Compassion after Sandy: Staten Island L.E.A.D. Honors Local High Schools

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hurricane Sandy left a trail of devastation across the Northeast, and few areas were hit as hard as Staten Island. But even as their borough endured fierce damage, Staten Island residents rolled up their sleeves and took action – and local high schools played a major part in the reconstruction efforts.

In recognition of this fact, St. John’s University honored many of these remarkable Staten Island high schools during the Eighth Annual Leaders in Education Awards Dinner (L.E.A.D.), held at the beautiful Hilton Garden Inn. Owned by alumni Richard Nicotra ’76NDC, ’86HON and his wife, Lois (Malko) Nicotra ’77NDC, ’83GEd, the Hilton served as the perfect backdrop as 23 schools in total were acknowledged for their relief efforts.

Read more about how the 23 honored high schools served their communities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy

“Unlike previous L.E.A.D. dinners, this year’s event honors entire schools – not individuals – for how they assisted the community in the aftermath of Sandy,” said Jerrold Ross, Ph.D., Dean of St. John’s the School of Education. “As you all know, the spirit of St. John’s is to aid those who are most in need, and the schools being honored tonight certainly followed that same mission.”

Indeed, this year’s L.E.A.D. proved to be a true celebration of Staten Island, as heartwarming stories were told of how each of these schools served their local communities on Staten Island. Some were praised for the generous tuition assistance they provided to students burdened by the storm, while other schools were recognized for offering shelter to those who had lost their homes.

“Sandy truly touched everyone on this island,” said Angela Ferrando ’81GEd, Principal of St. Joseph Hill Academy High School. “You can’t single out just one person – we performed these relief efforts as a team – and that’s why tonight’s event is so spectacular.”

Ferrando recalled how, in the weeks after Sandy, St. Joseph Hill Academy provided thousands of dollars in immediate tuition assistance to families suffering from storm damage.

“Some families had lost their entire homes,” she explained. “It was truly remarkable how much money we were able to raise from donors, alumni and businesses to help those who truly needed it. It’s just another example of how Staten Islanders were helping their neighbors.”

Meanwhile, Aurelia Curtis ’11GEd, Principal of Curtis High School, remembered how her students, less than 24 hours after the storm hit, worked tirelessly to help victims escape their homes and dispose of destroyed furniture. Everyone, she noted, chipped in to do their part.

“In a case like that, it takes a village,” Curtis said. “And it’s not all about the physical labor. One of our staff members, for example, designed a t-shirt and sold it to raise funds during the aftermath. So, as you can see, there are just so many creative stories like that, of how people on Staten Island showed their true compassion.”

As the awards ceremony came to a close, Kathleen Curatolo, Associate Superintendent for Leadership and Recruitment, Office of the Superintendent of Schools of the Archdiocese of New York, spoke of the importance of honoring educators, especially when those educators make a difference in the community.

“There are a multitude of heartwarming stories,” she noted. “For example: after Sandy struck, the faithful men of Monsignor Farrell High School were one of the first groups to organize relief efforts. Moore Catholic High School, meanwhile, ‘adopted’ a family to make a difference, while Notre Dame Academy contacted real estate agents to help displaced families find apartments.”

She added, “These stories go on and on. And although educators and their schools don’t often receive recognition, it’s truly remarkable that St. John’s is honoring them all on this very special night at this wonderful L.E.A.D. dinner.”