Thursday, March 29, 2012

SITHS: Health & Fitness Week

I was delighted when I was asked to return to my alma mater, Staten Island Technical High School, for a third visit. This time, it was for their annual "Health and Fitness Week."

This week was designed to show the importance of living a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis and was actually created when I attended the school! Lasting for an entire week, the students learn about a new aspect of fitness each day. The topics range from dance to karate and everything in between. The week concludes with an assembly, which recaps the events with a little bit of added humor. This is the part I was invited to participate in.

The presentation was very entertaining, just as I had remembered it to be. I joined the student leaders - who had worked so hard all week to run the activities - onstage to say the pledge, hand out awards, and even participate in a hula-hoop competition. I didn't do too well in the first assembly, but after some practice I came back to take the hula-hooping champion title in the second assembly!

Thank you all for including me in this event. It was great to be back at S.I.T.H.S., once again, and I know I will be back for more fun before November!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

PS 42: Round Table

I have been continuing my search for public schools to participate in the Kids For Wish Kids program with "Wish For Change." Public School 39 did an amazing job raising $1,165 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York and Western New York and I can't wait to see what the rest of Staten Island can do!

I was contacted by the judges' chair of the Miss Staten Island Organization. Christine Rizzo is a teacher at PS 42 in Eltingville. She informed me of a program she supervises in her school. It is known as the "Round Table." Fourth and fifth grade students apply to participate in the program. Those who are accepted have the opportunity to raise money with their own fundraisers and donate it to charities of their choosing. It is almost entirely student run and the decisions are all made by these kids.

I was invited to join one of the "Round Table" meetings. Christine informed me that I would be pitching my fundraisers, as well as the Make-A-Wish Foundation itself, to the students. I have to say, they really tested my knowledge of the organization. It was great practice for Miss New York! Every student was extremely bright and I was stunned by how well they were able to present themselves and their ideas.

The students of the "Round Table" were receptive to the idea of a "Wish For Change" fundraiser. I even learned about one boy whose sister is getting a wish granted in the upcoming months! I look forward to my future visits as the boys and girls of PS 42 begin their work with this organization.

We Dance For Dreams

It is nearly impossible to put into words all of the hard work and emotions that were involved in planning my "We Dance For Dreams" benefit for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York and Western New York. If I tried to write down all of my feelings about the night, I wouldn't ever be able to stop. Instead, I will keep this blog post short and sweet.

My platform, "The Make-A-Wish Foundation: Kids For Wish Kids," is something that I am extremely passionate about and have been promoting for a long time. I began planning this benefit before I was even crowned Miss Staten Island. No matter what, I knew that this was an event I wanted to both develop and host.

I was joined by dance studios, singers, and performers from across the island. Before the show, I had an opportunity to sit down with them and speak about why we were all there. "This is not a competition," I told them, "we are here to join together and work towards a common goal." It was great to see them in the balcony, intermingling and getting to know one another. I am honored to be representing a borough with such incredible talent.

The performances were all a lot of fun and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves! We even had a special performance by Miss Brooklyn 2012, Maria DeSantis. Several other titleholders were in attendance, as well. It meant so much to me to have them all there in support. It proves once again that this organization is not a "competition," but a family.

Miss Brooklyn, Miss Richmond County, Miss Staten Island, Miss Staten Island's Outstanding Teen,
Miss Brooklyn's Outstanding Teen, Miss Richmond County's Outstanding Teen
I am overwhelmed with joy at the support that I received from this amazing borough. The event was nearly two weeks ago, now, and we still have donations pouring in! Because our "final count" keeps rising, I will announce that with this event we are now able to donate:
OVER $8,500!

The emails and messages I received after the event were heart-warming. They all meant so much to me. My platform involves not only raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but also encouraging children to get involved in their communities and volunteering at a young age. So many of the messages said that both children and their families are now looking to create their own fundraisers! To have achieved both of my goals with one event feels great!

"We Dance For Dreams" was an enormous success, but it wouldn't have been possible without the help of my family, friends, sponsors, and the Miss Staten Island Organization. I would like to give a special thank you to my hair & makeup sponsor, Zoe Salon! They did a fabulous job - I felt amazing the entire night!

As I said to the audience, the night wasn't about me or the crown, it was about all of the amazing members of our community coming together for a greater cause. I couldn't be more proud. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for everything you've done to help me make my wish a reality!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

PS 39: "Wish For Change" Winners!

As I previously posted about, PS 39 began my first "Kids For Wish Kids" program entitled "Wish For Change." Each class had their own bucket and collected coins for three weeks. At the conclusion of the fundraiser, I collected all 23 of the buckets and took them to the bank to be counted.

I am proud to announce that the school raised a total of $1,165 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York and Western New York! Our winning classes were:

3rd place: Class 4-308, Mrs. Savio

2nd place: Class K-114, Mrs. Kane

1st place: Class 4-310, Mrs. Levine

All of the classes did an amazing job and it was definitely a close race. The top three places were within $20 of each other! Great work, guys!

I spent last Friday eating lunch with the winning class and brought the 2nd and 3rd place classes a little surprise - brownies! It was a lot of fun. It was "Jersey Day,"so I wore a Giants' jersey to get in the spirit. Class 4-310 had some good questions for me and were very interested in everything I had to tell them. A few of the girls told me that they "Googled" me. They then printed out my picture and gave it to me to sign.

It was a nice way to relax - especially with my enormous "We Dance For Dreams" benefit the next day! Thank you to all of PS 39, the top three classes and their teachers! I am so proud of you all!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Saint Patrick's Day Parade!

Now that my hectic schedule has calmed down a little, it's time to catch up on some blogs! Last Sunday, March 4th, was the Saint Patrick's Day Parade on Staten Island. It is an annual tradition to have the titleholders from the Island attend and it was an honor to do so.

                                      The pin says, "Irish...sorta" : ]

I am a bit embarrassed to say that even though I've lived on Staten Island my entire life, I have never attended this parade. I had no idea what to expect...but I was excited! Even though I am 100% Italian, everyone is Irish on Saint Patty's Day!

We started the morning taking pictures and lining up in our cars. I saw the Corvette I would be riding in and fell in love. I wanted to take it home with me after the parade! My driver, Len Bosso, wouldn't have liked that very much, though. He kindly volunteered his car for the parade and I was very nervous to even touch it - I didn't want to ruin anything! I guess I did an okay job taking care of his car, though, since he offered to be my driver for the rest of this year's parades!

As we rode down Forest Avenue, I was surprised by the amount of people who were screaming my name! It was amazing to see how many people, from kids to adults, are proud to see who is representing their borough. The car was beautiful, my driver was so nice, and this was an experience I'll never forget. I was on an adrenaline rush the whole day!

                                                                                                                                                Peanut, State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis' dog!

We concluded the day with an interview. Elise Rooker, a former Miss Staten Island, spoke to us about the experience and what we had planned for the rest of the year. I then moved on to a radio interview with WSIA - the College of Staten Island's radio station.

I felt special all day and seeing my picture on the home page of made it even better - as if that was possible. I look forward to our future parades!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Training Weeks #2 & #3

Training is getting tougher - but I'm definitely getting stronger! It's amazing once you realize that you are beginning to do things you never could have before.

Jacki-Lyn went to Florida for a week (her daughter is having a baby!) and she trusted me to keep up with my workouts. I worked very hard to strengthen my muscles, especially my arms. After she returned, we jumped right back into our routine schedule. I could feel that my endurance was up from the last time we were together. We've continued to work on arms, since it's something that I'm not used to. I was very sore after our last workout, but I know it will all pay off. I'm already beginning to see the definition in my arm muscles and I can feel the abdominal muscles starting to form! I think a six-pack will be coming along in no time ; ]

I can honestly say that I'm so proud of myself. I have been making great progress (right, Jacki?) and I will continue to work as hard as I can for Miss New York! It's going to be great!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Show Everyone Love" Anti-Bullying Campaign

On Sunday, February 26th, I had the privilege of being a special guest at the Just BeMe! organization's anti-bullying event. This was a part of their "Show Everyone Love" campaign.

Just BeMe! is a non-profit organization that is committed to helping young people empower themselves by being active in their community so that they can make a difference in the world. This event, which centered around anti-bullying, was used as a fundraiser so that the organization can purchase their own space. Belinda Mendez-Azzollini is the founder of Just BeMe! and was the host of this event. 

At the start of the fundraiser, I was asked to speak on the anti-bullying topic and kick-off the event. I told the guests about my own experiences with bullying in junior high school. I let them know how much it means to me that there are people like Belinda out there, working to remedy what has become a serious epidemic - especially in the school system. It's important for kids to know that there is help out there for them if they are being bullied and that they all have a bright future ahead. "Just look at me!" I told them.

I had so much fun at this event and met so many great people, coming together to help their community. There were vendors, a DJ company, basket and 50/50 raffles, and a Smoochie Cakes stand (which had delicious cupcakes). I have even been featured on the Smoochie Cakes Facebook page after buying a sample pack of 12 mini cupcakes. "Miss Staten Island is a fan of Smoochie Cakes!!!!!" it says.

In addition, there was a "confessional booth" - where guests could speak about their bullying experiences - workshops, and a wide variety of performances and demonstrations. This included a group of karate students from Island Martial Arts, Zumba instructors, singer/songwriter Frankie Presley, and "Lucki Gurlz"an all girls singing group.

I was interviewed by the Just BeMe! "TV young people" and spoke to them about my experiences, as well.

I wish the best of luck to Just BeMe!. Belinda and her husband, Robert, put so much hard work and dedication into all that they do. I know that this organization has done and will continue to do great things for the community and I look forward to working with them in the future! Thank you, again, for having me - I'm honored!