May 21, 2020
Ana Maldonado, the Class of 2020 valedictorian at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY), maintained a 4.0 GPA while working at the 9/11 Museum in Visitor Services, completing an internship at ARK Media in Brooklyn and participating in the BMCC chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), Phi Theta Kappa and BMCC Learning Academy.
Also during her time at BMCC, she has made six short films, on topics as playful as being trapped in an elevator with an irritable stranger, and as serious as immigration issues.
“I like documentaries,” she says. “I have a passion for editing and every time I come up with an idea for a film, I think about the impact that idea can have on the world. I hope to raise environmental or social justice awareness. BMCC has given me the tools to fight for my goals and to push myself to the limit.”
Ana moved with her sister Angie and their parents from Bogota, Colombia in 2016 to stay with a family friend in Connecticut.
The two sisters made learning English their first priority, and commuted into Manhattan to attend an English language school.
“It was really expensive, but we did that for two years,” says Ana. During that time, she also worked as a cashier at Penn Station, where she met her husband, a member of the National Guard and who was deployed to Kuwait right after they got married in 2017.
Soon after, their parents returned to Colombia and the two sisters found an apartment in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Both entered BMCC; Ana as a Media Arts and Technology major and Angie as a psychology major. To help with the transition, Ana left her job in Penn Station for one with hours that worked around her class schedule; this time at a restaurant on 23rd Street in Manhattan.
Things got even better when she found a position at the 9/11 Museum, close to the BMCC campus.
“I saw that the 9/11 Museum Visitor Services was offering a better opportunity to grow,” Ana says. “The institution is very supportive of employees who are working and going to school. You get to meet a lot of people and hear a lot of stories.”
Stories are what Ana is most interested in. An aspiring documentary filmmaker, she has made six films at BMCC.
“My first one was about immigration, a 10-minute film about a friend from Mexico who crossed the border six times,” she says. “He talks about why he came here, about being robbed by the coyote who led him over the border, and what happened when he was detained by immigration.”
She also made a 15-minute documentary on José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano, president of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015 who had been imprisoned during that country’s military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.
“He has made a lot of speeches around the world about equality and poverty,” Ana says. “His story is pretty amazing. When he was president he reduced his own salary. He didn’t live in the presidential residence and he didn’t spend money on cars and other things like the leaders before him.”
Another film she made is a comedy. “I called it ‘The Cigarette,’ and it’s about a pregnant woman who gets trapped in an elevator with a bad-tempered guy who wants to smoke a cigarette,” Ana says. “I was still learning; I have some shots out of focus, continuity issues. I filmed it in a friend’s building and we had to keep stopping to let people take the elevator.”
During this time, in addition to her job at the 9/11 Museum and BMCC classes and activities, Ana secured an internship at ARK Media, a non-fiction production company in Brooklyn.
“I got that through a professor, Shari Mekonen, from BMCC,” Ana says. “She took me to a DOC NYC event, and I met Barak Goodman, the founder of ARK Media, a filmmaker whose work has been nominated for an Oscar. I talked to him about his company and if there were opportunities for internships, and he connected me with them.”
That internship started in January 2020, and once the city went into lockdown, she worked remotely.
“Mostly I did research and would have done editing if the pandemic hadn’t happened,” Ana says. “At Ark, they have a lot of ideas they sell to PBS, HBO and National Geographic, documentaries that are mostly about political issues, or the environment. I did research to help with the presentations and pitch their ideas.”
She credits BMCC Media Arts and Technology Professor Anastassios Rigopoulos, an award-winning filmmaker whose credits include Texas and the Death Penalty and Greeks and Americans, with helping to guide her through these projects.
James Nadeau, a staff person in the BMCC Learning Academy, also comes to mind when Ana looks back on the support she got at BMCC. “He helped me with my transfer applications to get a bachelor’s degree and he helped me understand my options and apply for scholarships, as well,” she says.
Her next step, she says, is to earn a bachelor’s degree in filmmaking and continue making documentaries. She has applied to both Hunter College and City College, CUNY, as well as Pratt and the School of Visual Arts, both of which offered her a scholarship.
She leaves BMCC not only with a strong sense of film narrative, as well as technical skills.
“At BMCC, I also learned the editing software Avid Media Composer, how to use lighting, how to shoot a scene, cut it and fix the shot,” she says. “I have my own video camera, and for Christmas, my sister gave me a lighting set. Everything I have is small, but it works, and I can keep using it to make films.”
- Ana Maldonado, Class of 2020 valedictorian, maintained a 4.0 GPA while working at the 9/11 Museum and completing an internship at ARK Media in Brooklyn
- She also participated in the BMCC chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, Phi Theta Kappa and BMCC Learning Academy
- At BMCC she learned narrative and technical skills, and made six short films on political and other themes