Tag Archives: benjamin Cardozo High School

Benjamin Cardozo HS to graduate first black valedictorian


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THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


Shanelle Davis remembers that her parents instilled in her the importance of education so much that as a child wherever she went during the summer, she had to have a book.

“‘Shanelle, take up a book,’” she recalled her parents saying. “Education was stressed in our house. I had to get good grades.”

Her parents, both from the island of Jamaica, couldn’t afford a college education, but were determined that Davis, 17, would be the first in the family to earn a higher degree.

Since then, Davis has consistently achieved high grades through the years and all that time studying has accomplished more than her parents could have foreseen. Davis will be the first black valedictorian of Benjamin Cardozo H.S., and the cherry on top is she will attend Harvard University starting in the fall.

“Even though the valedictorian itself is an honor because not many people get to be the top student in their class, this is an incredible honor, because I’ve made history,” Davis said.

Davis, a resident of Jamaica, Queens, not only studied hard, but she also took part in various clubs and activities to prepare for the next level.

She took seven Advanced Placement classes, is a member of the school’s National Honor Society and the Gateway Pre-College Education program.

She’s involved in academic enrichment organization Legal Outreach, through which she has participated in debates and interned at law firms in New York City. She has also helped struggling elementary and middle school students prepare for state exams through Future Educators of New York. And besides academics, Davis has been on Cardozo’s track team since sophomore year.

“I had to give up a lot for studying, but I feel like it was worth it in the end,” she said.

Davis is entering Harvard undecided, but plans to use her early semesters to figure out what field she wants to study. What she doesn’t have to think about though, is money.

She will attend the university without paying a dime thanks to a partial scholarship from Harvard as well as outside awards, including the Milken scholarship, the Ron Brown scholarship, and scholarships from the United Federation of Teachers, the National Association of University Women and the YMCA.

“We are living out [my parents’] dream and mine without paying anything,” Davis said.

 

 

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Cardozo wins first baseball championship in nearly 30 years on coach’s birthday


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THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


All season long, and through the post season as well, Benjamin Cardozo senior pitcher Keith Rodgers has been literally unbeatable.

He went 7-0 in the season with a 0.02 ERA (and 3-0 with a 0.04 in the playoffs) and for five innings of the 2014 PSAL division A baseball championship game against Tottenville on Thursday, Rodgers plowed through batters, while holding on to a slim 1-0 lead.

But a fatigued Rodgers found himself in a pickle in the sixth after walking two batters. With two outs, he gave up a single, which scored one run and tied the game at 1-1. It seemed as though Rodgers could have his first loss of the year in the most important game.

Rodgers, however, came through in the final inning with his bat, not his arm, and lined a single into left field to break the tie. The Judges added another run in the inning, then senior Jun Young Lim came in for relief and struck out the side for a 3-1 victory at Yankee Stadium, and Cardozo’s first championship in 26 years. 

“I was just trying to put the ball in play. I didn’t make the best contact, but it got through,” Rodgers said. “I really just tried to lock in the very last (at-bat), make sure I could do something and get a run for us.”

Senior centerfielder Chris Campbell, who will attend Monroe College next year, gave Cardozo the 1-0 lead in the first inning. He blasted a double to right field, sending sophomore infielder Noah Cabrera home.

“We were underdogs coming into this, but we showed that we could complete with any team in the league,” Campbell said.

The win became extra emotional when players began signing happy birthday on the field for head coach Ron Gorecki. Gorecki, who has coached high school baseball for more than four decades around city schools, admitted has never had a team like the 2014 Benjamin Cardozo Judges.

There are a few standouts— specifically seniors Rodgers, Campbell and Lim— but otherwise the team doesn’t have many superstars. So Gorecki works on a system of “synergy,” which he describes as players substituting for others’ weaknesses and working together. He attributed the win to his team philosophy.

“The real bottom line here is that we are synergy, this team is built on synergy,” Gorecki said. “We have guys that can run, we have guys that can’t run, we have guys that can throw, we have guys that can’t throw. So what they do is they substitute for one another.”

 

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Cardozo senior plays music for senior citizens


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Jingyih Lee

PAULINA TAM

Making seniors smile and hearing their cheers is music to Benjamin Cardozo High School senior Jingyih Lee’s ears.

As a junior, Lee created “Reach Out Musicians Club,” an alliance that provides students an outlet to express their interest in music with one another by coming together to play their instruments.

The club performs gratis shows at various Queens senior centers such as the Bayside Senior Center, The Franklin Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, and Union Plaza Care Center.

“During my sophomore year my grandmother had a stroke and she was placed in a rehabilitation center in Flushing,” the 17-year-old said. “When I visited her, I noticed that the seniors there lived a humdrum life — there weren’t any recreational activities for them.”

He later realized funding to provide activities for seniors was cut due to the recession.

Determined to bring what Lee says is “happiness” to the seniors, he started playing the piano at some of the centers’ lobbies.

“Some people would come down to listen and I thought it was pretty satisfying for me and them,” Lee said. “They were smiling so when I started my junior year I thought, ‘Why don’t I make a music club?’”

Lee, who plans to attend the Macaulay Honors Program at City College of New York with a major in engineering in the fall, will pass down the director position to another member of his Musicians Club. Engineering fits in his philosophy of wanting to create inventions that could make the world a little better such as making accessible to people appliances that help simplify their chores.

“What engineering does is solve problems and that is what I want to do,” Lee said. “I want to help out society by using the resources that I have like how my club uses music as a tool to make a positive difference at senior centers.”

One such invention he has in mind is to create a heating pad powered by renewable energy that could be placed on people’s doorsteps and walkways to melt snow during the winter.

“Snow blowers don’t do the job completely because they always leave snow on the ground and that might turn into ice, and that is very dangerous for senior citizens,” Lee said.

Lee experimented with solar energy during a summer program at Columbia University where he worked with other high school students to create solar ovens that baked cookies.

While Lee was a junior, he took three Advanced Placement courses and was a member of the Science Olympiad team. He played on the wrestling team as a sophomore and is now part of the table tennis team.

Finding time for summer programs, academic work, his music club and sports while applying to thirteen colleges was not easy, he said.

“Time management is key,” Lee said. “Work hard but don’t bury yourself in work. Learn how to take the fastest route from point A to point B and don’t give up — just don’t give up.”

 

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Bayside students win $5K in milk carton art contest with Alice in Wonderland set


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy PRNewsFoto/Evergreen Packaging

Got Alice?

Students from Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside won the grand prize of $5,000 in Evergreen Packaging’s Made by Milk Carton Construction Contest by using 1,250 recycled milk cartons to create a life-size theme set of Alice in Wonderland.

The project, entitled “Alice and Absolem’s Milk Made Hideaway,” beat out 98 entries from schools across the country. Teams were required to write a short essay on how the prize money would be used, and Cardozo plans to use the winnings to fund recycled art classes at the school.

“We’re honored to be recognized by Evergreen Packaging for the Alice and Absolem’s Milk Made Hideaway our students created,” said Yvette Bohlman, Cardozo’s sustainability coordinator. “The students put so much work and ingenuity into building their milk carton creation, and learned valuable eco-friendly practices, such as repurposing and recycling, that can be carried out in their everyday lives.”

 

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Benjamin Cardozo HS tennis star takes city title again


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre



She’s done it again.

Benjamin Cardozo junior tennis player Sabrina Xiong became a two-time PSAL individual champion after defeating Stefani Lineva of Forest Hills High School on Wednesday at the National Tennis Center.

Xiong, who ranks first in the PSAL and also in the United States Tennis Association’s under 16 eastern section, was in top form and breezed past Lineva in two sets (6-1, 6-1).

“It’s definitely a feel great feeling just knowing that all my hard work and training paid off,” she said.

Xiong, who has been in contact with NCAA Division 1 college coaches, dreams of turning pro one day but first plans to go to college and major in economics.

But before she heads to the next level, Xiong still has something left to accomplish at the high school level.

During her career at Cardozo, the Judges have come up short in the PSAL team tennis finals for three consecutive years. They lost against Beacon High School (4-1) on May 13— Xiong won the only match in the best of five series.

In her senior year next season she hopes to lead Cardozo to a team championship.

“Cardozo has always been top in tennis,” Xiong said. “Unfortunately, we’ve fallen short in the past three years. It would be great if we got it.”

 

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Cardozo flies over Aviation with shutout in final home game


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Benjamin Cardozo senior Jun Young “David” Lim was humble going into his final high school home baseball game Monday against the Aviation Flyers.

All season long, the Judges were cruising undefeated at the top of the PSAL Queens A East conference, while other schools chased them. But in their most recent game, the John Bowne Wildcats finally caught up and gave Cardozo a 7-6 defeat. Smelling blood, Aviation — the conference’s second place team by a half-game — was looking to upset Cardozo and take the top spot.

“That loss against John Bowne really [motivated] us to do better,” Lim said. “If we didn’t lose, we would have been too cocky. We always come on the field like we’re the best — while that’s a good thing — I think sometimes we have too much confidence and that could damage the team.”

His modesty helped him recognize Aviation as a significant threat, and Lim hurled a complete game shutout, 2-0, with 11 strikeouts and only three hits. With the win, Cardozo (14-1 PSAL) secured at least a tie with Aviation (12-2 PSAL) for the regular season conference title, and denied the Flyers a chance to win the division solo.

The offense was slow for both sides throughout the game. But Cardozo got the advantage after a two-run homer in the top of the third by center fielder Chris Campbell. Campbell, a senior, said he was ecstatic to cap his final high school home game with a homer and the win, and is looking forward to the playoffs.

“You don’t want to look back and say, ‘I could have done this, I could have done that,’” he said. “I have faith in this team, honestly. This year we are more of a family, so I feel we will go much further than in previous years.”

 

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Schools, security improvements win Weprin participatory budgeting


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THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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Schools and security improvement community projects in District 23 are winners of more than $1.1 million in city funding after participatory budgeting voting.

Councilman Mark Weprin announced results Wednesday of the initiative, which allows residents to vote for which community projects their elected officials should allocate money toward.

The top voted project—at 1,166 votes—was smart boards for five schools throughout the district at a cost of $450,000. P.S. 33 will get 40 smart boards, I.S. 109 will get 20, P.S./I.S. 266 will get 15, Benjamin Cardozo High School will receive five and Queens High School of Teaching will get 20.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Jae Cho, principal of Queens High School of Teaching. “Our kids are going to benefit tremendously from it.”

Technology upgrades at two schools, P.S. 135 and P.S. 18, for a cost of $85,785 got fourth place with 699 votes.

Besides schools projects, security initiatives were also popular.

NYPD security cameras within the district, for a cost of $105,000, received 718 votes for third place. The locations for the cameras have yet to be determined. Security upgrades for the Fresh Meadows, Hollis, and Windsor Park Queens Library branches, at $265,000, were the final winners with 671 votes.

A fitness walk and exercise loop at Cunningham Park for $200,000 came in second with 875 votes.

Originally, the initiative allowed for just $1 million, but the voted projects sum went over the limit, so Weprin added an additional $105,785.

This year, 1,888 people from the district voted, an increase of about 60 percent from last year.

“I think it’s great,” Weprin said. “When people get involved in their government they have more respect for their government.”

 

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With hopes of attracting colleges, players participate in city all-star game


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THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

It’s already April but the PSAL’s most prolific scorer of the 2014 basketball season, Nohah Vickers, still doesn’t know which college he will play for next year.

With just a few months remaining in the NCAA college commitment period, several schools have expressed interest in Vickers, but they are still looking at him closely before giving him official offers.

Vickers, a point guard for the Campus Magnet Bulldogs, led the league with 466 points, averaging 33 points and 6.5 assists per game. But the Bulldogs had an undersized team and finished second-to-last in the Queens AA league with a 4-12 record.

Vickers, however, was invited to play in the 2014 Mayor’s Cup All-Star boys basketball game on Saturday, March 29, which featured the top high school seniors from the season.

Some players who participated in the game had already committed to college teams, but the game also had athletes, who, like Vickers, aren’t sure where they’ll end up next year and were playing to display their talents and impress college coaches.

“It definitely helps you with showcasing your talent,” said Vickers, who has been contacted by Delaware State University, among other schools. “Even though it’s an all-star game, you got to hustle, you got to make sure to defend, you know, just the little things to impress [recruiters].”

The PSAL lost 108-86 against the CHSAA in the all-star game, which featured high flying dunks, alley-oops and slick ball handling skills that excited the crowd of fans.

Officials hope the all-star mixing, which is in its fourth year, will not only become a traditional city bragging rights tournament, but eventually become a recognized name for college coaches and recruiters to see city players.

“They more people they are able to get in front of, the more opportunities they are going to have,” said Jeffrey Mohl, vice president of sports marketing for NYC and Company, which organizes the annual all-star event. “And that’s the whole goal, to say seven, eight, nine kids got scholarships or looked at, or opportunities that they wouldn’t have had before this.”

Francisco Williams, a senior forward from the 2014 PSAL champion Benjamin Cardozo High School basketball team, is just another example of a top player who has yet to commit to a school. Williams, whose mother has health problems, is still looking at colleges but is heavily considering staying close to home. He said Long Island University of Brooklyn has expressed interest in him, but he is keeping his options open and hoped the Mayor’s Cup would help showcase his abilities to more coaches.

“This is just a continuation of schools looking at him,” Cardozo head coach Ron Naclerio said of the all-star game. “It’s like dating a girl or marrying. He wants to know schools are looking at him, but we have to find the right one.”

 

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Cardozo wrestling city champs set sights on national tourney


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow  me @liamlaguerre

 

Before Benjamin Cardozo senior Douglas Chau joined the wrestling team, he was, as he put it, a “boring kid.”

Chau, 17, didn’t play any sports, wasn’t in any clubs, didn’t interact with many of his peers and maintained average grades (about 80 percent), before his freshman year in high school.

But wrestling became the catalyst of change for the Bayside resident.

He joined at the recommendation of his older sister, who had friends on the team. And Chau said the first time he trained on the mat, he enjoyed the camaraderie and discipline the sport taught. Since then he said he’s become a more social person, and Chau is set to graduate at the end of this semester with an 89 percent average.

“It made me dedicated to everything that I do,” Chau said. “I found myself more disciplined than I was ever before. I can’t exactly say the reason why I like wrestling, but I can feel it.”

After four years of hard work on the team, Chau won the PSAL Division I wrestling individual city championship at 113 pounds last month, his first city-wide title. A city championship was the goal, but this summer he hopes to win a national championship at the Fargo Wrestling Tournament in North Dakota to complete the mission.

Chau’s teammate and training partner, Steve Kim, a junior at Benjamin Cardozo, is also looking to win a national championship at the Fargo tournament. Kim won the PSAL Division I individual city championships at 145 pounds, and before the summer tournament he’ll compete in a national event in Virginia Beach on March 24 as well.

Unlike Chau, Kim has been wrestling since he was a young child. His older brother taught his techniques at home and in the past he was fond of the WWE, the professional wrestling show.

Kim, 17, has designed a special diet to go with his training that emphasizes natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables and water, and he eats few carbs. It’s a testament to his dedication and desire to win a medal at the next level.

“That would be just beyond my dreams, that’s something unexplainable and unimaginable, to become a national champ,” Kim said.

The pair train about five days a week for two hours a day, sometimes conditioning in the weight room, and other times wrestling each other.

Chau said his Fargo appearance will be his last time on the mat because he’ll focus on studying pre-law at St. John’s University.

But after his personal wrestling experience comes to an end, he plans to start a brand new journey with another goal.

“My plan is to join the coaching staff at Cardozo,” Chau said. “My next mission is to help Cardozo move on and get another city champion.”

 

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Christ the King regains crown, wins back-to-back city championships


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Photo courtesy Rick Atson

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The Royals are once again wearing the city crown.

It was only two weeks ago that the Christ the King boys’ basketball team lost the Brooklyn/ Queens Conference championship game against Bishop Loughlin by nearly 20 points.

But with a renewed focus, the Royals dominated their rivals in a rematch in the CHSAA Class AA intersectional championship game Sunday to come up with a 72-61 victory at Fordham University.

“We were the underdogs coming into the game,” junior forward Travis Atson said. “People didn’t think we would win, but we surprised a lot of people.”

With the win, the Royals continued their era of dominance, becoming back-to-back city champs. Christ the King has also won four city championships in the last five years.

But in previous games recently, Loughlin posed a major threat.

The Lions defeated the Royals in two of their three meetings this season. So to win the city title, Christ the King shifted their focus to tougher defense.

“We didn’t allow any transitions,” Atson said. “We made sure everybody got back and stopped the ball.”

With about four minutes left, the Royals used a 17-3 run ignited by stifling defense to outpace Loughlin.

Sophomore guard Rawle Alkins led Christ the King with 24 points, and Atson, who had a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, was named the tournament MVP.

Atson also played tough defense, holding Loughlin senior guard Javian Delacruz to only eight points.

“Take away his offense, just the eight points that he held Javian Delacruz to, if you’ve done that, then you’ve done your job. I think that’s why he was named the tournament MVP,” Royals coach Joe Arbitello said.

The Royals will play PSAL champion Benjamin Cardozo in a Class AA state Federation semifinal on March 21 at the Times Union Center in Albany.

 

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Cardozo HS boys basketball team wins city crown


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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There has been lots of murmuring about Benjamin Cardozo sophomore guard Rashond Salnave being one of the best basketball players in the city.

Expect those whispers to grow louder after his performance in the PSAL Division AA city championship on Saturday, March 9.

Trailing the Thomas Jefferson Orange Wave by one point at the Barclays Center, Salnave drove hard to the basketball and was fouled while shooting with 2.5 seconds remaining. The shot didn’t go in, but then, despite enormous pressure weighing on him, the sophomore buried two free throws to win the game, 55-54.

“I was nervous, too,” Salnave said. “I’ve been in those situations before, it’s just that the situations before weren’t as big as this one. Some people say I’m only a sophomore and it’s a big feeling, but I knew what I had to do.”

Salnave finished with 16 points, and was 10 of 12 from the free-throw line, to help lead the Cardozo Judges to their first city crown since 1999. He was the undisputed recipient of the league’s MVP award.

After the final buzzer, Salnave and Cardozo head coach Ron Naclerio cried and shared a hug. It was an emotional win because during the 15-year drought between city titles for the Judges, Naclerio said the team faced many hardships, including losing a player he “considered a son” to another school, and Naclerio’s own suspension of a few games during the playoffs last year after he tossed the Queens Borough Championship runner-up plaque.

Naclerio satirically cradled the championship trophy from the time he received the golden basketball, and didn’t let it go while taking tons of pictures with fans, then walking through the halls of the Barclays Center, then during the press conference with reporters, and even in the locker room.

Cardozo senior Francisco Williams embodies the difficulties the team faced during its drought. Williams started as a freshman at the high school, but personal problems, such as joining the wrong crowd and health issues with his mother, forced him to transfer schools. But this academic year he transferred back to Cardozo, and became one of the team’s most complete players.

Williams added 21 points and six rebounds in the win, and was a dominant defensive presence under the rim. The senior was so happy that his return helped win a championship that he was looking to celebrate in a special way.

“I’m really excited,” Williams said. “We’re going to stay up all night tonight. I’ll probably play 2K (NBA 2K14 video game) and go to Hooters.”

 

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Benjamin Cardozo senior wins National Youth Award from Hispanic Heritage Foundation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Hispanic Heritage Foundation photo by Omar Ogues

One Benjamin Cardozo High School senior has received national recognition for her hard work.

Elsa Alvarado, a resident of Glendale, received the National Youth Award in the education category from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) on Thursday for her extracurricular activities and high academic performance.

She was just one of six students—after thousands applied—to earn the honor, which identifies young leaders in the Latino community.

Alvarado, who is of Nicaraguan descent, received a $1,000 grant and a Google Chromebook laptop, along with round-trip accommodations to Miami for the award ceremony.

“This is more than just an award because it speaks to being Hispanic,” Alvarado said. “It unites all the students, because we share the same goals and the same backgrounds.”

Alvarado averages a 3.9 GPA at Cardozo. She is passionate about languages, and is currently fluent in three—English, Spanish and French. She is also learning German.

Alvarado started The Future Educators of New York club at Cardozo last year, which focuses on tutoring children from kindergarten to middle school. There are currently 60 members in the club that teach various subjects.

She aspires to work in developing countries as a language professor and teach children how to communicate and learn the importance of language. She also wants to work as an ambassador in the future.

Alvarado plans to attend Georgetown University, the University of Notre Dame or George Washington University next year, and major in international relations.

“Elsa stood out as a bright, young woman who we believe will make a deep and positive impact on the education system, said Emanuel Pleitez, chair of the HHF’s Board of Directors. “We at the Hispanic Heritage Foundation are constantly searching for passionate students like her to recognize and assist in achieving their goals.”

 

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Benjamin Cardozo wrestler takes first place in citywide tournament


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYC & Company/ Julienne Schaer

When Benjamin Cardozo High School wrestler Adam Gomez gets on the mat, it’s all business.

Gomez enters his own zone, where he focuses only on defeating his opponent for the entirety of the match.

“As we wrestle I don’t pay attention at all to anybody else besides who I’m wrestling and that’s about it,” Gomez, a junior, said.

At the annual NYC Wrestling Mayor’s Cup tournament on Sunday, Gomez was fully locked on to his opponents, as he topped his competition to win the crown in the 106-pound division.

Gomez, who entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, defeated the No. 1 seed John Luke DeStefano of Poly Prep High School in the finals. After wrestling all three rounds with DeStefano, Gomez won the decision with a 4-1 point advantage.

“I’m impressed. He had a really tough opponent in the finals,” said Cardozo wrestling head coach Chris Milani. “It was a great match.”

About 10 schools from Queens were represented at the annual NYC Mayor’s Cup championship at Columbia University. Besides Cardozo, Long Island City, Flushing, Grover Cleveland, Information Tech, William C. Bryant, Springfield Gardens, Hillcrest, Martin Luther School and Lexington School for the Deaf all sent representatives to the mats.

The tournament featured the city’s top 16 wrestlers from the public, Catholic and private schools, in 15 different weight classes.

While Gomez was the only wrestler from Queens to have a first-place finish in their weight category, many of the other athletes enjoyed the experience of competing with top wrestlers from other leagues.

“It’s a big tournament. It’s good to [oppose] people that you don’t usually,” said wrestler Thomas McLoughlin of the Martin Luther School. “You wrestle them all the same. You go out there and you wrestle your game. You don’t wrestle to theirs.”

 

Queens wrestlers results 

  • 99 pound category, Randy Cazales of Flushing High School finished in third place.
  • 106 pound category, Oscar Estudillo of Long Island City High School finished in fifth place.
  • 113 pound category, Abdul Rabbani of Grover Cleveland High School finished in seventh place.
  • 138 pound category, Thomas McLoughlin of Martin Luther School finished in third place.
  • 152 pound category, Shaquille Jones of Hillcrest High School came in fourth place.
  • 160 pound category, Troy Walters of Flushing High School finished fifth place.
  • 170 pound category, Alex Ortiz of Martin Luther School finished in sixth place.
  • 182 pound category, Gabriel Ortega of Grover Cleveland High School finished in fourth place.
  • 195 pound category, Nnamdi Uchendu of Springfield Gardens High School finished in third place.
  • 220 pound category, John Pierre-Louis of Springfield Gardens Hill School finished in third place.
  • 285 pound category, Daniel Pottinger of Benjamin Cardozo High School finished in sixth place.

 

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One-arm Benjamin Cardozo High School cheerleader hopes to continue dancing in college


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

In every aspect Benjamin Cardozo High School senior Kayla Garcia is an average teenage girl.

She goes to parties with her friends, complains about the length of the SAT, and is still contemplating which college to attend next year.

But Kayla, 17, was born without her right forearm.

“When I first had her I was worried, is she going to ride a bike?” said Cindy, Kayla’s mother. “But then I was like, it’s stupid to worry about stuff like that. She’s healthy, there is nothing mentally wrong with her, those are the kind of challenges that are probably harder to overcome.”

Kayla, who is a member of Cardozo’s step team and cheerleading squad, is just fine with her body and is hoping to continue dancing in college.

She wants to major in psychology, while participating on the cheerleading and stepping teams at the next level. Kayla is considering a wide range of schools, including Dickinson College, Hofstra University, Wesleyan University or Ithaca College, among others.

“I’m excited for that, I’m not nervous for college,” Kayla said. “I’m just wondering where I am going to go.”

Her right arm is stunted to about her elbow, but the Flushing teen uses the ligament naturally, such as to brush aside her long, wild hair when strands creep in front of her face.

During her years in Cardozo she has done various extracurricular activities, including volunteering at local organizations and events, such as the Dribble for a Cure cancer fundraiser at St. John’s University with the cheerleading team. She is also part of Cardozo’s Leadership Class, the student government group that oversees all club activities, parties and numerous events for the more than 4,000 students enrolled in the school.

Kayla performs with the step club during the school’s popular basketball games, and the cheerleading squad at the football games.

She shines with confidence, despite the missing limb, because Kayla has been attending support groups since she was about three years old with her mother to meet with parents and other children in similar situations.

Cindy heard some advice that stuck with her from the groups, which influenced the way she raised Kayla. “Your kid is normal, how people perceive her that’s their problem. Raise her like you would any other kid and she’ll be fine,” Cindy recalled.

And she followed through. When Kayla was about eight years old, Cindy pushed her into salsa dance classes.

Kayla developed a love for dancing, which years later she used to be accepted into Cardozo, after auditioning her talents for the school’s performing dance program.

Looking towards the future Kayla doesn’t think she will cheer or do dancing for a career. She also doesn’t want a right forearm.

Since she never had one, she doesn’t even miss it.

“I’m so used to doing everything with one. Doing it with two would throw me off,” Garcia said. “I am just used to being this way I wouldn’t want [a prosthetic arm].”

 

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Bayside teen to vie for Miss New York Teen USA 2014


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Rachel Xing

It would be a dream come true, literally, if Rachel Xing wins Miss New York Teen USA next year.

The 16-year-old from Bayside is entering her first pageant in January to fulfill a possible prophecy her mother had while five months pregnant with her.

“When I was really little, my mom told me she had a dream she would have a girl who would attend a pageant and win,” Xing said. “At the time, she didn’t even know if she was having a boy or girl.”

Her mother, Bo Qian, said she woke up and “knew it would be a girl.” One month later, a doctor confirmed it.
Qian said telling the story multiple times sparked her daughter’s interest in pageants.

“I told her she had to get a good SAT score first,” Qian said. “She studied hard. She wants to do it, and I support her.”

The borough beauty will compete for the preliminary title from January 17 to 19 at Purchase College’s Performing Arts Center. The winner of the contest will represent the state at the national 2014 Miss Teen USA pageant next summer.

“I’m really excited. I can’t wait to see what will happen and what I will learn from the experience,” said Xing “But I’m slightly nervous because I don’t have any experience whatsoever. This is completely new to me.”

The teen said she plans to “look up a million videos on pageants” online, attend etiquette classes, possibly hire a pageant coach and find sponsors to help fund the $1,500 entrance fee.

Xing said the coveted trophy would mean she would be a role model for other girls.

The junior whiz kid has a 4.3 GPA at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School and is an aspiring doctor.

“If she wins, I think it’ll recognize that she can learn many things, not just academically,” Qian said.

The winner of the national competition will spend a year as a teen ambassador.

“I would feel like it would be an honor to represent Bayside and my state,” Xing said.

 

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