Thursday, August 4, 2011

"Leaders of Tomorrow": The Students of the Aquinas Society at the Immaculate Conception School

The Aquinas students conduct a prayer session at the Shiloh Church Monument at Maple Grove Cemetery. From left to right: Cassidy Alie, Nandita Mathura, Gabrielle Hollant, Neela Dookhie, Brianna Boykin, Bri'Elle Price, Carl Ballenas, Allyssa Balkarran, Lia Lewis, Alex Samaroo, Tricia Ramgadoo, Gregory Hollant, Aniyah Smith, Guillaume Hollant, Serena Govindeisami, Valerie Bresier, Kimberly Ramcharitar, Dominique Gay, Varun Arjoonsingh and Dominque Leone. (Click to enlarge.)

Group's Remarkable and Unprecedented Contributions to America Ignored by Major Media

The mainstream media has a long and unfortunate history of showcasing young people, particularly people of color, in a very negative light. All too often, news directors, producers and managing editors -- in broadcast and print news -- forsake the powerful human interest stories within Black and Latino communities for various reasons.

Av Westin, former executive producer for the "ABC Evening News", in addition to being former vice president and director of television documentaries and vice president for program development, summed it up best in his critically-acclaimed book "Best Practices for Television Journalists".

"It's safe to say that in almost all newsrooms, blatant bigotry and intolerance do not exist. What does exist, however, are preconceived notions about race and ethnicity that can shape story selection and content," said Westin.

"The conventional wisdom among many assignment editors is that white viewers will tune out if Blacks or Latinos are featured in segments. That view can influence the choice of the person who will provide the 'expert' sound bite," noted Westin.

There is no question that a lack of racial sensitivity affects news judgment. It is a problem that goes to the heart of fair and balanced presentation of the news on television," concluded the four-time Peabody Award recipient.

In effort to end this alarming and disturbing trend, From The G-Man is proud to announce the launch of a new feature segment called "Leaders of Tomorrow". While the feature will showcase young people from across the country that are making a tremendous difference in their communities and abroad, emphasis will be placed on those of color to combat the negative stereotypes often associated with them.

The exceptional and gifted young people highlighted in this first installment of the series, the students of the Aquinas Society at the Immaculate Conception School, clearly illustrate the fact that many young people from minority communities in New York City -- and across the United States -- are not lazy, uneducated, unproductive, gang-banging, criminal-minded, flash mob kids destined for a jail cell.

On the contrary, they are actively engaged in not only bettering themselves and their communities, but the world. America, and all those in neighboring countries, From The G-Man proudly presents the Aquinas Society at the Immaculate Conception School.

The Aquinas Logo - Saint Thomas Aquinas, Patron Saint of Education

Over the last six years, the Aquinas Society at the Immaculate Conception School, located in Jamaica, New York, has received local, national and international praise for numerous projects they've undertaken.

The group has authored and published two books, in 2010 and 2011, "Images of America: Jamaica Estates" and "Images of America: Jamaica". The books were published by Arcadia Publishing and provide a historical perspective of the Jamaica area dating as far back as the colonial period.

The group has won over $30,000 in grants and created projects that have touched many lives. For example, the students designed and created a stained-glass window as a memorial for 9/11 and its victims. With their amazing ingenuity, they incorporated pieces of steel from the Twin Towers in an olive branch design showcased in the breathtaking work.

The Aquinas students, who range from 11 to 15-years-of-age, also erected an historic plaque in Jamaica Estates and wrote the text. They erected a second plaque near the Utopia Parkway, in Queens, which explained how a glacial pond that was drained after 10,000 years eventually became the Grand Central Parkway. Last year, the students replaced the lost bronze bust of Jacob Riis for Riis Park and its directors.

According to Carl Ballenas, moderator for the Aquinas school, "The bust was presented as a gift to the people of America from the students, as Jacob Riis Park is a national park.

Currently, "The Young Historians", are working on a mock trial to teach people of all ages about the demise of segregated schools in New York state. The trial will place great emphasis on the Cisco family, who, in 1895, refused to send their children to the inferior colored school of Jamaica.

The youngsters have worked with many organizations, like the Richmond Hill Historical Society and the Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens. Moreover, they perform as actors at Maple Grove's annual "Spirits Alive" event, where they don period costumes and impersonate many of the famous people buried there.

In what can only be described as an unprecedented find for the state of New York and the country, the Aquinas students located the African-American burial ground of the famed First Colored Shiloh Presbyterian Church at Maple Grove Cemetery.

Students pictured with Bonnie Dixon - Executive Vice President Maple/General Manager Grove Cemetery (left) and Co- Architect of the African American Burial Ground - Nicole Hollant Denis.

Furthermore, the students have meticulously documented all information about the church, which was obtained through painstaking Internet research, and they are now attempting to locate the names of 308 members of the First Colored Shiloh Presbyterian Church.

The students will take part in a book signing at King Manor, at Kings Park on Jamaica Avenue, on August 7. The signing will run from 3pm to 4:30 pm. On October 13, they will receive an award from the Archivist Round-table of New York City - for educational use of archives in New York City.

The students of the Aquinas Society at the Immaculate Conception School, without question, America's leaders of tomorrow.

Visit the following links to learn more about the Aquinas students and their phenomenal list of accomplishments.

Photos and image courtesy of Carl Ballenas

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