excited about getting started on the project...maybe because I promised a pizza party with Miss Staten Island to the class who collected the most money : ]

The day was so much fun and because I was feeling under the weather, it was extra-special to have received such a warm welcome from the school. After speaking at two assemblies and visiting several classrooms, I was finally able to speak with the group of kids I had been waiting for - class 4-305. This fourth grade class had been working on collecting for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, even prior to my arrival! I was interested to learn from them.

In an earlier assembly, representatives from the class presented me with a bouquet of tissue paper flowers and a sash that read, "Miss Make-A-Wish!" I was shocked and thankful! They were beautiful!

This class had been working on collecting "box tops." For each one, 10 cents will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They showed me what they've accumulated so far, and explained to me the process of collecting them from other classes and sorting them to make sure that each is valid. I am so proud of these students because they exemplify exactly what I wish to achieve this year as Miss Staten Island. It is so amazing to see kids so young working for a greater cause and understanding exactly how big of an impact they can actually have.

Class 4-305 with their box top signs! 
Before my day was done, I had to meet the young girl who told every teacher she was "going to explode" from excitement! When I met her, she actually looked like she was going to explode - she was SO EXCITED! Now, she says, her "life is complete." : ]

My biggest fan :]
Obviously, it was an eventful and inspiring day at PS 39. I can't say it enough - thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone at the school helping the children make this event a success! I can't wait to see how much money can be raised for the Make-A-Wish Foundation when a school community comes together! I'll be back soon!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Seton Foundation Fashion Show

Hello, everyone! Things have been so hectic around here, but I'm glad to report that I have been continuing on with my appearances and fundraising.

On Wednesday, February 1st, I was invited to attend the Seton Foundation for Learning's Fashion Show fundraiser. A good friend, Mike Pinto, was the master of ceremonies, and I am delighted to have been asked to be a part of this event, as well. The Seton Foundation was founded in 1985 and it is Staten Island's only Catholic school for developmentally disabled children and young adults. With two schools, both an elementary and high school, the foundation educates kids from 3 to 21 years old.

After I briefly spoke to the crowd, I had the privilege of meeting the Executive Director of the Seton Foundation, Diane Cunningham. She then invited me to attend their luncheon on March 24th! I also was introduced to Stacey, a mother of a young girl who is a part of the Seton Foundation. The way she described how the foundation helped her and daughter, I knew that this was something special. I hope that I can visit, one day, to see the "magic" that everyone speaks of.

As a New Yorker I love clothes (especially shoes), so the fashion show was exciting! Clothes were shown from "Just B," a local Staten Island company, and they were all beautiful! It was even greater for me because I knew two of the models: Alex Simone, a student at my dance studio (Gigante Dance Center), and Alyssa DePaolis, a past contest in the Miss Staten Island Scholarship Pageant (& strong advocate for awareness of speech disorders). These two young women are amazing role models and I love to see them, as well as all of the other models and participants, involved in this wonderful cause!

Thank you so much, Seton Foundation, for having me at your event and allowing me to speak to all of you! I look forward to meeting again on March 24th!