Lehman Freshmen Take Second Semester in Stride

By Alexandra Cardenas

Lehman campus in the spring. Photo courtesy of CUNY.

“College didn’t really end up being what I thought it would be. I guess I expected it to be like the movies,” said freshman Richard Castillo of his first semester at Lehman. 

As he and other first-year students reflected on early lessons learned, they told The Meridian that their second semester seems harder than their first, but they have learned the lessons necessary to keep ascending the learning curve. 

“I liked my last semester better because it was easier to get by, and the classes weren’t as challenging,” said 18-year-old freshman nursing student, Marianny Soto, who transferred from John Jay. Soto expressed pride in her 4.0 GPA but added that she did not feel prepared for a second semester at Lehman. Nonetheless, Soto stated that she is “looking forward to the next three years to see how I will grow as a person and get into my career.”

Castillo is also optimistic about his next three years in college. He concurred with Soto that during the first semester “everything was so simple. This semester feels like so much work has just been thrown on me.” 

In contrast, freshman Khoudia Synian said, “I feel more prepared than ever. In all honesty, I felt like I learned so much from the mistakes I made my first semester.” Unsatisfied with her first semester performance in her pre-med courses, Synian is determined to achieve a 4.0 GPA this semester now that she knows what is expected of her. “Although the work gets harder, I love this semester way more because I’m more organized. Also, I know what is coming my way and I know how to handle it academically,” she explained.

“Everything seemed so chill, but I’m not sure how that vibe changed from chill to a frantic mindset.” 

– Lehman freshman Tiana Bailey, 18

Freshman Tiana Bailey, 18, also suffered some initial turbulence. “My first semester was actually really stressful for me towards the end,” she said. “In the beginning, it was basically smooth sailing, and I always thought, why do people have breakdowns? Because everything seemed so chill, but I’m not sure how that vibe changed from chill to a frantic mindset.” 

A fashion aficionado who hopes to transfer from Lehman to pursue her passion, Bailey is still coming to terms with the fact that she has not yet decided on a major. “I thought I knew what I wanted to do, but everything just blew up in my face. I know that it’s normal to not have everything figured out freshman year, but I didn’t and still haven’t accepted that.” 

Synian seconded her determination. “I have a goal, so I’m definitely looking forward to the next three years in school without a doubt.”

Lehman Women are Innovating Tech

By Lysa Vanible

Computer Science Professor Eva Sofianos between classes. Photo by Lysa Vanible.

Lehman women are embarking on new technology projects and engaging in courses that challenge the status quo in the computer and data science fields.  

“There’s not a lot of women in technology right now, but it is gradually increasing,” said Lehman sophomore Daniella Encarnacion, a 22-year-old computer science major and founding member of the Women in Computer Science club (WICS). “Women have become empowered through networking, hackathons, mentorship and extracurricular activities.” 

Some Lehman experts think that the need to compete in a globalized job market translates to opportunity in student clubs like WICS. The student-led clubs are gaining momentum and creating technological innovations on campus.   

“I had the opportunity to create a Google Developer group that currently boasts 2,534 members,” said Eva Sofianos, a computer science lecturer. “We want to add introduction to computer science courses to pathways that introduce programming in a gentler way, so more people will learn to love computer science as much as I do. As the only full-time female professor in the computer science department, the innovation I project is by being in the classroom. I believe seeing a female in the classroom helps other women see themselves.”  

According to the Office of Institutional Research and Development, only six out of 18 professors in computer science are women, and one in five students in the major is female. However, a wide range of interdisciplinary courses combine traditional majors with technology, and the integrated courses at Lehman are right in step with the expansion in job opportunities created by global markets. That can create doors for women and minorities in a profession that is predominantly male and white. 

“The revolution in big data has spawned a second look by students, as it integrates other majors that include courses that allow students to learn coding,” said Lehman Dean Elin Waring.  

This incorporation of data science “can be seen in majors across the spectrum. Coding is being used to correlate mapping, graphs and plots, qualitative and quantitative data visualization, while also calculating statistical inference.” 

“I believe seeing a female in the classroom helps other women see themselves.”

- Computer Science Lecturer Eva Sofianos

Waring cited chemistry, sociology, economics, biology, psychology and geography as courses that have “brought data to those professions,” along with the nursing program’s use of lab instruments “while gathering and documenting essential data.” 

The tech revolution has gained momentum at all CUNY institutions. Upcoming workshops on campus include Open Data NYC on April 6, sponsored by the Leonard Lief Library and the Bronx-based non-profit The Knowledge House, which will present a forum on Data Privacy in an Open Data World on April 7. The tech and data expansion for women has a long road ahead, and Lehman students are gearing up for the long haul.  

‘Surviving R. Kelly’: Lehman Students Call for Justice

By Brittany Aufiero

The #MeToo movement represented at the Oslo Women’s March in 2018. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the aftermath of the #MeToo movement survivors of sexual abuse are stepping forward now more than ever to shed light on their experiences and to advocate for justice against their assailants. Recently, singer R. Kelly, 52, was charged on Feb. 21 with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sex abuse involving four women, three of whom were underage at the time of the alleged abuse. The details surrounding the artist’s illegal sexual exploits have been met with resounding backlash both online and on campus at Lehman.

“Surviving R. Kelly,” a six-part documentary that aired consecutively from Jan. 3 to Jan. 5, portrayed testimonials from survivors and eyewitnesses about the decades-long history of the R&B music artist’s sexual abuses. Celebrities including TV host Wendy Williams and R&B singers Sparkle and John Legend speak about the disturbing actions of the decorated Grammy winner. The documentary highlights the controlling and violent behavior that Kelly exhibited towards women and cites the ways in which he uses his power and influence to groom his female fans, many of whom were underage girls.

Karina Leigh, a 21-year-old Lehman senior and English Honors major minoring in African studies and philosophy, agrees that Kelly’s behavior is a sign of a larger problem. “We live in a society that sexualizes young black girls, especially when they tend not to look their age because they’re taller or may have more noticeable assets, due to the fact that they developed quicker, which is not their fault.”

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), one in four girls are sexually abused before they turn 18. A 2014 national study conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that an estimated 64.1 percent of multiracial women and 38.2 percent of black non-Hispanic women experienced at least one act of sexual violence in their lifetime. At Lehman, 67.4 percent of students are women, and 83.3 percent of all students identify as Hispanic/Latino or Black/African American altogether.    

R. Kelly photographed at his 2008 trial. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

The negative feedback against R. Kelly from social media and the music industry have raised question regarding how his fans should proceed. Can one support the art without supporting the artist by attending concerts or buying his albums or merchandise? Leigh says not in this case.  

“With R. Kelly, I feel like he promotes his sickness through his music. Like his recent song ‘I Admit,’ where he literally confessed everything he’s done in an 18 minute song and still no action has been taken. I’ve never been a fan of his, so I don’t listen regardless, but I do feel that it’s completely unacceptable to still support him or his music.” 

Guevara Torres, a 28-year-old junior and computer science major, agrees with Leigh that Kelly should face consequences for his actions. “I enjoyed his music, but I am no longer a fan. It is not acceptable to attend his events and concerts. Artists can only be separated from the art until the observer decides otherwise.”

“With R. Kelly, I feel like he promotes his sickness through his music.” 

– Karina Leigh, a 21-year-old Lehman senior and English Honors major minoring in African studies and philosophy

On May 10, 2018, Spotify announced that it would stop promoting and recommending music made by the artist.  It stated, “We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions—what we choose to program—to reflect our values.” Apple Music and Pandora followed suit two days later. This year on Jan. 18, Kelly’s label, RCA Records, announced that it would be dropping the artist.  

Hours after being charged on Feb. 21, Kelly surrendered to the Chicago Police Department. He was released three days later after posting the $100,000 bond necessary for his release.

Janet Luna, a 21-year-old Lehman senior and English major minoring in psychology and middle and high school education, expresses satisfaction with the legal repercussions Kelly is now facing. “He like all abusers will never be able to fully pay for the damages they have caused. However, this might serve as closure to some victims, even if it might never make up for their trauma.”

Lehman Students Protest Proposed MTA Fare Hike

By Felicha Stevens

The iconic MTA Metrocard. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

The MTA could potentially increase the current $2.75 bus and subway fare to $3.00 in March 2019. CUNY students, community members, local riders and transit workers spoke out against the hike at numerous town hall meetings throughout the tristate area. 

At the MTA’s public hearing at Hostos Community College, several CUNY students confronted the agency’s board members about the approved fare hike. 

“I take the bus to school every day for $2.75. I refill my card weekly because it ends extremely fast,” said Crystal Dennis, 18, a freshman biology major who takes the 55 and 20 buses from Mount Vernon, NY. “To tell the truth, $3.00 will end faster, I will have to refill [my card] constantly.”

The last MTA fare hike, implemented in March 2017, priced an unlimited 30-day metro card at $121.00.  The newly proposed fare will increase this price by 4 percent to $126.25. According to data released by Georgetown University Center for Education and Workplace, the fare increase will financially impact college students, 25% of whom nationwide are both full-time students and employees. 

Photo by Felicha Stevens.

“I don’t really have a luxurious income that I can use to afford MTA transportation fares of this kind. I rely on my parents, who are already struggling with their many bills and expenses, such as rent, light, and food. The fare increase will hurt all of us long-term,” said Moussa Payinkay, Lehman senior and biology major.

Sasha Murphy, a case manager at a Bronx shelter said, “These fare hikes are not bettering our community. We have people who are struggling every day because rents are going up, our wages are staying stagnant and now the MTA will increase fares even more. How can people meet basic needs while already struggling to sustain themselves?”

Murphy is an advocate of NYC Swipe it Forward, a campaign started by activists, such as Black Youth Project 100, New York Chapter and Police Reform Organizing Project, which challenges New Yorkers to swipe strangers on the subway using their unlimited MetroCards. The campaign not only helps reduce the amount of summons for turnpike jumps but helps people who cannot afford to ride the train.

Many students also object to paying more for deplorable service. Train delays caused by major incidents such as signal problems, medical emergencies and train track issues are getting worse. Data from the Subway Performance Dashboard shows a total of 24 signal problems and 11 track malfunctions in November 2018. 

Kimberlin Ballard, a Lehman junior and political science major who rides the D train to and from work is frustrated with the delays. “Trains are still delayed, everybody is late for their job or school. I just feel like this money is not going to a greater cause.” 

She is even more frustrated that she will have to pay more for a decaying system. “It is money out of my pocket. I don’t get free metro cards instead I pay more money to commute to school. It affects me financially because I also have to pay for my books.”

‘Blunt Talk’ Sparks Conversation on Marijuana Use among CUNY Students

By Thairy Pontier Lantigua

“Blunt Talk” by Department of Wellness Education & Health Promotion Program at Lehman College, Nov. 29, 2018. Photo by Thairy Pontier Lantigua.

“Marijuana doesn’t make me stupid. It makes me more functional and creative. I am passing all my classes with As and it puts me in a good mood,” said Lehman student Jenny Soto, 56, who smokes marijuana and denies it has any negative effects. 

Soto was one of the Lehman students who participated in “Blunt Talk,” an open discussion organized by the Department of Wellness Education and Health Promotion Program as part of a series of talks regarding drug and alcohol use. The purpose of the event held on Nov. 29, 2018, was to help students make better choices about their health and well-being.  

Speakers Erica Diaz, a wellness coach, and Ashmini Hiralall, a college prevention coordinator of the Wellness Education and Health Promotion Program, talked about the origins of cannabis and its history in the United States. During the conference, students were given the opportunity to discuss their opinions about marijuana, ask questions, and learn about the long and short-term effects of its use.  

As the legalization of marijuana increases in the United States, so does the rate of consumption. A survey conducted by Marist College reports that nearly 55 million people, or 22 percent of Americans, have consumed marijuana at least once or twice in the last year. According to the survey, close to 35 million are regular users or people who use marijuana at least once or twice a month.

New York City is among the highest marijuana-consuming areas in the United States. Approximately 77 tons of cannabis are consumed each year, as found in a recent study conducted by Seedo. In May of 2018, police investigations found major racial disparities in marijuana arrests in the city. This prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to “end unnecessary arrests.” In a recent New York Times article, “Cuomo Moves to Legalize Recreational Marijuana in New York Within Months” Vivian Wang says that Governor Andrew Cuomo now advocates for the legalization of marijuana as part of his 2019 agenda.  

Users say it helps alleviate the symptoms of nausea, pain, migraines, anorexia, and other infirmities. In the case of medicinal marijuana, the level of THC can be controlled. Students at the Blunt Talk event argued that there would be a significant decrease in the number of marijuana arrests and higher revenue if cannabis was officially legalized in New York as a recreational drug. However, others felt that legalizing marijuana would have dangerous effects.

“I gave seven years of my life to weed and it was a mistake. I don’t think weed should be legalized because it is a drug that is addictive and can be detrimental in the long run, leaving the user in a process de-escalation and distraction from reality,” said Hostos Community College student, Cesar Lantigua, 23. Lantigua attended the conference to do research for an independent project and explained that he found it very difficult to quit. “When I decided to stop, things got real. I couldn’t sleep well, I was mad most of the time. My body needed it at times. I was sweaty all the time, and I was anxious most of the time at work.”

Web pages, such as healthline.com and drugabuse.gov write that once individuals stop using the drug, they can experience withdrawal symptoms that include anxiety, sweating, diminished appetite, mood changes, irritability, insomnia and headaches. 

“I think we need to understand that people are doing more and more on a daily basis, but it doesn’t mean that people can’t be addicted to it,” said 19-year-old, Hostos Community College student, Erick De La Rosa. “It’s a good thing that colleges are informing more students about it, I wish they did it at my school too so that people can know the pros and cons of it and make their choices.”

Lehman Counseling Center Increases Campus Presence with Group Initiatives

By Kathryn Fornier

The Lehman College Counseling Center logo. Photo courtesy of the Lehman website.

This semester, Lehman’s Counseling Center has opened its doors to a wide variety of student groups and workshops in an effort to build a safe, supportive space for students.

Currently, there are 11 groups at the Counseling Center targeting mental health and wellness. Karen Smith Moore, the Director of the Counseling Center commented, “Students fill out a questionnaire and the counselors and I develop the groups based on survey feedback from students.”  She added, “I think everyone can benefit from self-care…wellness and taking care of their emotional well-being, so we try to develop a range of groups that will support students.”

There is a Mindful Cooking and Eating group, hosted every Tuesday at noon, which teaches students how to decrease their spending on food while using stress free recipes, which are simple and easy to follow cooking instructions with minimal ingredients. Attendees can also find ingredients for healthy meals at the group meetings. “The counseling center purchases the food and it is a part of a campaign and health and wellness initiative called Healthy Lehman” explained Moore.

On Wednesdays, mats for stretching and meditation are offered to those who attend the yoga group. Lehman senior Ismelda Liz, a Sociology major, commented, “They really set the mood, they dim the lights and put music. With the music and the aromatherapy it really comes together…It’s really no-experience needed…[we do] stretches that are comfortable for people.”

Counselor Hawa Niangado explained that the groups also serve as an opportunity to explore and build new relationships. She noted that the Art Therapy group she leads has some of the highest attendance numbers, attracting both returning members and newcomers. “The first year that I did this it was a lot of new students…but [students] have come back again,” she said. “Because it was so successful, the following semester we decided to have two groups with one on Thursday and one on Friday.” 

The other groups offered are the Meditation Group, Worry Warriors, Digital Media Therapy, Healthy U, Keeping Your Cool, Multicultural Group, Stress Less, and U Connect. Their availability on campus helps students manage the expectations of their home lives, friends, and even themselves. 

This is important given statistics indicating that student mental health is an increasing issue on campuses nationally. According to a 2017 Healthy Minds survey, 94 percent of 8,000 first-year students with depression from 48 campuses reported that their mental health difficulties had impaired their academic performance. 

Students have a lot of stressors to deal with that can be triggers of depression. In a 2017 article “Depression and College Students” for the journal Healthline, Michael Kerr writes, “Many students are unprepared for university life. Today’s students face high debt. They also have fewer job prospects after graduation than previous generations.”

David Rosenberg, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, agrees a 2018 article for The Conversation titled, “1 in 5 college students have anxiety or depression. Here’s why”. He states that of the main causes of depression and anxiety, “social media and technology are among the most dangerous of these factors. Excessive use of each tends to engender impaired social interactions and an increased sense of isolation.”

To combat these factors, Moore said, “We at the Counseling Center do all kinds of things in individual sessions, group sessions, class presentations, and workshops arranged to give awareness to mental health topics. We also do outreach and campus wide events.” She added, “All our services are free and confidential and in a safe environment.” 

Jasmine Galloway, a sophomore psychology major at Lehman who uses the counseling center services, said, “I find the groups offered to be super helpful and I recommend people should at least visit once.”

Is Dining Dollars a Wise Investment?

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

Dining Dollars poster. Photo by J. Manuel Rivera Cortes.

Lehman’s Dining Dollars, a system first implemented in the fall of 2016, offers students tax-free meals and 5 percent back for every $50 they deposit. The program has the potential to help alleviate the financial burden that many Lehman students experience. However, its two major incentives, tax-free dining and bonus dollars, may not be enough to convince the student body to buy into it.

Students can enroll by downloading the Blackboard Transact eAccounts app from the App Store or Google Play.  They can then use their Lehman logins to access their Dining Dollars accounts and add funds to their cards through any cafeteria cashier or at kiosk stations located on campus.

Director of Administrative Operations, Diane Clarke, stated that, “Students are able to save more from [tax-free] dining than the bonus dollars of the program.”  But while the program promotes savings of approximately $150 every semester, many students are unaware of its existence. 

“Never heard of it,” said senior English major Nelson Fernandez.

The price, quantity, and quality of the food offered at the cafeterias may explain the low enrollment.  “It sucks,” commented Crystal Jackson, a CUNY office assistant for the School of Education. “The quality isn’t worth the price. They’re overcharging us for garbage.”  

Lehman senior Alice Tharay, an English major, agreed: “[The food] is mediocre for the price we have to pay. [It’s] worth less than we pay.” 

Junior Davidia Boykins, a biology major, said, “I feel that the food is delicious but overpriced.”

The average price of a simple breakfast like coffee and a bagel with cream cheese can range between $2.75 and $5.50, while lunch and dinner costs from $6.85 to $11.75. As a result, students are upset that the quality of the meals is not worth the weekly financial burden.  High prices and subpar quality cause students to purchase food off campus.

Another downside to Dining Dollars is that it requires students to use up the entirety of their funds before the end of the semester or forfeit them to the system.  Senior Yesnuel Ramirez, a Computer Information Systems major, exclaimed, “That’s unfair, man. That’s actual dollars spent. Tangible money. If it doesn’t roll over, where does it go?”

Lehman senior and film major Robert Velasquez disagreed: “It’s a good program…If you forget your cash, you’re able to use the card to buy some food.”

Junior Waverliey Torres, a Biology major who has used Dining Dollars in the past, commented: “It’s nothing amazing.  I don’t really eat at the café too often anymore, so I don’t know how much I’m saving.”

Jesus Hopped the A Train Wows Audience

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

Poster courtesy of Lehman Stages.

Poster courtesy of Lehman Stages.

“Jesus Hopped the A Train” opened in the Studio Theatre Oct. 17. The production received a standing ovation once the curtain fell.  The contemporary play was written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, who has been part of the New York theatre scene for the past 20 years. He won the 2015 Pulitzer for drama for “Between Riverside and Crazy”. This play is the third Guirgis original to grace a Lehman stage, following “Motherfucker with the Hat” in fall of 2013 and “Our Lady of 121 Street” in the winter of 2008.

Directed by Lehman Theatre professor Jennifer McCabe, the play entailed moments of humor as well as addressing serious themes like disillusionment in society.  

“Jesus Hopped the A Train” follows the lives of two convicts on Rikers Island: Angel Cruz, played by Giovanni Ortiz, Lucius Jenkins, played by Jonathan Carter. Cruz is a young Puerto Rican man arrested for shooting a religious leader, Reverend Kim, who he believes to be the leader of a cult that brainwashed his best friend. Matters take an unexpected turn when Reverend Kim dies during surgery, and Cruz is charged with his death.

Jenkins on the other hand is a serial killer who has connected with his lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Cruz must come to terms with the consequences of his actions, while Jenkins fails to take responsibility for his own.  Both men are transformed by the sadistic Officer Valdez, played by Shantelle Watkins. She takes them on a journey that causes them to accept  their circumstances.  

Ortiz and Carter put on rousing performances as murderers. McCabe implemented serious themes, while incorporating levity and humor.  The initial exchange between Jenkins and Cruz was tense yet humorous. Lou’s positive spirit complemented Angel’s pessimism in a comedic way. McCabe was able to direct the actors in a way that created a balance between the gravity of the situation and the lighthearted moments.   The audience was overcome with laughter when Valdez was attempting to break Jenkins spirit and Lou commented, “I have rights.” 

“Carter does an amazing job relaying the inner conflict of his character.”

– Lehman senior Albert Huertas, a history major

The revelation about Lou’s fate resulted in gasps from the audience. Senior Albert Huertas, a history major, said, “I was shocked, I thought Lou was gonna beat it. Carter does an amazing job relaying the inner conflict of his character.”

Lehman alumna Cynthia La Cruz Jimenez said, “It was so great! They did an amazing job.” Albert Huertas agreed: “I don’t normally like plays, but this was freaking sweet!”  

The eight student actors were transformed by their onstage experiences. Watkins said, “My journey has been impactful. I believe in [McCabe’s] vision. She allowed us to grow as actors and as students.”  

Senior Christine D’Onofrio, who played Mary Jane Hanrahan, concurred: “This experience has been life changing and eye opening to me…[McCabe] is extremely good at constructive criticism. We respect and trust her.”

New App Means No More Lines for Lehman Students

By Shaiann Frazier

Students using the computers at the renovated IT Center that has freshly painted blue walls. All photos by Shaiann Frazier.

A new app, LehmanQ, has made it easier for students to access the IT Center and the Financial Aid office this fall. LehmanQ is a mobile scheduling tool that allows students to avoid the hassle of long lines beyond making online appointments with these offices from anywhere using their mobile phone, computer, or a nearby kiosk center. 

On the first day of classes, many students were pleasantly surprised to find the Lehman IT Center in Carman Hall with freshly painted blue walls and the new kiosk center for making appointments.

Likewise, students visiting the Financial Aid Office were happy to realize they could make appointments online rather than having to take a ticket and then wait for service. The previous system relied on an outdated system known as Qmatic, which resulted in students sometimes waiting for over an hour in long lines at the Financial Aid Office and the IT Center.

The new system, LehmanQ, is mobile friendly. Instead of going to a kiosk or using a nearby computer, students can download a free QR code reader from the App or Google Play Store, allowing them to make an appointment from their mobile device. Once an appointment is made, students receive text alerts notifying them about their wait time and place in line. At any time, students can cancel their appointment, request more wait time, and even update their text alerts to voice calls.

A current Lehman student using the kiosk center located outside of the Financial Office.

Lillian Rivera, 21, a speech pathology major said, “I think the new system is easier, and more efficient, and less time consuming, because in the summer you had to stay on the line. But at least with the app you can do it on your phone, do something else, and come back,” she said. “It saves more time and it’s less of a headache.”

Vera Senese, Director of the Financial Aid Office, explained that the change of systems was student-driven. “The students came up with the idea and reached out to Ronald Bergmann. They weren’t happy with the financial aid system,” she said. “I jumped at the idea of a new system. It was something that I wanted to do for two years.”

After being presented with various models from vendors, the system, “QLess,” was collaboratively chosen with the help of various Lehman departments and staff.  “The model QLess seemed to have most of what we needed,” Senese said. The name was subsequently changed to “LehmanQ.”

LehmanQ was first introduced into the IT Center in the Spring of 2018, where it helped nearly 5400 students, but it wasn’t implemented into the Financial Aid office until this August. The upgrade makes a great difference there, since approximately two-thirds of Lehman’s nearly 14,000 currently enrolled students -- 66 percent in 2017 – 2018, according to Senese -- received some form of financial aid.  

Students making online appointments at the Kiosk Center to receive assistance from the IT Help Desk.

Raul Rosario, 23, a digital design major said, “A lot of people come to the financial aid office. It’s not just sitting here as before with the tickets where you had to sit and wait for a long time. Now you can do other stuff while waiting.”  

Maria Garcia, the IT Center’s day shift supervisor, said, “Our goal is to help the students as much as we can. We want to mainly help the flow of students who go to the help desk,” she said, “It’s very helpful. The students just have to adjust and get used to it.”

Ediltrudys Ruiz, Assistant Vice President of the Division of Information Technology, said, “The model is to empower students. And to help them use their time effectively and efficiently, and for students to take advantage of the time we are putting back into their hands.”

Donald Taylor, 20, a transfer student and business administration major said, “I find that it’s easy, and I like how it texts you when you’re up next.”

Janelle Kirven, a Westchester native, and accounting major said, “I think it’s good because we can see where some of our school fees are being utilized regarding the school and them trying to modernize student engagement activity.” 

Lehman Women Embrace Natural Hair

By Kimberllee Mendez

From left to right: Drumgool, Newsome, and Milan show off their hair. Photos courtesy of Dominique Drumgool, Bre’Ann Newsome, and Amber A. Milan.

“A lot of people inspired me to go natural,” explained Bre’Ann Newsome, a junior at Lehman, on her choice to wear her natural hair.  “I had this friend who had a much looser curl pattern and she stopped straightening her hair,” Newsome said. “She used to come to my house all the time and she would tell me ‘oh you need to stop getting perms,’ and I’m like what do you know? Then seeing my cousins and my best friend embrace their natural hair made me want to do it to. Embrace what I have.”

For Newsome, who went natural in July of 2016, the transition was daunting but satisfying. “Before I went natural I always permed my hair and used harsh chemicals which I’ve done for 10 years. My hair has always been processed, I did all of it,” she said. The defining moment for her was when she had to wear short hair, although at first, she had trouble adjusting to it. 

“I realized my natural beauty is all I needed.”

- Dominique Drumgool, a Lehman alum

Newsome is not alone in her choice. According to curlcentric.com, the demand for organic hair products is rising, with sales amounting to more than $750 million between 2012 and 2017, while sales of hair relaxers has dropped by more than 25 percent in the same time period.

Lehman senior and music major Amber A. Milan, who has been natural for five years, was inspired by such products, through a salon that goes by the name DevaCurl.  “My aunt found this salon that specializes in my hair texture and any other natural curly and thick hair. So, the fact that a place like that exists took my breath away,” said Milan.  With DevaCurl, she found that she was able to use products that made her hair stay curly and stylish.

For Dominique Drumgool, a Lehman alum who has been natural for six years, it wasn’t a person who inspired her to go natural, but a diagnosis. “What made me go natural in 2012 was when I got diagnosed with alopecia areata, but it was not a severe case,” she said. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin disease which causes hair loss in the scalp area, face area, and also occurs in other parts of the body. “I wasn’t too happy about it, but it inspired me to start my journey to having natural healthy hair.” Drumgool finalized her decision when she tried a perm and found “it didn’t work out for me, so I decided on doing the big chop.” 

Drumgool’s time at Lehman, away from her mom who previously had taken care of her hair, also contributed to her managing her own hair.” “In college I basically understood my hair more. And how to take care of it,” she said. “So, I braid and style it on my own, and have a procedure for washing and overall taking care of it.” 

Ultimately Drumgool found a greater sense of autonomy and independence in her choice. “The moment I defined my hair and said to myself this is my hair now is when I realized I didn’t need my hair to be straightened, permed or pressed,” she said. “I realized my natural beauty is all I needed.” 

Lehman Student Wins Fight against Cancer

By Kimberllee Mendez

Reyes when she started growing back her hair. Photo courtesy of Elvia Reyes.

“You feel like the world is coming to an end,” recalled Lehman psychology major Elvia Reyes, of the day a doctor told her she had breast cancer. On average in the U.S., according to breastcancer.org, 12 percent of women, or 1 in 8, will develop invasive breast cancer. Reyes, 31, a financial aid advisor for Christine Valmy International School, was part of that 12 percent.

“Around October of 2016, I first noticed the lump in my breast,” said Reyes. “I was concerned and decided to call the doctor in December, but it wasn’t until February that I got an appointment.” To receive a diagnosis, a patient has to undergo a variety of examinations to create a pathology report. This report helps doctors determine a diagnosis, what stage the cancer is in, and whether a recovery process can begin. 

Elvia Reyes with her son when she started chemotherapy. Photo courtesy of Elvia Reyes.

“In March of 2017, I was meant only to have the biopsy report, but the doctors wanted to do more tests after learning my mother had breast cancer, too,” Reyes said, “but when I was tested for a gene where it could transmit from my mom, I was negative.” Her doctor told her to expect her tests results after one week, but she received them within a few days. 

“My cancer had already progressed to stage 2,” said Reyes. Tumors are generally categorized based on five stages of progression, from stage 0, a fixed tumor that will not spread throughout the whole body and can be easily removed, to stage 4, which means that the cancer has progressed and spread to other parts of the body.

Although anybody can get cancer, it is most common in women over age 50, according to the Susan G. Komen foundation. The website also states that in the U.S., fewer than 5 percent of women diagnosed with cancer are under 40, with the highest rate seen in women over 70. Reyes, however, was only 30 when she was diagnosed. “I was so young when my cancer developed, the doctors were surprised,” she said. 

When the doctors found out her tumor was stage 2, she immediately started treatment, which consisted of surgeries and two different types of chemotherapy. Side effects from chemo can include fatigue, early menopause, weight gain, and even heart problems -- according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation -- and can last even after the treatment is concluded. 

“When I was going through chemotherapy, I  knew I was going to lose my hair in the process, so I shaved my whole head,” said Reyes about starting treatment. She explained she was never discouraged through treatment, and always kept a positive mind. 

In May of 2018, after a year of chemo, a nurse told Reyes, “You are cured. No more treatment.” According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for stage 2 breast cancer is 93 percent. 

“When I went to my last treatment, I was relieved,” Reyes said, “but I still feel tired even now, with everything over and done.” She remains grateful for her family’s support, and the constant presence of her son and husband. “I was very fortunate to have my family by my side,” she said, “and they were my motivation.”

Lehman’s First Singles Mixer Draws Enthusiastic Crowd

By Shaiann Frazier

A Single Mixer’s picture frame made by coordinators of the event that attendees could take pictures with. Photo by Shaiann Frazier.

The line leading into the Faculty Dining Hall of the Music Building stretched around the hallway  as students waited with curious faces, hesitant smiles, and much excitement for the Singles Mixer Event to begin on Wednesday May 9. “I saw the flyers and I was thinking it would be great to meet new people and get to know the people around campus,” said Efren Vaquero, 20, a double major in computer science and graphic design. Vaquero added she was “looking for more friendships and connections. I’m not seeking relationships.” 

The Single Mixers event was sponsored by the Lehman Wellness Center and the Student Government Association. Its purpose was not only to bring singles together but to also make new friends and break down the barrier of first encounters and impressions. 

 “It was just an idea that sparked in my head about people on campus who are single and need to find someone,” explained Sheridan Dunne, 28, a P.E.E.R Educator for the Lehman Wellness Center, which helps students foster healthy and balanced lifestyles. “Especially students who are always complaining about not having friends, which helps with that by putting all these people together that share at least one thing in common,” Dunne added.

“We were only expecting 60 people because we didn’t know if people were going to be interested in something like that because it’s never been done on campus before,” said Nikita Shetty, 23, a coordinator of wellness education and health promotion at the center. “And then we got 207 people who showed up, but we had to turn away people because we didn’t have any more seats available.”  

Once each attendee reached the sign-in table, they were a given a number and goodie bag filled with condoms, candy, flyers related to health education awareness, and a raffle ticket. Participants were free to sit anywhere, with each table having four seats, two post-it notes which read “Stay,” and 20 questions meant for breaking the ice with someone you were meeting for the first time.

Scheduled to begin at three, the event started late due to the unexpectedly large turnout. But once everyone was seated, discussions opened about what to expect on a first date, bringing your own money during a date, and who should pay. The conversation became very heated and decisions were split over who would pay the bill. 

After this, the mixing began. Those seated near a post-it that read “Stay” had to remain sitting, while those who weren’t had to find someone to mingle with. They then had two minutes to talk. When the time was up, the original seated person would go to a new table and mingle with someone else. The mingling stopped when a person made it across the entire room and managed to talk to almost everyone.

If an individual had found someone who peaked their interest, they had the option of exchanging numbers, with blank cards left on the table for that purpose. Dimitrios Lefas, 21, an English major, said, “I only got one number. And the process of getting the number wasn’t scary or hard.” 

Kenya McDonald, 21, a business and marketing major, said she felt the energy in the room. “I could feel how eager a lot of guys were based off of them being extra enthusiastic.” McDonald added, “It’s just a vibe I picked up, to be honest.”

Some students claimed their presence was unintentional. Christina Johnson, 20, a social work major said it was an accident that she came to the event. “But now I’m hoping to meet new people and I guess mingle,” she said, “even if it’s not guys.”

Lehman physical therapy major James Morgan, 25, also said he was there by accident. “It’s more so that I was really hungry, so that’s what got me here,” he explained. However, he said he doesn’t have a problem with talking to people, and that “dating people in college is the best, it’s pretty dope.” 

The three-hour event ended with dinner, music and a raffle in which some participants won water bottles and sweatshirts. By this time, the uncertain faces had been replaced with laughter and smiles.

Ferdinand Essizewa, 20, a nursing major, was one of those smiling. He said he enjoyed the discussion because he got to see different points of view which made socializing easier. “I got one number which was really easy because I’m a charismatic person which helped a lot.”

 

Spring Break Service Trip Broadens Student’s Horizons

By Shaiann Frazier

Shanel Spence and Lehman L.I.F.E on first day of the trip before heading to the community of San Jose de Garcia in Nicaragua to volunteer. All photos courtesy of Shanel Spence.

“I’m more appreciative of the small things I took for granted. This experience humbled me,” reflected Shanel Spence, 22, a biology major and Lehman senior on her seven-day trip to Nicaragua. Born and raised in the Bronx by parents originally from Jamaica, Spence interns at Cavalry and Mount Sinai Hospitals with hopes of becoming a pediatrician. She also mentors incoming freshmen through Lehman’s SEEK Program which provides assistance to college students in need of academic and financial support.  

Spence with three doctors, Lucelia Quiroz (right), Dr. Karelia Torrez (middle) and pharmacist Carmen Pineda (far left) on the last day of volunteering in the community Santa Teresa in Nicaragua.

On Apr. 2, Spence boarded a plane to Nicaragua with 25 peers on another aid mission, this time to help people without access to adequate medical care. The trip happened in collaboration with an organization known as Global Brigades, an international non-profit organization that uses holistic models to meet communities’ health and economic goals. 

Shanel Spence on day three of volunteering before arriving to the community of Santa Teresa, in Nicaragua, for the first time.

Spence’s spring break trip to Nicaragua happened through a stroke of luck. “I actually planned to go to Florida,” she said. However, through Lehman Life, an organization that provides service opportunities to Lehman students, she was able to attend the trip.  To afford the journey she had to raise roughly 2,000 dollars to cover her expenses. “I didn’t have difficulty in raising the money,” she said, “because I had a lot of support and people who wanted to donate.”

Spence and her team volunteered in San Jose de Garcia and Santa Teresa, two communities in Nicaragua. There her day began at six in the morning, with breakfast by seven and a bus that left at eight for the “compounds,” which she first found overwhelming. “I was nervous, I didn’t know how to feel because it was a new experience for me.” 

Spence learning how to detect a UTI in female patients while shadowing one of the doctors, named Dr. Ramos. 

Spence was not used to the lack of basic services she found in that part of Nicaragua. There was little to no water or access to sufficiently sanitary bathrooms. “When I got there, it was a whole cultural shock for me. We had to use hand sanitizer every time we went to the bathroom. And at one point there was just a brick and wooden stall outside.”

Spence quickly learned how to appreciate how easy her life was compared to what locals were enduring. “It was a tough situation to adjust to, because where I come from I’m used to having hot and running water.” 

At the compounds, she worked with a team of eight doctors to assist roughly 400 patients. The compounds were divided into six sections: the GYN, physical therapy, the pharmacy, triage, consultation, and the dental area. “My favorite part was the triage because that’s where the most interactions with people happened,” said Spence. 

Her patients were a variety of ages with numerous ailments, the most common of which were UTI’s, meningitis, and hypertension. “Observing the GYN doctor changed my mind about what path I wanted to pursue in the medical field,” she explained.

Spence also developed an unexpected friendship with a 7-year-old girl who arrived at the compound for dental issues. “She was so mature for her age. I wondered to myself how does a little girl have such a good mindset. And then I realized that they’re raised differently,” said Spence. 

Spence’s day ended at five with dinner at the hotel, where she and her peers reflected on their day.  Spence made two close friends on the trip, “Binto and Alimata. We always checked on each other, [and] all of us who went on the trip together got a chance to learn about each other.” 

Spence with a young girl in the triage, who wanted to know how the sphygmomanometer works. And Spence allowing the young girl to test the instrument on her. 

When it was time to go back home, Spence said, “I was actually sad about leaving.” The trip made Spence want to revisit the compounds in the summer. She is also thinking about pursuing a career as a doctor serving similar communities. The youngest of two children, Spence will be the first college graduate in her family. After graduation, Spence plans to take a gap year to study for the MCATS and apply for medical school. 

“I appreciate what I have more than did I before,” she said. “These people don’t have much, but they still appreciate the life they have and they live. And I feel like we take that for granted every day.” 

Lehman Women See Their Dreams Through

By Kimberllee Mendez

Dream Come True painting by Deborah Nell.

Since she was five, Lehman senior Jennifer Ramirez’s dream has been “to have a career in music. It’s always been something that I hold close to my heart and soul, because I love it so much. It’s when I can put out all my hurt, pain, anger and happiness altogether and just let flow.” To get there, she is getting “an education that will lead me to where I need to go.”


According to The Lehman Value 2016, women make up 67 percent of the student body. 40.3 percent of them are the first person in their family to go to college. 55 percent are from the Bronx, where only 16.2 percent of residents have a college degree, according to statisticalatlas.com. However, numerous students told the Meridian that they are letting nothing stop them from achieving their goals.

Astrid Lorenzo, a Lehman senior, said she is not letting the hardships of being a Latina woman get in the way of what is important to her. She is meeting her goals, she explained, “by never limiting myself and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. How to make a dream a reality has everything to do with the right frame of mind, how clear the goal is.” 

Her dream, she added, “is to become an entertainer, writer and a girl boss.” She added, “I’m always keeping myself involved in all areas of arts and entertainment which includes modeling, music, acting, dancing, photography and even fashion design.” 

Other Lehman women found that networking and community outreach are keys to their success. To reach her dream of her career at a nonprofit, “that works to midget the effect of climate change and other social justices,” Lehman sophomore Nira Rahman is studying environmental science and interning at a nonprofit organization. “It’s giving me a lot of background on how a non-profit operates,” she said. “What I like best about it is that it brings me closer to the community and also closer to politicians.” 

Likewise, Lehman senior and journalism major Natalia Quinones has been interning with Bronxnet and applying for internships outside of school. “My plan,” she says, “is to find a job and apply everything I’ve learned in school and from the internships that have led me to a position I see myself doing long term.”

Having a role model in her family has also pushed her to achieve. Quinones is following in her mother’s footsteps by attending college. Her mother earned her associate degree in the Dominican Republic and was a teacher for eight years.

“I’m scared honestly about what’s going to happen after college,” Quinones said, “but I’m searching for jobs and internships. I just know I’ll find something. Just having a positive attitude and knowing that the American Dream is possible through hard work and dedication.” 

Other students have had to take a different path than the one their families envisioned for them. Shaine Perea, a junior at Lehman College, is the first of two children going to college and her family wanted her to be nurse since many of her family members are nurses. However, Perea found nursing wasn’t for her, and she fell in love with Recreational Therapy. When she told her parents about what she really wanted, they didn’t agree to it at first, but as time passed they knew they couldn’t force her to like a career she didn’t have a passion for. 

Perea says, “I plan on earning my bachelor’s in Therapeutic Recreation, and then take my CTRS exam to become certified, and also working in long term care facilities helping those in need, maintain and improve their physical, emotional and social well-being.” She also intends to go back to school to be a certified as a Doctor of Physical Therapy. 

“There are a lot of hardships in my path,” Lorenzo acknowledged. “Being a female, a minority while at the same time trying to get an education, handling a personal life, work, a social life, mental health and staying determined with the ever-changing times can be very difficult. But never impossible.” 

Nine Apps to Help You Ace Student Life

By Deirra Francis Stevenson

Students rely on their smartphones. Photo courtesy of jeshoots.com.

In just seven years, access to digital devices has risen substantially, with 77 percent of Americans using smart phones in 2017, according to a Pew Research Center report, up from just 35 percent in 2011. Smartphone use is nearly universal among younger adults, the report adds, with 92 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds now owning one. We asked Lehman students what apps they find indispensible to navigate their lives both on and off campus. 

Dropbox, an all-purpose storage and transfer app, syncs your files to its cloud the moment they’re uploaded, as well as all future changes. “Dropbox is a great way to transfer files to others,” says Lehman student John Rodriguez. “If you forget your phone or document at home, it’s in the cloud and can easily be accessed through an internet connection.” The versatile app serves a variety of devices from Windows desktop to Mac laptop and Android phone. 

During those long nights when you’re stuck on an online quiz or a hard to answer textbook question, Quizlet makes relentless studying a little less overwhelming. Whether it’s robotics or Shakespeare, this flashcard app is a lifesaver, helping students with both studying for tests and homework assignments. 

LinkedIn is a networking platform for working professionals. It lets you create an account and upload your resume to showcase your skills and job training.  “Instead of just saving connections you’ve met throughout your professional life, actively engage with contacts by liking, sharing, and commenting on their activity,” states Time.com.

Banking mobile apps, Zelle and Venmo, come in handy when students have limited time to find the bank of their choice. Zelle is easy to use because of its three choices: send, request, and split money. However, if the recipient doesn’t already have Zelle it will become a task to activate the sending option, though most banks do offer it. Venmo likewise can be used to split a bill, pay back friends, or purchase products and services. The app is free if you send money from your Venmo balance, debit card or bank account, while a 3 percent fee is added for credit cards. Receiving money and making purchases, however, is free. 

Whether you attend college far from home or around the block, safety can be a major concern. An app that makes friends and family as well as students feel safer is SafeTrek, an emergency signaling app. If you feel in danger and there is either no time to make a phone call or you don’t know your exact location, you can open SafeTrek, depress and hold a button, and if you don’t enter a pin number in 10 seconds, the app sends your location and an alarm signal to the police. Jashera Nalls, an Africana Studies major at Lehman who walks to the bus station late nights after class, told the Meridian, “I take precautions such as talking on the phone with my dad and carrying pepper spray. What about if something happens and my dad can’t get to me fast enough? An App that has a buddy system until I’m home would be great.” 

For students running late or just looking for alternatives to public transportation, Uber and Lyft are convenient solutions. “The option to share rides makes the cost lower than an already reasonable price,” says Lehman student Jocelyn Carson. “You have the option of sharing a ride with another passenger whose destination is along your route.  I use Lyft for my early Saturday class when trains aren’t running their usual schedule.”

The everyday challenges of student life can take a toll. To help students relieve stress, psychologists and educators created a mindfulness meditation app called Smiling Mind. It’s a great energizer bunny for the mind that helps users create a balance between mental health and their studies. “It helps that this app is free,” says Lehman film major Shanese Latiya. “I listen to it during in the morning after my alarm wakes me up or during a crowded train ride in the day. In this day and age people are consumed with social media first thing in the morning, but for me, Smiling Mind helps to focus on living my best life rather than what others are doing.” 

Lehman Students Find Self-Expression in Bold Hair Colors

By Deirdre Fanzo

Dyed hair and the positive feedback it draws from others can greatly increase people’s confidence and self-esteem, argues Masey White in USA Today College. While a conservative viewpoint might tie colorful hair to a lack of professionalism, today’s reality is that dyed hair is an expression of personality that does not detract from a person’s work ethic. “My expression of my individuality is not something that affects my work ethic or skills,” White asserts. This notion is clearly shared by many members of the Lehman community, who use colorful hair to express themselves.

Hayong Lau photographed in Lehman’s Music Building Cafeteria. All photographs by Deirdre Fanzo.

Business Administration major Hayong Lau dyes her hair a soft purple, almost periwinkle color. She told the Meridian that her hair color expresses that she is “just crazy and I don’t care.” She added, “I just want to have fun.”

Jasmine Joseph photographed in Lehman’s Music Building Cafeteria. 

Jasmine Joseph photographed in Lehman’s Music Building Cafeteria. 

Jasmine Joseph is an English and Africana Studies double major, whose hair is currently a deep, vibrant shade of red. She says she wants the color of her hair to express that “I just don’t care about what other people think.”

Waverliey Torres photographed in the Lehman College Underground Radio club room.

Waverliery Torres is a biology major and a member of the Lehman College Underground Radio. Her hair resembles the sunset and is a colorful combination of orange, blonde, and pink. Torres stated, “I’m a very artistic person… I enjoy color combinations. I don’t think hair should be boring…I believe your hair should be a creative outlet.”

Abirami Rajeev photographed during an overnight class trip to the Washington DC area. 

Math major Abirami Rajeev told the Meridian that she has dyed her hair many different colors. Right now, it is a dark green shade. Abi stated that she originally started dying her hair because she desired something that was “a little different. Now, it’s more expressing my general state of mind.” She added, “I associate green with nature and serenity and it’s a part of my life I’m trying to get more in touch with. Plus, I just love the color green.”

For Lehman Students, Plastic Is the New Christmas Green

By Leah Liceaga

A Christmas tree lot ready for the holiday season. Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net.

“To me you’re taking away from nature every time you cut down one of those trees just to have it in your home, or anywhere else,” Christine Auiles, a Lehman English major, explained of her choice to get an artificial tree for Christmas. “They last longer, it’s more durable, [and] you can put it away until you need it.” She added that she does not feel it is necessary to have a live tree at home for Christmas when it will only last a couple of days.

For many Lehman students, like Auiles this holiday season, going for plastic was the greener and more affordable choice. According to Diffen, a website that makes comparison that people worldwide can add to and update, the price of a mid-sized artificial tree can average $100, while a real tree of the same size costs $40 to $50. A fake tree is ultimately better in the long run. The artificial tree will also last up to ten years and require less care than a real tree, which would have to be replaced every year.

Home Depot charges anywhere from $70 to over $200 for an artificial tree, depending on size and appearance -- for example, a tree covered in fake snow or already outfitted with Christmas lights would cost more than a simple artificial tree. While the real trees Home Depot sells are cheaper in the short term, over a period of years, buying multiple real trees becomes costlier than buying one artificial one.

“We got a fake tree,” Sandra Matos, a Lehman English major said of her Christmas tree choice this year. “The prices were better, and we needed one quickly.”

For other students, the issue was not price but durability. Lehman College junior, Laura Leonardo, said her family “used to get real [trees] when I was younger, but my family started getting fake ones when I got older because we got too busy to really care about Christmas like that…a fake tree, and reusing it seemed more practical.”

Buying a plastic tree gets around another problem that has increased in recent years -- a shortage of trees. Due to the recession in 2008, many people who grew Christmas trees either went out of business or had to decrease how many they grew. Since trees take a decade or so to grow, there was a shortage of Christmas trees this year.

“There is a touch of an undersupply," Doug Hundley, spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association told Newsweek. Drought in the Pacific Northwest also shares blame for the shortage. GWD Forestry -- a company that offers direct investment into sustainably managed agroforestry plantations internationally -- predicted the recent droughts and wildfires in North Carolina and Oregon could keep the tree shortage going until the year 2025. It also noted that the amount of Christmas trees being planted across the country has dropped dramatically; falling from 5.6 million in 2010 to 3.7 million in 2015.

Once the holiday season is over, real Christmas trees are usually thrown out, though some are recycled. From Jan. 2 through 13 of 2018, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) collected real Christmas trees left at the curb and turned them into mulch to be used for the city’s parks, community gardens, and institutions. They also encouraged those with gardens to use as much of the tree as possible for mulch. The remainder of the tree could be taken to MulchFest at city parks to be chipped, or left for the DSNY to collect.

Having Her Cake and Eating It Too: A Black Entrepreneur’s Path to Success

By Zayna Palmer
Luquana McGriff. Photo courtesy of A Cake Baked in Brooklyn.

Luquana McGriff. Photo courtesy of A Cake Baked in Brooklyn.

“My grandma used to always bake, she would make cakes and create different kinds of designs. I thought this was fabulous and it inspired me to bake as well,” recalls 35-year-old Luquana McGriff, now CEO of her own company, A Cake Baked in Brooklyn.  Inspired by her grandmother, McGriff founded the business in Jan. 2016, in Brooklyn, where she was born and raised. 

It is a now a well-known boutique- and dessert-catering company that creates the most original and delicious desserts for any event. McGriff, who has no formal culinary training, has been baking since she was a child and likewise taught herself new techniques that would help to make her company successful. She says, “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I had the drive for it. I didn’t know what business I wanted to start at first, but I knew I wanted to work for myself and become a CEO for my own company.” With a B.A. in social work, McGriff has a passion to help others, to work with people and satisfy their needs. 

She was encouraged to start her business through the positive feedback from her family. “I love baking and I began to make cupcakes for family events,” she explains. “My family said that I could turn my baking into a business. I started to go to business classes and tried to learn what will be the next step of selling my products.” 

Now amazed to have her own store, McGriff knew that one day this would happen. “I always wanted to be successful,” she says.  McGriff used many strategies to build her brand, from hiring help to seeking a competitive position. “In my store, red velvet is a top seller and I didn’t know what would go best with red velvet. I tried to find my niche in this competitive market. I found out more about my products through my customers. I promoted my business on social media and on my website. I received a ton of feedback from my clients and customers.” She is still branding herself and working to gain many more customers. 

Her mission is to make original desserts, “something that you can’t get anywhere else,” and she adds items and flavors into her baking that she hopes would make her customers happy, declaring, “You are your biggest critic. I always strive to have the best products and make people happy when they taste my desserts. I knew in order to do better, I have to be better. I refine my craft and find different things to do that would make my business grow.” 

Her advice to other budding entrepreneurs is to actively seek knowledge. “Research what business that you want to get into and find a mentor or volunteer in that field. Get someone to teach you the way before you spend money on something that you don’t want to do. Go after your dreams and your passions and everything will fall into place,” she says. For her the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur are the drive to work hard, a clear goal, and doing something new every day. “You have to want it more than anything else. When you get knocked down, you have to get back up. Have the passion to never give up and no one will have your vision, only you will.”

A New Conversation about an Old Problem: Lehman Students Push Back Against Sexual Harassment

By Shaiann Frazier

Lehman students took a public part in this conversation on Oct. 19, when post-it notes were displayed on a board outside the Lehman bookstore along with the message “Keep Moving Forward.” Photo by Shaiann Frazier.

“Catcalling makes you question your worth,” said Kuiana Prince, 23, a senior and multimedia performing arts major. Catcallers, she said, should “Try a different approach in going about it instead of going after a lady or guy like some kind of pet.”

Prince’s experience of harassment is all too common, as a groundswell in media and social attention to the topic has proven. Lehman students took a public part in this conversation on Oct. 19, when pink, purple, and blue post-it notes were displayed on a white board outside the Lehman bookstore along with the message, “Keep Moving Forward.” Dozens of Lehman students wrote and posted notes expressing their thoughts about being victims of violence and sexual harassment. 

Sponsored by the Counseling Center, the “Go Purple” event was inspired by the recent Twitter #metoo. Originally created in 2007 by Tarana Burke, founder of youth organization Just Be Inc., the campaign was revived this October by actress Alyssa Milano, for victims of sexual assault and harassment. The Lehman event aimed to bring supportive attention to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and street harassment. Members of the Counseling Center created the board titled “Messages of Hope” where any Lehman student could write a personal note to someone who had been a victim of violence in which they a received a note in return. 

Keeauna Jacobs, 22, a senior and student engagement coordinator at the Counseling Center said, “Girls come to the Counseling Center far more often than you think whether it be harassment in their neighborhood or in the Lehman neighborhood.”

“Catcalling,” defined as whistling, shouting, or otherwise sexualizing a woman passing by, is evidently common in New York. “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” a 2014 short documentary directed by Rob Bliss and created by anti-harassment organization Hollaback!, shows a montage of ten hours of footage of Shoshana Roberts silently walking the streets alone while being harassed. The video was viewed over 40 million times. 

Hollaback!, the company that distributed the video, also conducted a study in which they found that over 84 percent of women will experience some form of street harassment before the age of 17. This harassment does not only occur on the streets but also happens on public transportation. According to a 2016 report released by the Wall Street Journal, sexual offenses on New York City subways had gone up 50 percent compared to the previous year. 

Lehman students who spoke to the Meridian said they’ve changed their behavior in an effort to avoid catcalling. Leda Obergh, 19, a sophomore and film major said, “I don’t want to dress up as I want to because I may appear sexually attractive to men but that’s not my intention.” She added, “I usually wear my headphones, so I don’t have to listen to what men say to me on the street.”

Shanel Spence, 22, a senior and biology major, also actively avoids men on the street. “One thing that I do for sure is that I cross the street when I see a group of guys or I walk in the opposite direction.”

Leticia Hernandez, 24, a junior and recreational major also took a similar stance. “Usually I start walking faster just so they don’t get close to me,” she said. “Or sometimes I give them a look to back away.”

Women are not the only victims of harassment, a 2012 study released by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the percentage of males who experienced sexual harassment had increased from 16.1 percent to 17.8 percent. Although the findings could not conclude why the number of reports had increased in men, a possible contributing factor was that more men began to come forward and speak out. Numerous studies have shown that men don’t report incidents of sexual harassment due to shame and embarrassment.

Gregory Reyes, 18, a Lehman student who works at the front desk in the APEX said, “When a guy gets catcalled people just look at him like it’s a joke and it’s not as derogatory as when it happens to a woman.”

Lian Kizner, 19, a junior, dance and sociology major agreed. “I have experienced it and it’s really annoying,” she said. “Guys don’t have the authority to make a girl feel [bad] like that when they’re just walking down the street trying to get home.”

Michael Buckley, associate professor of the philosophy department at Lehman, advocated for more training for all Lehman students. “I am glad to know that Lehman requires some of its students to take workshops or online courses [about sexual harassment],” he said, “but I think the policy should be extended to every student and given several times throughout their time at Lehman like it is for faculty and staff.”

Lehman Students Hack Their Way Toward Success

By Zayna Palmer

“We want to hire CUNY grads and undergrads to become full-time interns or employees in the near future,” said Buzzfeed Tech Recruiter Nicolette Nelson, 29. Buzzfeed is just one of the prospective employers that came to Lehman’s fourth annual Hackathon on the lookout for diverse interns among future CUNY grads. Nelson explained that Buzzfeed, which participated in the Hackathon as both mentor and judge, has a mission to offer opportunities to more diverse people and get more women working in top management positions. The goal for this Hackathon, she added, is “to find out what students need from employers and what employers need from students. We’re here to find out how the market is changing for students of diversity.”

The Lehman Hackathon, which was held November 10-11, exists to foster just such opportunities. “We understand that the proximity between job locations and where students live can be quite difficult, so we implement these events for local students to attend and network with sponsors and mentor that can hire students for jobs and internships,” said Rosemarie Encarnacion, a Lehman junior. She is also a help desk analyst and Civic Technology Fellow at Lehman. The National Society of Black Engineers primary mission, she added, is to “make sure that every student in the community has the opportunity to exercise their skills with teammates so they could fully integrate themselves into building product software, hardware, and mobile programs.” 

The Hackathon helps disadvantaged students as well as those with disabilities to find the right path towards their careers by providing them with professional advice, assistance and employment opportunities in the tech industry. The event, co-sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is open to CUNY and SUNY students. Its focus is to highlight, support and encourage talent from all backgrounds and to help strengthen the community. Encarnacion states that it also aims to “Bring students to an environment where they connect with the sponsors, teams and fellow students with similar and/or different skills to build projects using hardware. The Hackathon is for Blacks and Hispanics, but anyone who is a student or graduate from CUNY schools is invited.”  

Rafael Gonzalez, 21, a Lehman mathematics Professor and a participant in this year’s Hackathon, said his mission is to “train and expose students to the industry of computer science and engineering for minority groups for many of our Lehman graduates.” He believes that through it, every student can get the opportunity to be mentored and to network in the industry as well as get internships and full-time jobs in fields they enjoy. Rafael wants every student to have fun and test their skills because the Hackathon is also very competitive. “It is a great way to ask questions and find out what jobs you are looking for” he said. This year, NSBE and SHPE were able to increase diversity to bring in more sponsors for the Hackathon. 

Rodney Perez, a full-time technology analyst for JPMorgan Chase, “The challenge is about bringing students in, [to] increase the capabilities and capacity to invent new ideas for the company.” Perez added that the company, which participated in the Hackathon, believes in giving back to the community.

Students agreed that the Hackathon is a good opportunity to network and get projects completed, along with having a team to provide mutual growth, learn technical skills, and build community between employers and students. Daniel Encarnacion a Lehman sophomore studying computer science and Hackathon treasurer said that it is a great chance “to have everyone demo their projects to sponsors that could offer employment in the tech industry and promote a program that speaks on diversity and reach out to those who are disadvantaged.”