The Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) Office of Student Affairs, Office of Accessibility and Office of Academic Affairs — in collaboration with AHRC New York City — hosted the Second Annual Melissa Riggio Faculty Year-End Celebration on May 24 at the BMCC campus.
The Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program engages young adults with disabilities in academic and social experiences, and provides a CUNY-based program in four boroughs of New York City.
BMCC joined the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program in 2015. Coordinated by Nicole Leach, Assistant Director in the BMCC Office of Accessibility, the program brings together BMCC professors with Melissa Riggio students who audit their classes with the assistance of a CUNY student mentor.
“The purpose of the May 24 event was to recognize faculty who participated in the project,” says Leach. “The Melissa Riggio students, supported by a BMCC student mentor, have a very positive experience. Their self-esteem changes dramatically. They’re so incredibly happy to be part of the college community. They make friends and do the work. It’s transformative.”
Three students; Sean, Joseph and Shayleen, attended the luncheon and spoke about their experience. Their artwork was displayed around the room.
Michael Decker, Chief Operating Office at AHRC, presented the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Scholarship Awards to Esmeralda Bretoux and Gabrielle Richards, two BMCC alumni who are serving as mentors to the Melissa Riggio students at BMCC.
“We’re very thankful for this community at CUNY and BMCC,” Decker said. “There are 80 Melissa Riggio students throughout CUNY and about 10 at BMCC. It’s emblematic of BMCC — a community college — that when we talk about community, we include people with disabilities.”
Michael Hutmaker, BMCC Dean for Student Affairs; Marva Craig, BMCC Vice President of Student Affairs and Barbara Bookman, University Director for Disability Programs, were also in attendance.
Other special guests included Nikki Spicer, Program Director, and Jessica Giorgio, Community Support Supervisor, who are both with the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program at AHRC.
BMCC professors share their experience
Margaret Carson, BMCC Professor of Modern Languages, had two Melissa Riggio students in her Spanish class. “Both Joseph and Sean brought into the class, knowledge of other languages including Spanish, German and Swiss,” she says. “Learning a language is like taking a journey, and we had fun learning from each other along the way.”
Professor of History Jacob Kramer is also part of the program. “My Melissa Riggio student, Charlie, did a good job interpreting the material into his own words,” he said.
Modern Languages Professor Kristina Varade said, “The Melissa Riggio student in my class was one of the first to ask questions, and that opened up the conversation for other students.”
According to English Professor Aimee Rexcord, “having the Melissa Riggio students in my class set the tone for us to be a community in the classroom. They contributed to the maturity of our classroom.”
Other BMCC faculty who have been involved in the project include Jessica Ramirez, Philip Belcastro, Simon Carr, Patricia Genova, Michael Morford, Glenda Blakely, Karl Williams, John Johnson, Kerry Ruff, Michael Mazzeo, Thaddeus Radell, Michael Basile, James Dennis Hoff and Chaumtoli Huq.
Related Article: BMCC Partners with Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program