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Q&A with 2020 Student of the Year, Aya Ibrahim

Our Student of the Year, Aya, shares her Spring semester and post-high school graduation plans.
What are your plans for the Spring Semester?
This semester, I’m really interested in engaging as much as possible with fun activities, whether that’s the JA Business Plan Competition or leading a Yoga Club at my school. Besides pursuing my passions, I also finished my college application process in January and am currently waiting until the decisions come out.
Tell us more about the Business Plan Competition...what kind of project is your team working on?
We’re trying to start a Bullet Journaling Company -- bullet journals are organization systems that are equal parts day planner, diary, and mindfulness practice. The start-up is a team of three and all of us love bullet journaling so we thought “how can we share this passion with everyone?” I don’t think I would have survived my junior year of high school without my bullet journal so we’re focusing on alleviating stress and improving time management through the business plan we create. All three of us are really passionate about this project and are thinking of potentially launching it in the future!
What are your plans after high school?
As I am still awaiting college decisions, it is difficult to envision a set track. However, I look forward to securing an internship during the summer and leveraging my business background into the real world. In addition, I am gradually preparing for a smooth college transition to embark on my next chapter in life, connecting STEM and business in my career path.


2019-2020 Student Ambassador Reflections

We asked our 2019-20 Student of the Year and Student Ambassadors to reflect on their senior year of high school and share the impact Junior Achievement has had on their lives. Read about their JA experiences below and find out where each of them is headed after graduation!

Click each name to see their reflection!
Allenia Robinson, Student of the Year
Sandy Blanco, Student Ambassador
Angeline Celestino, 
Student Ambassador
Angie Galicia, Student Ambassador
Melisa Lezcano, Student Ambassador
Jasmin Lucero, Student Ambassador
Lia Sookdeo, Student Ambassador
Hana Tanovic, Student Ambassador
Kevin Zheng, Student Ambassador

Allenia Robinson, Student of the Year
Junior Achievement of New York’s 2019-2020 Student of the Year is Allenia Robinson, a graduating senior from Lincoln High School in Yonkers.

Allenia has been greatly inspired by the people she’s met through JA, including industry executives who are committed to empowering the next generation of leaders. Allenia most fondly remembers her conversations with JA New York Board Member and Director of Corporate Affairs at PayPal, Tyler Spalding. Tyler encouraged Allenia to always do what feels right and to go with the flow. Thanks to Tyler’s words of wisdom, Allenia understands the power of living in the moment and following her instincts.

Allenia will be attending the University at Albany this fall with a major in Business Economics and minor in Law, and we cannot wait to see the incredible things she accomplishes throughout her journey.

Sandy Blanco, Student Ambassador
Sandy Blanco, a graduating senior from Lincoln High School in Yonkers, is confident for the next 

steps in her life thanks to the networking and presentation skills she cultivated as a JA student. As a JA High School Hero, Sandy was able to jump out of her comfort zone and practice public speaking to inspire elementary students in her community.

Outside of school, Sandy has formed a network of business professionals who have opened her eyes to the many opportunities out there, and she has the tools she needs to step into the business world with confidence.

Sandy ultimately plans to become an immigration lawyer after attending Iona College as a business major beginning this fall.

Angeline Celestino, Student Ambassador
Graduating senior from Cathedral High School in Manhattan, Angeline Celestino is on her way to becoming the businesswoman she’s always dreamt of being thanks to JA New York. Her favorite JA program is the Business Plan Competition during which she and her team created a sustainable product and pitched their plan to top business executives. The strategies she learned and developed to produce and distribute their product will stay with Angeline as she enters the real world with one step ahead.

Angeline worked with one of JA’s most dedicated community volunteers, Bill McNamara, who offered insight and lessons that she will be able to put into practice in college and beyond. This fall, Angeline will attend the Fashion Institute of Technology with a major in Fashion Business Management where she will put all of her JA knowledge to use and continue to build her dream future.

Angie Galicia, Student Ambassador
Graduating senior from Brooklyn Preparatory High School, Angie Galicia is ready for the world beyond high school thanks to her increased confidence and communications skills she learned through JA. As a Student Ambassador, Angie loved getting to know her fellow Ambassadors and building a strong network of like-minded peers. She was able to jump out of her comfort zone with JA, through networking opportunities as well as High School Heroes, where she worked with a group of students she did not know well to inspire a class of elementary students.

Now, Angie feels empowered to try new experiences and meet new people. She has a strong understanding of what to expect in the real world and the confidence to know she can handle whatever comes her way.

In the fall, Angie will be attending Brooklyn College with a major in Psychology and possibly a minor in Sociology, where she will be able to create a future that gives her even more opportunities to learn.

Melisa Lezcano, Student Ambassador
Melisa Lezcano is graduating from the Academy of Finance and Enterprise in Queens this month. She credits JA for improving her social and networking skills that she will use with her in every aspect of adulthood. When it comes to technical skills, Melisa remembers JA Finance Park as the most impactful because she could see how money affects people in difference circumstances and how to budget accordingly.

Melisa is now confident that she has the skills and poise to take advantage of all the opportunities that are presented to her in the future.

Melisa will be attending Cornell University in the fall with a major in Biomedical Engineering and she is planning to become a doctor. We are so excited to see where Melisa’s skills take her.

Jasmin Lucero, Student Ambassador
Jasmin Lucero is graduating from Amityville Memorial High School on Long Island, and she credits JA for her newfound confidence and love for NYC. Through JA High School Heroes, Jasmin was able to solidify her dreams of becoming a teacher and gave her even more motivation to work toward a career in education.

Thanks to the exciting events in NYC she attended, Jasmin feels comfortable exploring things that are outside of her comfort zone, and she is confident in the network of peers and future colleagues she’s built.

In the fall, Jasmin will be attending Molloy College for a 5 year Social Studies Adolescent Education program that will allow her to be the incredible teacher we know she will be.  

Lia Sookdeo, Student Ambassador
Lia Sookdeo is a graduating senior at Baldwin High School on Long Island. Thanks to JA, Lia is ready to apply everything she learned in JA to her life in the real world. Through speaking opportunities at JA events and JA High School Heroes, Lia has cultivated strong public speaking skills, and she learned to always go for what she wants, even if it’s scary.

She is grateful for the networking opportunities that JA has provided for her as well. Lia is confident that because of JA, she has a network of people who are there to support her throughout her journey.

Lia will be attending Molloy College in the fall with a major in Business Management. She plans to work in HR, and we know she will put her JA skills to great use to help other people.

Hana Tanovic, Student Ambassador
Hana Tanovic is a graduating senior from the Academy of Finance and Enterprise in Queens. As she reflects on her JA experience, she remembers most the moment she was leaving her High School Heroes program when a group of elementary students hugged her and asked her to continue teaching them. This moment proved to Hana how much of an impact she can have on the people in her community.

Through events as a Student Ambassador, Hana has enhanced her own networking and communication skills and now feels confident that she will be a strong leader in the future.

Hana will be attending SUNY New Paltz this fall with a dual major in Marketing and Business Administration in an accelerated 4+1 program. She is excited to graduate in 5 years with both a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree, and we can’t wait to see where this incredible opportunity takes her.

Kevin Zheng, Student Ambassador
Graduating from the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies in Manhattan, Kevin Zheng is more confident in himself than ever before because of JA. Participating in JA High School Heroes multiple times, Kevin has practiced doing things outside of his comfort zone, worked on his public speaking skills, and learned to project his voice and thoughts more openly during class discussions. Kevin now feels more independent and knows how to take initiative to try new experiences and further his learning.

Kevin is excited to employ the soft skills he developed through JA programs throughout college and beyond. In the fall, he will be attending University of Rochester with a major in Biological Science. He hopes to then get a graduate degree and pursue a career in teaching science.

We can’t wait to see the teacher that Kevin becomes and all the things he accomplishes throughout his journey.

Q&A with TCS NYC Marathon Runner, Elizabeth Armstrong

Elizabeth Armstrong, 23, will be running her first marathon in just 12 days with Team JA New York! She'll be coursing through the streets of New York for the 2019 TCS NYC Marathon. Read about Elizabeth's biggest motivation, what music she recommends for running with distractions, and more!
Q: How did you get involved with JA New York?
A: Through my colleagues at Deloitte.  Deloitte has been involved with JA for years and a good friend of mine introduced JA to me when I joined the firm last year!
Q: Why did you decide to run the 2019 TCS NYC Marathon?
A: It is top five on my bucket list!
Q: Who/what is your biggest motivation to train?
A: My biggest motivation for training is to run for those who can’t due to an illness, an injury or a disability.  You never know what life is going to throw at you and while I am healthy and able to run I want to be able to take advantage and run in honor of those who wish they could.  It is easy to give up and quit but those who are sick, hurt or have a physical limitation never give up, so I am using them as an inspiration to stay motivated and finish the 26.2 miles!
Q: How do you measure success as a runner?
A: Achieving my goals or finishing any long run is a success to me. It isn’t about how long it takes me to finish but instead that I do not give up and complete the whole run.
Q: What is the best running/training lesson you’ve learned?
A: Recovery is everything! I have never been one to spend time stretching after working out but training for this marathon has taught me how important it is to spend the extra 15 minutes after a run stretching.  Our bodies need that recovery time in order to repair, rebuild and strengthen. 
Q: What is the most challenging part of marathon training?
A: One of my challenges has been trying to fit in runs before or after work while also traveling each week for work.  Training over the summer has also made training challenging because the heat makes each mile feel longer!
Q: What are your favorite pre- and post-run meals?
A: There is nothing better to me than a cool drink after a long run! I love making big smoothies with mixed berries, protein powder and peanut butter. 
Q: What are some songs on your favorite running playlist?
A: I love listening to the Two Friends Big Bootie Mixes.  Each mix is about an hour long and it is a mashup of songs that change every 30 seconds. These mixes keep me distracted and entertained throughout the whole run.  I also love running with friends because talking keeps me from looking at my watch every .25 miles. 
Click here to support Elizabeth's campaign for JA New York!

Q&A with 2019 TCS NYC Marathon Runner, Megan Albin

Megan Albin, 33, will be running her 5th marathon this year with Team JA New York in the 2019 TCS NYC Marathon! Read about how her friends keep her motivated, her post-race dinner plan for November 3rd, and more!
Q: How did you get involved with JA New York?
A: I first heard about JA at my place of employment while learning about various volunteer opportunities that supported financial literacy education in youth. I volunteered with JA in a local elementary school in Missouri. I love what JA supports and was excited to join the JA New York team. 
Q: Why did you decide to run the 2019 TCS NYC Marathon? 
A: I spectated my husband run the 2014 and 2016 TCS NYC Marathon, then we ran the 2018 TCS NYC Marathon together and the experience was one that I will never forget. The TCS NYC Marathon is like no other marathon, I cannot wait to re-live the experience again! 
Q: Who/what is your biggest motivation to train? 
A: Training for marathons and triathlons is my social life, I enjoy the time it gives me to spend with friends, de-stress, and it keeps me sane and in good health. 
Q: How do you measure success as a runner? 
A: Staying consistent and improving myself without getting injured. Of course I am competitive with friends, but at the end of the day I have personal targets for myself that I aspire to achieve. 
Q: What is the best running/training lesson you’ve learned? 
A: Never say never because anything that you put your mind to is possible! 
Q: What is the most challenging part of marathon training? 
A: Waking up before 5am to train and being on time to meet my training partners! 
Q: What are your favorite pre- and post-run meals? 
A: Pre-Run: Mashed Potatoes, lots of Mashed Potatoes! 
Post-Run: I like recovery shakes after training runs but after the NYC Marathon I already have my post marathon meal planned – Chinese food! 
Q: What are some songs on your favorite running playlist? 
A: Call me crazy, I don’t listen to music when I run. I like to enjoy conversations with friends while I run, or get lost in my thoughts. 
Click here to support Megan's campaign for JA New York!

Q&A with 2019 TCS NYC Marathon Runner, Becky Gatto

Becky Gatto, 42, is running the 2019 TCS NYC Marathon with Team JA New York! This will be Becky's first marathon ever! Check out what keeps her motivated, her favorite bands to run to, and more!     
Q: How did you get involved with JA New York?
A: My company, Robert Half, has been partnering with JANY for several years now. I became an in-classroom volunteer about 3 years ago and I have loved every minute of it!
Q: Why did you decide to run the 2019 TCS NYC Marathon?  
A: Frankly, running a marathon has always been something I wanted to do but was reluctant for obvious reasons.  I started doing half marathons a few years ago and decided to go for the full this year in the best City- NYC! 
Q: Who/what is your biggest motivation to train?  
A: I think I felt motivated to run and train for the marathon because it seemed scary and impossible for me to accomplish.  Mostly, I love showing my 2 young boys that it’s never too late to challenge yourself and it means the world to make them proud of me! I recently read a quote that really resonated with me “Happiness is the joy we feel striving after our potential.”
Q: How do you measure success as a runner?  
A: If you run, you’re a runner and that to me is something to be celebrated. A successful runner puts in the time and effort to achieve whatever goal they set out for themselves – whether they reach that goal or not. The older I get, the more I realize how lucky I am to be able to enjoy going for a run. 
Q: What is the best running/training lesson you’ve learned?   
A: Being a distance runner is not something that develops overnight. The key is to be consistent and don’t over-do it.  Listen to your body, make sure you fuel and sleep well and take those much-needed days off to rest and regenerate.  Your hard work will pay off, but you need to be smart about taking care of yourself along the way.
Q: What is the most challenging part of marathon training?  
A: There’s no doubt that marathon training is both mentally and physically challenging. The hardest part can be carving out the time and commitment in our busy lives to make the time. I am grateful to my family for their support (and time away spent training) while I embark on this adventure.
Q: What are your favorite pre- and post-run meals?  
A: Water, Gatorade, a handful of gummies and a plain bagel beforehand.  Post-run, I likely reach for a banana, pretzels and an adult refreshment or 2.
Q: What are some songs on your favorite running playlist? 
A: Tons of Classic Rock - Led Zeppelin, the Who and newer music like Mumford and Sons, Imagine Dragons with bouts of hip hop.  I like running to music that makes me happy and keeps me calm yet motivated.
Click here to support Becky's campaign for Team JA New York!
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  • "JA activities support our college and career readiness expectations as they bridge connections to real world experiences and professions" – Hazel Cruz, PS 83

    -Junior Achievement Teacher
  • "I learned that running a business includes a lot of work! You have to know how to run it, how much to pay your employees and much more." – PS 83

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "Guess what? A volunteer from Junior Achievement came to my class! I learned that cities are places to live, eat, work and play." – Justin, PS 83

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "Junior Achievement has given me my blueprint for success in college and beyond. JA has allowed me to grow as a student, entrepreneur, and as a future college student." – Kaiyell Pettie

    -Junior Achievement Alumnus
  • "JA volunteers give children tangible examples of the unlimited opportunities available to them."

    -Junior Achievement Volunteer

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