Monday, May 18, 2009

City Life

Coming Home Again, And Again
By Alyssa Schwartz

To most Americans, Europe is a continent of beauty and travel, a vacation spot. But for Elana Delasos, Europe is more than a beautiful vacation destination, it is a second home.

Meeting Delasos for the first time, one would never guess that she lived anywhere too far from New York City. Her voice has a recognizable northeastern tint and she wears simple jeans and a tee shirt during an interview in which her computer screensaver of the Eiffel Tower sparked a conversation about travel. Delasos has not only traveled to different countries, she has lived in them, as well.

Elana Delasos on one of her many trips to Paris.

Delasos spent her childhood moving between Europe and the US. She lived in Connecticut until she was in kindergarten, when her family moved to Paris. “My father worked for IBM and he had to move there for work, so of course at that age you go where your parents go,” says Delasos. “It wasn’t too drastic of a change because I was so young that I was easily able to adapt.”

Delasos lived in Paris until third grade when her family moved back to the US. “It was a little bit harder moving this time, because in third grade you are more aware of your friends and the fact that a big change is occurring,” says Delasos. “Still, I was young so it didn’t really faze me too much. I was excited to go back to see my grandparents and family. ”

Delasos remained in Connecticut, making new friends and re-adapting to American life. One might think that moving back to the US might be a difficult change, but Delasos explains that it was easier than expected. “I quickly adapted to life back in the United States. I made friends quickly, I had my family. After the initial move, I settled down pretty quickly,” she says.

Delasos, left, and a friend in Paris.

Delasos and her family lived in Connecticut until she was in the sixth grade, when she discovered she would be moving back to Paris. “I was so excited by the news” she says. “As excited as I was, I will admit that it was tough. I had close friends and I did have fears that leaving would put a strain on these friendships. It was also hard to say goodbye to my family, especially my grandparents.”

Delasos lived in Paris for two years, soaking up the culture and sights, enjoying it even more than the first time she lived there. “I appreciated it so much more this time,” says Delasos. “I really got the change to take in the culture and learn from it and appreciate it. I loved being there. I acquired my love for travel and for their language and culture. I’m still interested in it today.”

Although Delasos loved her life in Paris, she admits that there were certain things about America that she missed sorely. “American food, especially diners,” she says. “Television is another big one. A lot of American television shows that I had got interested in did not air in Paris.” She laughs and explains that, “at age 13, television and music was really important. It was weird not having that. I missed it a lot.”

After two more years in Paris, Delasos’s family moved back to the US so she could start high school. “It was such a bittersweet move. I was sad to leave my friends there, but I was excited to be back to the United States and see my friends here,” she says.

Delasos kept in contact with her US friends, but she describes feeling slightly out of the loop after making the move. “It was weird. My friends had all of these stories and memories between them. Plus, they shared interests in things like television shows that I had no idea about. I missed out on a lot – but I certainly don’t regret it.”

Delasos finished high school in Connecticut and moved to New York City for college. She knew going into college that she wanted to take part in a study abroad program and found one that allowed her to spend her junior year in London. “It was my first time being back in Europe since I had left Paris,” says Delasos. “I could not have been more excited. It was such a great experience. Not only did I go with my friends from college, but also I got to see my old friends from Paris. It was such a great semester.”

Delasos, right, and a friend in London.

Even though the moves may have been difficult at times, Delasos doesn’t regret one minute of her time in Europe. “I feel so lucky. I learned so much, like how to adapt easily, which is a great quality to have. It also made me extremely close with my family, because no matter where we lived and where we were going, we always stuck together and had each other,” she says.

Although she does not have definite plans to return to Europe, Delasos says she would, “love to live there with my family, at least for some period of time. It’s an experience everyone should have.”

Music & Muscians

Faithfully Pursuing Her Music Career
By Damaris Colon

A frustrated father, gazing at fresh pen marks and a cut in the family’s leather sofa, sought answers from his two year-old, noodle-haired daughter.

“Jessie, do you know who did this?”

“Yes, me,” she replied.

“Would you like to tell me why,” her father questioned.

“Because mommy made me mad,” a young Jessica Nunez-Mattocks responded honestly, and her father tried desperately to keep from laughing in order to teach his child a lesson.

Looking back on that exchange with her father, Nunez-Mattocks remembers “the greatest childhood ever,” which some friends compared to the Cosbys. She remembers her house always being busy and having a great relationship with her three sisters.

Although Nunez-Mattocks now calls New York home, she was a military baby who spent a great deal of her childhood traveling between Germany, New York, and Maryland. Nunez-Mattocks credits her outlook on life to her upbringing in Europe, as well as her parents exposing her and her siblings to different cultures at a young age. Now 23, Nunez-Mattocks is pursuing a career as a singer, songwriter, and stylist/designer, and credits her parents for giving her the freedom to pursue those creative interests.

Jessica Nunez-Mattocks records under the artist name
JessieADORE and is working on a new album.

Nunez-Mattocks has been singing since “forever,” before she could talk, according to family members. She perfected her craft as an ambitious high school vocal major attending the Duke Ellington School of Arts in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

In high school, Nunez-Mattocks says she was friends with nearly everyone -- jocks, cheerleaders, mathletes, artsy students, and older kids. She nicknamed Oodles for her noodle-shaped locks and was dubbed the honorary cool kid from New York.

Nunez-Mattocks is critical of current music i
ndustry trends.

Nunez-Mattocks, currently single, is highly focused on her goals. She says she works everyday to strengthen her relationship with Jesus, whom she describes as “the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

When asked about the state of music right now, Nunez-Mattocks becomes very passionate. “I am rather disgusted with the state of music right now. It lacks substance. People who are considered the "best" are only that because any real competition is blackballed and the only other artists around for them to be compared to are talentless,” she says.

Nunez-Mattocks records under the artist name JessieADORE and is working on releasing an EP, “The Heathen’s Epiphany.” (Listen to a few songs here).

Nunez-Mattocks may feel frustrated with the music industry now because she is a new artist who must battle against such established songstresses as Beyonce and Rihanna to gain recognition. Nunez-Mattocks says she wants to be a true artist, who is seen for her talent and not judged on anything other than her music.
However, one can’t help but note Nunez-Mattocks’ fashionable and trendy style. She has already received recognition from Clutch Magazine, where she describes her personal style as classic.

When asked where she sees herself in the next five years, she says, “I try not to kid myself by mapping out where I’ll be in the future. I have done that so often in this process we call “maturing” and there are always so many variables, and things that work out better than you could ever imagine. I just allow God to direct me...surely His way is guaranteed success.”

City Life

Welcome To Looseworld
By Sydney Zarp

The clock strikes midnight, and a sea of yellow taxis roll up to Broome and Centre Streets. Model-like girls and dudes wearing Nike kicks pour out of the cars and flood down the stairs to the entrance of the club Southside. As they pass a rowdy crowd they cannot help but laugh at the people who have been waiting for similar treatment.

Skyler Gross, the co-founder of Looseworld.

Overcome by the thumping music, this crowd of 20-somethings is taken from the real world and welcomed into another dimension. These silver spoon babies will easily dry the bar, ordering shots upon shots on to each other’s open bar tabs. For the next five hours nothing matters except who will hook-up with whom. They are not worried about rejoining reality until early the next morning.

This is Thursday. This is Looseworld.

Skyler Gross, 22, was born in Malibu, California which is squeezed between the Pacific Ocean and Hollywood, which explains his distinct laid back demeanor. His privileged childhood is illustrated by colorful memories of his extravagant “Barmitzfa” and his foreign travels. Thinking back to when he was 10, Gross remembers posing for a book cover. “I modeled for a book cover about jaded children in Hollywood. I guess they were right,” he says.

Regardless of his lavish upbringing, Gross knows what it means to work hard. Building his own company from the ground up, Gross has proved that he understands the value of the dollar.

Whether filming his senior thesis, “French Diss,” or throwing his Looseworld events, Gross knows how to acquire and use his resources to his advantage. His drive and motivation comes from his childhood of watching his father live the ‘good life.’ He realized that in order to live an easy life he had to find his niche in the business world.

His company, Looseworld, is a new media marketing and distribution platform. “We have a blog,, where we feature special artist from all mediums,” Gross says. “Then once a month, we have an event called Looseworld Presents where we invite people who will want to invest in the artist we are featuring.”

Gross’s ultimate goal is to eventually evolve into a production company and open a store where they sell both Looseworld gear and gear of the featured artist. Gross’s attitude and business approach are far from stereotypical. Take his company name for example, Looseworld.

“Looseworld is a way of life. Loose is what you make of it,” he says.

Gross explains that his life has always been loose and proves his point by telling a story about when he was 16. “During high school I went to a school in Switzerland, called TASIS. It was all because of one Monday night I was caught smoking weed in my room, and my parents decided to send me to Switzerland,” he says. “It was supposed to be a punishment for always getting in trouble for dumb shit, but really it was the best three years of my life. How could it not be? I was in another country doing whatever I wanted.”

It is stories like these that set Gross apart from the typical businessmen. Gross admits that he is lazy, but school was not that difficult for him. “I knew how to get the most from doing the least.” Sweet-talking his teachers and charming his way through work has been his strategy for the past 16 years. Now with a company on the line, Gross is learning that his swagger has become a part of the business. Keeping up a ‘loose’ lifestyle is all a part of the game and is a factor that catches investors’ attention, he says.

Alex Bittan, 22, co-founder of Looseworld, confesses the he always knew that he would end up working with Gross. “We grew up together, so we know each other down to the core,” Bittan says. “We both know what we want out of our lives, and quickly figured out what we have to do to get there.”

Most soon-to-be college graduates are dreading the day when they leave the comfort of school. Some students are looking into other options after college, because they have realized that there aren’t many jobs available right now.

A recent survey found that 71% of companies say they plan to hire fewer people this year than they have in the past. The Washington Post said that, “Seventy-three percent of today's graduating seniors will leave college with student loan debt, at an average of about $23,000. This means that about 70% of the 2009 college graduates will move back home after receiving their degree.”

Many of these graduates may be forced to return home to live with mom and dad to save money, and get a local job in their hometowns. But not Gross. Obviously his business is just beginning to emerge and has yet to reach its goal. But, the success of the previous three events sponsored by Looseworld, and the thousands of daily hits to the blog is a sign that that they are moving in the right direction. And, there is a waiting list for Looseworld apparel, but the guys made me an exception and hooked me up with gear.

At the end of May, Gross will graduate from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts with honors, and will soon be ready to hit the real world, with no intention of moving home.

“This is what I want; this is what I have always wanted,” he says.

Art And Artists

Not Your Average School Experience
By Alexandra Gardell

Ask the people you know about their high school experience and you’ll likely get a myriad of stories about annual school musicals, Friday night football games, bad cafeteria food, stressful exams, field trips, and large graduation ceremonies. It seems like the modern collective American school experience, whether public or private, encompasses all or at least some of these experiences.

Imagine, however, if this was not your experience at all. Imagine that your kitchen was your classroom and your mother was your teacher for all of your school years, day in and day out. You could never play hooky, or tell the teacher that your dog ate your homework. Your mom knew when you were sick and she knew that you didn’t have a pet dog.

David Felicie and Michelle Kakalecz in a recent performance at Lincoln
Center with the non-profit ballet troupe, the Performing Arts Ensemble.

According to a 2006 New York Times article, “Home Schoolers Content to Take Children’s Lead,” in recent years, about 1.1 million children in the US received their education at home. Among them were David Felicie and Michelle Kakalecz.

Both Felicie, 22, and Kakalecz, 20, are from New Jersey and were taught at home by their mothers. Both are disciplined, hard working, active members of their communities and pursue their dreams. And although they share a similar background in their curriculums and interests, their experiences with education are unique.

Felicie grew up in a large household, the fourth of six siblings. And his mother taught them all. “My mother thought homeschooling was the best decision because it would create more of a one-on-one learning atmosphere, rather than a one-on-twenty or one-on-thirty environment,” says Felicie. “Another reason was to keep us out of trouble. We were living in Staten Island in a rough neighborhood and moved to New Jersey when I was ten and continued to homeschool.”

How does one give a thorough education to six kids, all different ages, at once? The Felicies had a system. “The two oldest were in the same grade, the next two, myself and my older brother Joey, were in the same grade, and the youngest, Bethany and Josh were in the same grade,” explained Felicie. “Basically the youngest of each pair got bumped up a year so that my mother was teaching three grade levels instead of six at a time.”

David Felicie in a recent performance of Beauty and the Beast, produced
by the Performing Arts Ensemble, discovered his dance talents while
attending vocational school.

This is not an unheard of practice in home education, and think of this: kids in any given public or private classroom may be a year or two apart in age. “Throw away that grade level thing. It's a way of comparing children, and in a home setting just isn't necessary,” said Mary McCarthy, co-founder of the New Jersey Homeschool Association said in an article from Home Education Magazine. “Then see if you can combine several children in one subject. I've never seen it written anywhere that children can't work together on learning.”

It worked for the Felicie family, and it also helped them focus on family bonds.

Kakalecz is the youngest of three. Her oldest brother attended private school, and her other brother was homeschooled from eighth grade on. Kakalecz’s mother decided to educate her daughter herself, using a pre-determined curriculum and a series of extracurricular activities and learning programs.

Setting the curriculum
Homeschoolers have many options in deciding their curriculum. Both Felicie and Kakalecz used the A Beka system, which was created by the founders of Pensacola Christian College in Florida. “We would order our textbooks and videos through A Beka, but my mom would also add her own lesson plans,” said Felicie.

Kakalecz’s mother, Gayle, would attend events called curriculum fairs, where all the different companies that produced textbooks and other learning materials would showcase their products to homeschoolers. This is where the Kakaleczs got their materials, like those from A Beka.

In addition to textbooks, A Beka offered videos with daily lessons that gave students the feeling of a classroom. Sometimes they had other students at desks, other times just a teacher at the front of the room.

The videos weren’t a replacement for one-on-one interaction, however. “I don't think the videos were that effective though; they didn't really explain how to do things; they gave the problem and then the answer, they moved too fast sometimes,” says Felicie. “My mom would do most things manually, and really teach us on her own.”

Kakalecz said one of the good things about the A Beka videos was that if she did not fully understand something she could call in and someone would talk her through the problem. Making a phone call may have been more difficult than raising your hand in a classroom, but there was help available if you needed it. In addition to A Beka, Kakalecz also used other curriculums for various subjects, such as Algebra and Geometry.

Homeschooling is not “unschooling,” explained Gayle Kakalecz. She says the unschooling approach to learning is where parents do not set a curriculum but rather encourage their children to learn by experience alone. “They go out into nature and learn from nature, they learn from making things. Homeschooling is more instructed,” she says.

Even with a curriculum, though, homeschooling gives kids and their parents’ chances to customize the curriculum to fit their interests and allows room for creativity. “Michelle read a variety of books, such as Pride and Prejudice,” says Gayle Kakalecz. “Once she wanted to see the musical The Scarlet Pimpernel and I told her she had to finish the book first.”

Felicie stressed that he endured a rather strict curriculum. “We were taught English, math, science, everything that you do in public school. If you didn't complete that day's assignments you couldn't do what was considered recess, anything fun like going outside,” he says. “Sometimes I would goof off and not want to do my work, so I would end up inside while everyone else was outside, doing my school work until 8 p.m., maybe even twelve at night.”

Now a very conscientious adult, Felicie gained from these experiences. “I learned to work hard though, and to always complete my responsibilities.”

Just like most other students, homeschoolers can take standardized tests and exams like the SATs. “I took the SAT and the PSAT at Middletown North,” the public high school Kakalecz was zoned to attend if she had not opted for homeschooling. “I took the tests where you fill in the bubbles,” she said with a laugh, the familiar standardized tests, at the school her brother previously attended.

What do the professionals think?
Twila Liggett, a professor of Education at Marymount Manhattan College and creator of the famed educational television program Reading Rainbow says that, “Some parents feel they can offer a richer, more interdisciplinary approach to learning. Some kids just find it hard to be in an overly structured environment and do much better with homeschooling.”

No two situations are exactly alike, and there is no definite answer to what is the best way to obtain an education. The most important thing, Liggett says is that, “Parents should be intellectually curious and willing to spend the time it takes to do the job.”

Interacting with others
Growing up with so many close siblings, mostly all boys, Felicie always had someone to hang out with. Conversely, Kakalecz was the baby of the family, and the only girl. No matter the size of the family, though, homeschoolers have opportunities to get together with kids their age, just like in traditional school.

Kakalecz completed all of her core curriculum at home under the instruction of her mother, but often got together with other local homeschoolers for special activities.

“We met with a group called REAP for ‘Geography Nights.’ We would research a different country each time, learn about the culture, and prepare foods from that country to share with everyone,” said Kakalecz. “I studied French and Spanish with a group, and we would even learn cross-stitch and sewing at one of the girls grandmother’s house.”

In addition to the group’s organized swimming at the YMCA, Kakalecz always got her physical education from gymnastic and dance classes. “I took ballet almost every single day,” she says.

Felicie had a network of other homeschoolers as well. “Homeschoolers that were affiliated with A Beka in the area would network and organize events, things like field trips. We would go roller-skating, bowling, go to farms and take care of and feed animals, all different things,” he recounted. Kakalecz shares similar experiences with day trips as supplementary education.

And what about the prom? “We had a prom that was organized by some of the parents where they would rent out a big hall and all of the local junior and senior year homeschoolers would go,” says Felicie. “We could bring "outsiders" as dates, just like other proms.”

Both Felicie and Kakalecz had high school graduation ceremonies. Kakalecz acquired her GED from a vocational program. Felicie had a ceremony with other homeschoolers in the area. He added, “I finished my high school studies early and graduated at 16 because I actually skipped a grade.”

Life after graduation
After graduation, Felicie attended a two-year vocational program that was part of his local county college. He started studies in landscaping but once he got there he switched to dance, saying he was part of what they called the "Jump Start Program."

At this time Felicie began cultivating his natural talents with formal education in dance. He had always played around with break dancing and hip hop, but this “jump start” actually turned out to be a grand jete that helped to move Felicie towards classical ballet, which became a passion. Felicie has since attended numerous intensive programs, and has performed as a professional dancer and choreographer. He also works as a dance instructor.

Kakalecz is currently a Liberal Arts major at Brookdale Community College. “I am finishing my second full semester now, but I had taken two other classes at Brookdale before starting fulltime to get used to going,” she says.

Kakalecz says she feels like she had a full, well-balanced experience thanks to her involvement in many different activities while being homeschooled. She is very active member of a non-profit ballet company, The Ballet Company of the Performing Arts Ensemble, where she met Felicie, who is also a member of the Ensemble. She’s involved in various volunteer efforts, including at the Holocaust, Genocide, & Human Rights Education Center at her college.

On Felicie’s homeschooling experience, he says, “I think it turned out to be the best thing for us.”

City Life

All Work And No Sleep
By Adriana Lorenzo

You can be categorized as a night owl or an early bird. There are even entire cities that are jokingly referred to as ones that never sleep. Then there are the rare groups of people that are busy at work as the rest of the country sleeps. As the majority of America is settling into their pajamas and curling up under their covers, the night shifts commence.

Yamile Gloria, center, and hospital co-workers.

Yamile Gloria, 23, is a registered nurse in the Pulmonolgy Division of the Miami Children’s Hospital, and has been working the night shift for the last two years. “On a typical work day, I will get to work around 6 p.m. and not be home until 8 a.m. the next morning,” says Gloria. “So there is nothing typical about my work day really. My hours are long and weird, and my schedule never coincides with any of my friends and family.”

Immediately after graduating from the University of Miami, Gloria landed this job, which was exactly in the field she was interested. She would be working with children, and the pay and benefits were ideal. The only catch? She would be working the dreaded night shift.

“At first I couldn’t picture myself working such crazy hours, but I felt it was a small price to pay for having my dream job,” says Gloria. “Sure, I have had to reschedule my life around my odd hours, but every minute and sleep deprived night has been worth it.”

The hospital is undeniably a prestigious place of employment in Miami. On the Miami Children’s website, the hospital prides itself as “South Florida’s only licensed specialty hospital exclusively for children” and is “renowned for excellence in all aspects of pediatric medicine with several specialty programs ranked among the best in the nation in 2008 by US News & World Report.”

Landing the job was the perfect pay off for Gloria, who had been working very hard in nursing school. As a registered in the Pulmonology Division, Gloria works with children ranging in ages from newborns to about 18 years old, who suffer from illinesses as common as asthma to more serious conditions like cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis and pneumonia.

“Working with kids is the best part of my job,” Gloria says. “It breaks your heart to think of a sick child, but the most rewarding part of my job is that I get to help these kids through their illness. It is the most satisfying feeling to know I am making a difference in a child’s life.”

But not every story of every child Gloria encounters has a happy ending. As expected in a hospital setting, Gloria and her colleagues have had their share of heartbreak and disappointment.

“The worst nights for me have been when a patient takes a turn for the worse, or even worse, has passed away,” Gloria says. “We have made bonds with these children and their families, and of course have been working extremely hard to return them to perfect health.”

Gloria recalls one very difficult particular nigh. A young girl that had been a long-term patient at the hospital lost her battle with a serious and rare disease. “This girl was amazing. She was young but had such a positive attitude and always had a smile on her face,” says Gloria. “Losing a patient is never easy, but this loss really shook me up. It’s hard not to feel emotionally involved in these children’s lives, and seeing her parents’ suffer was so hard.”

One perk of Gloria’s unconventional schedule, however, is she often gets a couple of days off during the week. “I might work both Friday and Saturday night shifts, but then I will have off some other days,” she says. If someone wants to make plans with her, their best bet is to get her on a day off. “I can’t really go out to dinner or a movie on a weeknight usually. I use my days off to catch-up with friends, or do some shopping and other errands.”

Three in the morning hits, and Gloria hits a slump in her night. “After midnight, especially on slower nights, I start feeling pretty tired. Some nights are harder than others, but it definitely helps having my other nurse friends in the same boat with me.”

Gloria had some words of wisdom for any nurse, doctor or other professional who could someday work a night-shift. “Sleeping during the day is going to feel strange at first, but catching up on sleep is very important in staying sane.”

When asked what her ultimate secret weapon for staying awake was, Gloria laughed and answered, “endless cups of coffee, and definitely never touching decaf.”

City Life

Escaping Family To Find A Career
By Katy Berninger

Sitting quietly in a coffee shop drinking green tea lemonade while reading a magazine, I am waiting for someone who is very late. However, I know this person is on his way because he has sent me about a dozen text messages apologizing profusely for being tardy.

Suddenly I hear a loud, exasperated sigh and Wesley “Wes” Williams, 18 plops down beside me.

“I am so sorry, rehearsal ran long,” exclaims Williams who has just left practice for his upcoming high school musical. I can’t be angry with him, of course, because there is something lovable about him. He is a giant teddy bear who wears over the top “movie star” sunglasses and a blue scarf around his neck. Williams sits and excitedly explains how glad he is to be able to help me out. This is who he is: a vibrant personality who is obsessed with Beyonce and would do anything to help another person.

Williams always tries to look on the bright side and
not worry about the future.

Born in Baltimore into a conservative religious family, Williams is the third child, but the first of his parents’ children to live. He was soon joined by a sister, Amarys, 15, and two younger brothers, Jonathan, 12 and Joshua, 6.

As a child Williams moved around a lot, but always had the company of his large family, including his grandmother and uncle who still live him. When asked about his family, Williams says, “we are kind of like the family that yells and screams at each other but we laugh constantly.”

The family may be a little dysfunctional, but Williams says he gets a long fairly well with everyone, especially his sister who he says he jokes around with a lot.

Despite the close family relationship, Williams is quick to point out that he is considered the “weird” one because he is gay. Although he has come out to his friends, Williams has yet to come out to his family, and he says that even though his family doesn’t know, “They’ve gotten lots of hints. I think they kind of deep down know….they're trying to ignore it.”

Williams says he is OK with this arrangement because he feels the only way he will ever be able to tell them is once he is away at college, and say that his parents would probably, “make my life hell,” because he believes his parents cannot comprehend that being gay is not a choice.

According to a 2002 Los Angeles Times article, “Being Gay in a Conservative Environment,” Williams is just one of many gay children who live in conservative families who are afraid of telling their parents about their sexual orientation. Williams’ family is highly religious and they believe that being gay is a sin. According to the article, the communities that these families are a part of create a “culture of hostility toward homosexuality.”

Williams recognizes this and has decided to let his parents ignore “the elephant in the room” so that he doesn’t have to deal with their reaction. Instead, he has opted to be open with his friends who have all accepted him.

Williams says he has big goals and dreams, and for now, is looking towards the future as he plans his move to Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland. When asked what he most looks forward to about college Williams says, “being open, being able to perform, and meeting guys.”

Performing is what drives Williams the most, and is what he hopes to do for the rest of his life. When asked about acting and singing, two topics Williams is very passionate about, he lights up. “I always knew I wanted to be known, like it was always in my personality to want to be famous.” Williams’ post-college career may be far off, but he plans to move to California and “work his butt off” until he makes it big.

Wrapping up our conversation, Williams says, “That was fun,” and says he’s going to go see the new Beyonce movie that night. Still jovial, he grabs his things and bounces out of the coffee shop.

City Life

Conquering The World One Pizza At A Time
By Heather Bates

It was love at first bite. When Carmen Cascetta was 19, she had no idea that the local pizza boy would become her future husband. Antonio Cascetta was just minding his own business and making pizzas. Cascetta's younger brother Johnny wandered into the pizzeria to cause trouble. Little did he know that his mischievous behavior would lead to a lifetime of love and support.

Antonio and Carmen Cascetta came to the US as children and run
a successful family business.

Carmen Cascetta moved to the US from Cidra, Puerto Rico when she was only five years old. Her memories of her homeland have dimmed, but she has fond memories of her childhood there. Carmen remembers the small things about her native country, such as her grandfather bringing delicious loaves of bread home after church on Sunday mornings. When she moved to New York City and began building her life there, Cascetta had no idea how grateful she would be one day. Now, she is a successful wife and mother of two.

Unlike his wife, Antonio Cascetta did not move to the US until he was 12. Back in his hometown of Teggiano, Italy, Antonio “Tony” Cascetta remembers playing soccer with shoes that had metal wires attached. “Nobody would let me play,” Cascetta jokes. “They were worried that I would break the ball.” Tony also has many things to be thankful for in the United States. He owns a pizzeria in Brooklyn, not far from the home that his family shares.

When either Cascetta is asked what they like most about living in the US, the answer always returns to their two children, Adam, 24, and Krystal, 25. This year, Krystal graduates from Albany Medical College and will begin working as a resident at the Long Island Jewish Hospital. Krystal believes that is able to work toward a medical career because of the choices that were made for her parents to come to the US when they were children. Adam is also graduating from college this year, leaving New York City College of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in entertainment technology.

Tony’s Pizza Spot has hit a few rough patches recently.

Carmen Cascetta says she is very proud and excited to watch her children earn the diplomas that they worked so hard for. “That’s exactly why I say the United States is better for your children. They get to have a better education,” she says. “Of course, I’m very happy that my children were able to continue their education as far as they needed to, and I’m grateful that my daughter was able to attend medical school here in the US.”

Despite the family pride that comes from seeing their children succeed, running a family business in such tough economic times is not easy. Only a year after he moved to New York, Tony Cascetta began working for the original pizzeria owners. When his boss retired and returned to Italy, Tony and another employee took over the pizzeria as co-owners. But because of health issues, Tony’s partner gave him sole custody of the pizzeria.

While Tony’s Pizza Spot is still open, business is suffering. “Things are rough. The economy sucks,” Tony says. “When people spend their money now, they want more for less.”

Carmen says she is also affected by the economic problems. She recently lost her job as a customer service representative at Avis car rentals. Now, she is stuck trying to help her husband run the pizzeria while also looking for another job to help support her family.

“I’m directly affected by the economy. For example, losing my job and not knowing when I’m going to have another one, and losing all my medical benefits, which is the most important thing at my age,” Carmen says. But she says, “The US is the best place to raise children due to the better schools, health care, arts, et cetera. In Puerto Rico, it’s a harder way of life and jobs are scarce.”

Recent economic hardships have not stopped them from keeping their business alive and watching as Adam and Krystal move on to build their careers. “It’s what I worked for,” Tony says. “To give opportunities to my children that I didn’t have when I was their age. I feel very proud of both of them achieving their goals, and I’m sure that they will be very successful in whatever they do.”

City Life

Sometimes, There’s No Place Like Home
By Thomas Ford

We’ve all heard the story of the “good girl” gone “bad” — the girl who starts off polite and kind and takes a sharp turn for the worse, becoming reckless and irresponsible. But seldom do we hear the story of the good girl gone bad gone good or in simpler terms, Chrissy Galifianakis.

From a very young age, Galifianakis was extremely headstrong. She, unlike many of her peers at her private school in Jamaica, Queens, entertained responsibilities that even most adults would find daunting. On top of the piles of homework her honors classes forced her to complete, Galifianakis performed the daily routines of a stereotypical housewife in her early teens. She cooked daily meals for her family, maintained the condition of the house, did laundry and any other activities her parents might ask her to do.

While this may seem like chores any young person would be obligated to do, Galifianakis was taking the full brunt of these obligations because there was no allowance and she couldn’t shift these duties with her younger brother. She was, essentially, acting as the mother and father of the household. She jokes, “I cooked and cleaned like a slave!” Yet, the motivations for her unstinting willingness to take care of people; people much older than she, were far from humorous.

Galifianakis’ mother, Helen, suffers from multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system and is often disabling, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Galifianakis cared for her mother in all ways that she could, whether it was helping to bathe her or pushing her wheelchair. Seeing her mother’s slowly debilitating health inspired Galifianakis to do something to help ill people. She wanted to become a doctor.

However, her father, John Galifianakis, had other plans for her. Bitter from an accident at work that ultimately limited his mobility, John Galifianakis thought that his daughter should stay at home and not go to college. A very strict man who values Greek traditions, John Galifianakis sees Chrissy marrying a Greek man and doesn’t like it when she brings home friends home of other races. “I am not very close with my father,” admits Galifianakis.

With what most would consider burdens, it is no wonder Galifianakis was ready to escape her daily life of taking full care of a mother she loved and dealing with her father who simply did not understand her or believe in her. So, despite her father’s reservations, Galifianakis attended Marymount Manhattan College in Manhattan. Unfortunately, along with escaping her old life and leaping head first into a new one, she lost her better judgment, and the phase of the so-called ‘bad girl’ ensued.

With Manhattan at her disposal, Galifianakis wanted to venture into a new quadrant of life that she hadn’t explored. What was it like to be a kid? To be a teenager? What was it like to do the things kids, teenagers, and young adults do that she had missed out on?

She would soon find out.

Galifianakis began partying on weekends and her roommates encouraged a habit of staying out all night, which she did. Classes slowly became less important to her and alcohol slowly became more of a focus. As partying began to completely consume her weekends, so did her consumption of alcohol and interests in using other substances.

She laughs, “I had a Lindsay Lohan month.”

The worst of the month came when she was nearly evicted from college housing. This moment, along with friends outside of her partying circle intervening during this phase, forced Galifianakis to realize that she needed to regroup, to get back on her feet and do exactly what she came to Manhattan to do.

Achieng Radier, a close friend of Galifianakis, was present throughout the good and the bad times. “I told her she needed to change. She had a new best friend every week for a month,” says Radier. “I wanted her to realize that these people were damaging her life, not helping it.”

With the support of her old friends who actually cared about her and the image of her mother driving her to be successful, Galifianakis buckled down and slowly returned to being the joyful, light-hearted, gregarious person many had grown to love. She rid herself of anything that would negatively affect her body and her mind and began working diligently in school again.

Galifianakis also returned home intermittently to help her parents. However, this time, she would do even more than she did before. In addition to cooking and cleaning, she helped her parents organize and pay bills, patched her father’s jeans, and even managed the gardens outside the house.

Galifianakis was back to helping people and doing what she always wanted to do. It seems as if her days of continual partying at gay clubs and neglecting everything that was important to her are coming to end. Says Galifianakis, “I want to help people, and we need doctors!”