From Pace to Peralvillo: Rohana Sosa helps communities in the Dominican Republic

Seidenberg student Rohana Sosa (BS in Computer Science) recently participated in the Pace Setters Leadership Program on a non-profit advocacy project that took her to the Dominican Republic to assist vulnerable communities. Rohana’s work both here at Pace and within the community in Peralvillo, Domincan Republic, is both humbling and inspirational. Rohana sent us the following about her experiences – so read on!

Lifting up people is the world’s most beautiful gift. This January 2017, I had a rewarding learning experience assisting communities living in poverty in the Dominican Republic. Having this experience provided me with the knowledge to share with others how we can all be unified and bring peace to all.

As a computer science student at the Seidenberg School, I truly enjoy that being a humanitarian creates a balance between connecting the world through technology and actual in-person interaction to help heal others. Seeing smiles on the faces of people I worked with shows huge positive impact through being a donor of love. It was heartbreaking to see the struggle to simply survive, but inspiring to witness how unified the Dominican community truly is despite lifelong hardship.

My fellow volunteers and I were so happy to be blessed with sunshine the day we went to Peralvillo, Yamasá to bring healing, hope, and happiness to the poor in Dominican Republic through volunteering with the not-for-profit organization Juan Bautista Gautreaux Foundation.

The Juan Bautista Gautreaux Foundation was founded by my grandfather in February, 2000, to provide assistance and health for those most in need.

Since my freshman year at Pace University, I have been inspired and naturally driven to create a shared sense of belonging and purpose into building a resilient community in the Dominican Republic. There is a lot of potential in the long term for the Foundation to assist the growth of sustainable communities and help the most vulnerable develop their own abilities. Unfortunately, a lack of funding has prevented the Foundation from achieving its full effect. I aim to help revive it because striving for the well-being of the most vulnerable is worth it, especially for those who have special needs and who are elderly. As part of this, I chose to serve those in most need in DR as my Advocacy Project for graduating from the Pace Setters Leadership Program this May 2017.

The community needs an act of healing and renewal so I have taken the time to listen, connect, and support those in most need through service this January 2017. Having contributed more than 400 hours of community service throughout my academic years, my natural desire and motivation to serve has grown stronger with this project.

 

What Happened

Benefit Dinner Events & DR Mission Trip November 2016 & January 2017:

New York, Pace PLV Campus: The Benefit Dinner I hosted with my volunteers at the Kessel Multi-Purpose Room on November 13th, 2016, collected donations to bring relief to families in need in the Dominican Republic. Pace WPAW was the DJ of the event and there were four raffles as well. My mentor, Vincent Birkenmeyer (Vinnie), was a tremendous help for me to organize the event months in advance and I will always be grateful for his support. Vinnie and Pace Restaurant Sponsor with Pace Residence Life were able to provide the dinner. Donations of non-perishable food, toiletries, gently used clothing and shoes, as well as educational supplies for all ages, were accepted at this dinner and during tabling sessions (information sessions). Handcrafted accessories I crocheted were sold in exchange for donations. I made necklaces, scarves, headbands, and butterfly-bouquets. I created a website and sell these accessories to continue raising money to donate.

Hosting the event was one of the best short-term ways for me to help solve the large-scale problems and primary necessities faced by the most underprivileged which include: damaged housing that is not safe to live in, medications, sanitation units, fresh water, adequate living and academic supplies, and school support. After the event, we reached our goal of packaging six extra-large boxes to ship overseas to Dominican Republic.

Trip to Peralvillo, Yamasá – Dominican Republic:

While walking on mountainous trails to bring food for those families in most need, my volunteers and I witnessed extreme living conditions, which include broken down outhouses made out of rags and twigs. We personally brought food packages to twelve different homes of elderly people and learned about their needs. The team and I visited the sick, blind, and injured. Many homes had no lighting and water for their homes. We met one elderly woman in her eighties who was missing a leg. Sadly, this elderly woman passed away in February 2017. Other people were suffering from osteoporosis, asthma, and depression. A bedridden and sickly man, father of two elderly sickly siblings, about 101 years old, smiled at us because he was so excited to have visitors stop by his room, a dark shack with sand and dirt for floors and dogs roaming around. His daughter was in tears because she was so happy that we came to bring her food.

Back on the site of my grandfather’s foundation, there were approximately 100 people from the community in need who showed up to receive donations. The team and I helped kids make Vision Boards so they can draw what they want to aspire when they grow up. We made sandwiches to feed everyone and gave out juice, distributed the donated clothes and toothpaste with toothbrushes. I taught young girls how to crochet as well so they can continue to build that skill to help their families. School bags with supplies were given to kids too. There was so much excitement and joy at this moment. Everyone who received their donation was so grateful to us and showed their gratitude with lots of hugs and smiles. It was incredible to see the huge positive impact we all created with combined efforts from NY and DR.

Poverty can be greatly reduced when people create dreams to strive for. My hope is that with this volunteer experience is that we helped developed courage, strength, and creativity in the lives of those in need so they can develop a better overall quality of life.

The experience was made possible thanks to my grandfather, Dalio Gautreaux (president of the Juan Bautista Gautreaux Foundation); my mother who is always there with me every step of the way, especially with this project; my father in heaven who inspires me everyday to achieve goals; my mentor, Vincent Birkenmeyer; family and friends; volunteers in NY and DR; Seidenberg School of CSIS and Pace University faculty and staff; and the Pace Setters Leadership Program for giving me this opportunity to make an impact on a global scale.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Rohana!

Check Rohana’s website if you’re interested in buying handmade accessories to support communities in the Dominican Republic

You can also connect with Rohana on LinkedIn and read her blog, Tech Bytes for Women.

Krutika Wadhwa brings Indian culture and dance to the Pace University stage

“I’ve never been so proud of being an Indian before!”

Listening to Krutika Wadhwa (BS in Computer Science ’19) talk about Amateur Night is exhilarating. It turns out that not only is she a stunning traditional dancer, but she can tell a great story too – something she attributes to her mother’s writing talents and her own journey through elocution lessons.

Krutika is our only Indian undergraduate student, something she attributes to an unfortunate myth in international communities that undergraduates don’t get scholarships. Krutika herself gained scholarships on her acceptance to Pace that made her moving to the United States possible.

As well as being the one person you can count on to have a smile on her face, Krutika is a Seidenberg front desk staff member and probably spends more time here than anywhere else. We’re more than cool with it.

On March 2nd, she participated in Pace University’s Amateur Night, a showcase of some of the community’s top talent at the Schimmel Center.

The performance was a vibrant, energetic, traditional Indian dance which left an impression not just on Krutika, but on the community as a whole.

Read on to hear all about our smiliest student’s incredible experience.

Why did you decide to perform at Amateur Night?

I attended Amateur Night last year – it was my first event at Pace university! I had just come to the United States, and it was very inspiring to see all these students perform. I thought about how cool it would be if I did an Indian dance – people who had never seen something like that before, how awesome would that be? I made a mental note: do it myself next year. When the time came, I had to do two rounds of auditions before the final show. I did two routines, one for each audition. The second routine is the one I did on stage. Throughout the whole process I was never nervous about how it would go, because I was not expecting anything. Everybody in that show was already a singer or dancer and was a major in that field, and I was the only computer science student!

On the day, I was getting a little nervous because it was going to be in front of an audience, not just judges. I didn’t know how they would take it, seeing something they hadn’t seen before. I didn’t know my audience, I was going in blind. But I had awesome friends. Melanie Greene and Rachel Gonzalez (fellow Seidenberg students) helped me get ready. They even researched traditional Indian clothing for me to wear and helped me get dressed! And when the time came, I walked into the dressing room and all other 13 contestants were there and it was very intimidating – sharing one space with all who were competing.

I was nervous. I hadn’t been on stage performing in 4 years. Pace gave me that and I’m very grateful for it. I didn’t know if I still had it in me, and when I walked into the dressing room everyone was checking me out top to bottom because I was dressed in this weird outfit! They asked all these questions: what did I have on my hand, why did I have henna on, they complimented my jewelry. I couldn’t talk to anyone, but gradually I started. One of the best parts was that people could tell I was nervous and that it was my first time, and they spoke to me, made me feel comfortable. They told me not to worry about it, told me not to stress.

I was the second to last performer, so the nerves were building all night. Once it began, it was fast. I was backstage watching the performer before me and I told myself “just enjoy yourself. That’s what you’re here for. You’re going to get to do what you love and it’s going to be great.” Then it was my turn. I walked on stage. I cannot tell you how awesome the crowd was. As someone who was so scared and worried in the morning about what people would think, I was there on stage and people were screaming and it was just incredible. During the transition between the two songs, people screamed so loudly I will never forget it. I remember performing one move with so much energy and enthusiasm it’s etched in my memory for life. After I got off stage, I was crying. I was so happy. The best reaction was from the other contestants. They had all seen me perform and found me halfway to the dressing room. They surrounded me and gave me compliments, they told me how they saw I was nervous then I came on stage and it was like seeing someone totally different.

The best reaction though was from the crowd. About 5% of the audience was Indian, but that’s about it. People were coming up to me and said they had been so happy to see me perform. I was approached by some second generation Indians who told me that they felt represented by me, that it was the first time they had felt that way at an event not specifically for Indians.

At that point, I didn’t care if I won or if I lost, it didn’t matter. The response that I got, I don’t think I could’ve gotten that from an Indian only audience. People were just so welcoming and sweet to me.

I was representing my community, and the Seidenberg community. Most of my Seidenberg family was there, which made me feel very happy.

Krutika came second in the competition, scoring a $500 award for her stunning performance.

In the end, winning second place didn’t really have much of an impact on Krutika’s experience. “After coming to Pace, I get to do all the things I loved doing in India. My mom is so happy back home in India because I’m happy.

“I have not been this happy ever before. I am doing so much here I couldn’t even have dreamed of in India. It’s not just me, it’s my parents. They can feel happy that the decision they made is the right one. They’ve even become Seidenberg International Parent Ambassadors in India.”

Krutika, we love you (and your parents). We also can’t wait for you to teach us your moves. Thank you for sharing your thrilling experience and what it means to you with your Seidenberg family!

Summer Internship Series: Melanie Greene

Summer is almost over, meaning it’s time to catch up with our students on where they interned over the break. First up is Melanie Greene (BS in Information Technology with a minor in marketing), who interned at broadcaster SiriusXM and was kind enough to share her experience with us.

Take it away, Melanie!


IMG_3646Over the summer I had the privilege of interning at SiriusXM within the Business Intelligence department of the company. I have been working with the IT Desk Support gaining exposure to the corporate world and the IT infrastructure of SiriusXM. I have a mentor who is the Site Supervisor. He has been training and teaching me along this journey. It is hard to fathom that it has been over two months since I started – time flies when you’re having fun!

Since I started back in June, I have gained a vast amount of knowledge and hands-on experience dealing with equipment and developing relationships. Establishing a good professional working relationship is essential to getting the job done, and hopefully opening the doors to professional development in the future.

IMG_4318Working in the field is completely different from reading a textbook – I value a hands-on approach to learning because there is nothing like diving into the field and participating in real world problems. Throughout my internship I have replaced and allocated equipment to my co-workers, moved employees from one location to another, replaced hardware in desktops, managed the inventory of hardware in Active Directory, reviewed the updates of machines in System Center Configuration Manager, and fulfilled tickets generated by employees on ServiceNow. Additionally I have updated the inventory of hardware in our Access database and created excel spreadsheets to keep track of newly acquired hardware. I also imaged machines with the SiriusXM build. My tasks changed every day depending on what my mentor asked me to do.

IMG_4344A lesson my mentor taught me when troubleshooting is to consider many reasons why something is not working. I could also see how this lesson applies to life. I feel that I have gained many new skills and strengthened many old ones. To work in this field or any industry, I have learned that it is essential to have stellar communication skills when asking the right questions, to manage customer relationships, and to troubleshoot relentlessly. These skills can be applied to a variety of jobs because they are invaluable.

I cannot fathom how fast the summer has gone. At SiriusXM I have had the opportunity to attend Snack and Learn Sessions where myself and the other interns would enjoy snacks and listen to an employee of the company discuss their journey on how they got where they are today. Towards the end of the internship there was an Intern Celebration Luncheon where we talked about our experiences and munched on delicious pizza and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from our Intern Advisor which was extremely generous. I had a wonderful time attending the Snack and Learn Sessions, the Resume Workshop, and the Intern Celebration Luncheon.

IMG_4275One of my favorite parts of this internship has been meeting so many interesting employees from different walks of life and career backgrounds. I am fascinated speaking with my colleagues because I learn and grow as a technologist, a student, and a future woman in the workforce. It is intriguing to hear about everyone’s positions and the work that they do. I have met Java Developers, Web Designers, Application Developers, Marketing Managers, among many others – everyone’s job contributes to the success of the company. Everyone has been so kind to me and I cannot thank them enough for making me feel so comfortable and providing an environment for me to thrive and learn. It has been truly an unforgettable experience. I will most definitely be remaining in contact with everyone that I met and worked with. I hope the door remains open so that I could embark on more opportunities with SiriusXM.

I strongly thank all the professors I have had at Pace for challenging me and giving me the necessary foundation for thriving in the workforce and exposing me to endless opportunities.