Nov 28, 2014

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Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Melissa Theodorakatos

by Stephen F. Sullivan

Students of Dowling College take pride in what they do: some love art, some love getting involved, and others love their work. Sometimes, a special student comes along that embodies all of these passions to an incredible extent; exemplifying the highest of standards in each and every task he or she embarks upon. This month, the Lion’s Voice is highlighting such a rare but valuable and remarkable student: Melissa Theodorakatos.

Melissa is currently a senior, her third year at Dowling College. She was able to skip an entire year of classes at Dowling, something that speaks of her academic diligence in high school. She was accepted into Dowling’s Honors Program, after meeting with Dr. Stephen Lamia and proving that she not only met, but exceeded the rigorous requirements. Awarded the Presidential Academic Scholarship, Melissa was able to focus on her studies and work with much of the burden of tuition taken off her shoulders. Melissa was also inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and the Alpha Chi national honor society.

Graphic design is a field that Melissa was always interested in, having a strong art background and having her work displayed in art shows during high school. Through her keen artistic eye, she was able to transcend the expectations of her graphic design professors at Dowling and was able to open her own art show at the Farmingdale Public Library. She is currently working on strengthening her already impressive portfolio in preparation for graduate school applications. Professors are consistently impressed with her abilities and the output of her work, which surpasses their expectations immensely.

In addition to her academic work and maintaining a 4.0 GPA, Melissa is involved in the Dowling College Student Government Association in myriad ways. Most prominently, she is President of the Dowling GSA, a club whose mission is to create a safe space on campus for all students, no matter sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, or religion. Melissa believes strongly in the message of equality and acceptance of people of all backgrounds and strives to maintain a place where Dowling students can be who they are, judgment-free. She is also the layout editor of the Lion’s Voice, Conatus, The Raven Quill’s Conspiracy, and Riverrun, Dowling’s Literary Magazine. Additionally, Melissa is working with the Humanitarian Club in several fundraisers, including Light The Night and The Trevor Project. This is in addition to outside work, including the position of layout designer for other publications and contributor of art for other literary works.

Melissa has been working as a tutor for over twenty middle, high school, and college students for the past five years. She also holds work-study positions in the Dowling Art Studio, Art Office, and Office for the Arts and Humanities Department. Melissa also volunteers part-time at Second Chance, a local cat shelter. Through these important and charitable opportunities, she has gained valuable insight into the world, made strong connections with her coworkers and bosses, and learned the benefits of hard work.

End the Hate Campaign is Melissa’s most recent venture, an initiative she took after the recent suicides of LGBT youth in the country. She has met with Dr. David Ring, Vice President for College Administration & Student Affairs, Dr. Suzanne Johnson, Professor of Psychology and Academic Chair of the Social Sciences Division, and Ronnie MacDonald, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services, to discuss this important undertaking. While many believe that bullying is an issue most relevant to middle and high school students, this discrimination, harassment and behavior also occur at the collegiate level within both the student body and staff. Melissa wishes to bring awareness to this issue, and educate Dowling students and staff on the ways to deal with bullying, whether in person or on the internet. Events are in the works, but this campaign is sure to be not only successful, but exceed the exceptionally high standards Melissa consistently sets for herself. Dowling College should be proud to have such a diligence, hard-working, dedicated and passionate leader among its student body. Her presence will be missed when she graduates in May of 2012.

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SGA President Honored at Leadership Conference

by Alyssa Copeland

James R. V. Rhodes
Dowling’s Student Government Association President, James Rhodes, and West Islip High School’s Kelly Douglas accepting the Youth Leadership.

It has been a common occurrence since I have moved to Long Island four years ago to hear many of my friends and family members (particularly the younger ones) say, “I can’t wait to get off of this island.” Their reasons range from the high cost of living, to the public school systems, the local environment, but the results are usually the same: eventually, they decide to move elsewhere. With a large percentage of Long Island young adults relocating to other parts of the country after graduating from college, there is a serious need to address their concerns. That is what Vision Long Island is attempting to do. A local advocacy group, Vision Long Island’s aim is to preserve local communities and improve the island so that people want to stay here. Their mission statement reads: “Vision joins with others to promote more liveable, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible growth on Long Island through Smart Growth. Smart Growth focuses on infill, re-development and open space preservation… A key objective is to strengthen communities from the start by actively involving local stakeholders in planning.”

For the last decade, they have held the Smart Growth Summit in order to gather civic, student, and community leaders in order to pave a path towards a successful future Long Island. On June 17th, the 10th Annual Smart Growth Summit was held with over 600 attendees representing a wide spectrum of organizations, along with business, education, labor, and government groups from the area. Some of the issues discussed at this conference included making housing affordable, transportation concerns with the Nassau County bus system, and the lack of North to South rail lines. The keynote speaker was New York State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, who spoke on the importance of preserving the local environment, supporting Smart Growth throughout the island, and pushing for necessary infrastructural projects. It was also at the Summit that the Smart Growth Awards were presented to honor community members and leaders who promote their efforts in growing and preserving Long Island for the future.

Dowling College was well represented at this year’s conference, with James Rhodes, our SGA President, receiving the first ever “Youth Leadership” award given by Vision Long Island. The organization recognized James’ efforts in improving both the Dowling community and his involvement with local initiatives that affect young adults, along with honoring West Islip High School senior Kelly Douglas for her contributions to her school.

The Youth Leadership was created to show appreciation towards those who, even at a young age, are extremely active in their community and show initiative and leadership through the Smart Growth program. When asked how he felt about receiving this honor, James stated that he “was absolutely shocked to receive the award… I was very honored and humbled to see that I was appreciated for voicing my concerns for Long Island’s future.”

Also representing Dowling College was Interim Provost and Vice President for Corporate Programs and Continuing Education, Elana Zolfo, who along with various other members from local organizations participated with the awards ceremony. The new President of Dowling College, Dr. Jeremy D. Brown, was also in attendance, supporting our college along with James in his moment of glory. According to Dr. Brown, “James excels beyond the classroom as President of the Student Government Association and advocates for important initiatives that affect all young adults within the region. It’s gratifying to see students recognized by members of the Long Island business community. We’re proud of him for his commitment to engage and empower his fellow students to reach their potential.”

After attending this conference, James Rhodes is hopeful that the things he and other members of the Dowling College, who attended the Summit, have learned will benefit our own community. Specifically, he cites that the conference gave him a chance to see that, despite differences in agenda and ideals, community leaders can come together and work towards a common goal that benefits all, rather than some.

James’ achievement and the Summit in itself show that Long Islanders’ concerns for the future are being addressed. It is through the mutual effort of everyone involved in Vision Long Island that issues we face will be resolved, and that our area continues to grow into a community that we can be proud to be a part of, rather than the current situation we face with young adults seeking to live elsewhere. For those students interested in Smart Growth and Vision Long Island, the organization can be reached at http://www.visionlongisland.org/.

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