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Professors’ Personal Stories Inspire Bronx Middle Schoolers


When Emilio Estela, FCLC ’82, grew up in the Amsterdam Houses, he’d have to dodge puddles of urine to board the elevators in his building. Once upstairs he said he could look out the window and see Fordham University.

“It was only a block away, but it was really miles away,” he said.

Today, Estela is an assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. He not only went to Fordham, but he now teaches here as an adjunct professor at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

Estela shared anecdotes about his path to an education with some 70 middle school students visiting the University on April 30 as part of Vision Day. He said that that Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park bandshell held world-class music from all over the world, but he couldn’t see or hear it because the structure had its back to the projects. But he could still see Fordham. And he told himself that, one day, he’d go to school there.

“Go to college,” he told the students. “It’s as simple and powerful as that.”

Estela was joined by other professors making similar presentations to students from Bronx’s I.S. 318, The School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology through the Arts. Arnaldo Cruz-Malave, PhD, director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Institute (LALSI), told students he started grade school as a Spanish speaker with very little command of the English language. Oliver Sylvain, an associate professor of law, said he only spoke Creole when he started school.

Leah Hill, a clinical associate professor of law, said that when she was growing up in the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn, people told her that she he had a big mouth—“bossy.” She said she took that to mean that she was opinionated. She became a lawyer.

Christina Greer, PhD, assistant professor of political science, encouraged the kids to run for higher office.

The event was co-sponsored by LALSI and the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

“It’s important for young people to be inspired by people like them, who come from the same community, same circumstances, and face the same challenges,” said Sandra Arnold, LALSI administrator who helped organize the event.

As the event wound to a close, one student asked a question. His teachers later told Arnold that he has only been in the school for a couple of months and rarely spoke up, so when he asked his question in Spanish, the room stirred.

He asked Estela: “¿Cómo puedo llegar a ser exitoso como usted?”

“How do I become successful like you?”


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