Roosevelt @CCNY Blog

Fall 2015: A Semester in Review

Roosevelt @CCNY had yet another successful semester for the fall of 2015 with many new faces and fresh ideas. We had 8 meetings, policy-writing workshops, and editing sessions; outside the classroom, we held our very first Fireside Chat on Felon-Voting Bans, and finished with our End of Semester Celebration. In addition to submitting policy pieces to the National 10 Ideas Journal, our members helped to push initiatives for the Hunger and Homelessness Campaign and Gender Resources Center with City College’s Undergraduate Student Government and NYPIRG. Off-campus, we supported fellow NYU Roosevelters with their Rally Against the Sexton Plan.


  • Thinks 2040 Workshop On October 8th, 2015 Roosevelt @CCNY members, both old and new, came together for our 3rd Annual Think 2040 Workshop. Think 2040 is designed to help our members brainstorm policy ideas by participating in three Breakout sessions ­ Values, Outcomes, and Policy. First, we identify our shared values. By starting off with our values, we ensure that what matters most to us is rooted in our future work. Our members’ values include Equality, Education, Empathy, Sustainability, Empowerment, Reliability, and Efficiency. Next, our members expressed the outcomes they want to see in 2040. We worked together to answer the question, “What would it mean for our values to be realized in the world?” The outcomes we seek are Universal Healthcare, equal race representation across major industries, Gender Equity, reduction in LGBTQ discrimination, and an increase in Minimum Wage. Lastly, we embarked on the most important part of the workshop. How can we create policy ideas that embody our values and help us reach the outcomes we want to see? From state­wide improvements to Pre­K curriculum to reforms for public Graduate Schools, our members completed the workshop with new policy ideas that were ready to be refined throughout the semester.


  • Policy Submissions Ten amazing members, Alyssia Osario, Nadia Quddus, Corianna Givens, Mike Vitelli, Sharon Shaji, Ivanna Yana Kuz, Ariel Avgi, Jonathan Pianti, Devindra Ramadhar, and Jaclyn Williams developed their policy visions for the future and submitted them to the National 10 Ideas Journal. See summaries below:
    • Student Union Spaces in CUNY: A Necessity, Not A Luxury, Author: Alyssia Osario, Policy Director of Education
      City University of New York must grant student union space to allow opportunities for student leadership development, diversity of thought, institutional critique, and community involvement. These opportunities lead to social and economic mobility.
    • Updating Minimum Wage Periodically, Author: Nadia Quddus, Policy Director of Economic Development
      Updating the minimum wage to keep up with inflation will reduce poverty and will directly help head of households that are females, especially those with families, in addition to reducing gender wage inequality.
    • Personal Finance Classes to Improve Financial Literacy and Reduce Student Debt, Authors: Nadia Quddus and Devindra Ramadhar, Director & Deputy Director of Economic Development
      By implementing a personal finance requirement for high school students in New York City, students will be more equipped to make smart financial decisions and potentially decrease student debt. This class will place an emphasis on student loans, healthy credit practices, and strategies to save money.
    • Using Early Detection Screening to Diagnose Mental Illness on College Campuses, Author: Corianna Givens, Policy Director of Healthcare
      The CUNY system in New York City should mandate that all incoming freshmen and transfer students complete a thorough mental health screening survey, provided by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). This would allow students coming into college with a mental health issue to have support from their counseling center throughout their entire time at their institution.
    • Drug-Related Restrictions in Public Housing: Decreasing Recidivism by Reuniting Families, Author: Mike Vitelli, Deputy Director of Equal Justice
      New York City should discontinue eviction proceedings for low-level offenses, remove outdated zero-tolerance policies, and expand the reach of the NYCHA Family Re-entry Pilot Program for its public housing tenants; this will unite families, combat homelessness, and reduce recidivism.
    • Gender-Based Violence: Shifting The Campus Focus From Punitive to Survivor-Centric Approaches, Author: Sharon Shaji, Policy Director of Equal Justice
      The City College of New York should provide resources and an autonomous space for survivors of gender-based violence to heal from trauma and re-integrate into the campus community, rather than force survivors to re-live their trauma through bureaucratic reporting policies.
    • Ukraine’s Volunteer Soldiers: In need of an official welfare law, Author: Ivanna Yana Kuz, Policy Director of Defense & Diplomacy
      There is no official welfare policy for soldiers of Ukraine’s volunteer battalions and their families. Ukraine’s veteran law should be amended to provide them with the same financial support given to soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
    • Togolese Prayer Camps: A Stepping Stone Toward Effective Mental Healthcare, Author: Ariel Avgi
      Togo’s limited access to mental healthcare has led to victims’ increasing reliance on abusive prayer camps. With the help of the Togolese Red Cross and BasicNeeds NGO, an educational campaign could be initiated, and camps could be turned community-based healing centers.
    • The Crisis in Syria: Join Russia in Supporting Assad, Author: Jonathan Pionati
      US non-support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime curtails its ability to affect positively upon the Syrian people’s devastation. Allying itself with Syria’s government in coordination with Russia, China, and Iran will allow for policy measures that could lessen Syrian suffering and minimize the prospects of international conflict.
    • Restructuring the Conduct of Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs), Author: Jaclyn Williams
      In collaboration with United Nations bodies and NGOs, state governments should ensure that transnational PMSCs instill clear standards and professional guidelines for properly registered and licensed personnel. Establishing a collection of records can reinforce the common international human rights standards.


  • Fireside Chat: Felon-Voting Bans We had an incredibly thought-provoking and lively discussion about felon-voting bans, guided by Sharon Shaji, Policy Director of Equal Justice. She started us off with a concise history lesson on the origins of felon-voting bans, the stances of each side of the controversy, and current legislation related to the bans. Following the introduction, we split the discussion into two parts. First, we discussed our thoughts on law itself using the Guiding Questions. This was essential to our discussion because it helped us identify specific problems. For example, some CCNY Roosevelters did not think the law was unjust, but rather the implementation or infrastructure around the law was problematic. This classification helped us in the second part of our discussion in which we discussed practical policy solutions. Our chat of felon-voting bans examined its politics, legality, economic impact, and psychosocial connection.  Our proposed solutions were diverse and involved themes applicable to the Education sector, Equal Justice sector, and Defense and Diplomacy Sector.

    Below are assorted questions drawn from our discussion and policy suggestions:

    • Is civil death a justified concept?
      • Should it continue after someone has already paid their debt to society (i.e. Prison Sentence, Parole, and/or Probation)?
      • Should the degree of the crime of affect which felons should be banned from voting?
        For example: Violent Crime vs. Sex Crime vs. White Collar Crime vs. Drug Crime
      • Should civil death apply to both federal and state voting?
    • Should historical race relations of a state and their prison-makeup influence the state’s ability to create felon-voting bans?
    • Do felons care about getting their right to vote back? (i.e. Are they made aware that their voting rights are lost?)
      • Should the state provide civic education lessons for felons that don’t have life sentences?
        • Is prison for rehabilitation or punishment?
        • Can empowering a felon to be civically engaged help rehabilitation and stop recidivism?
        • How does the private prison industry complicate this issue?
      • Can making voting more accessible counteract the lack of civic engagement?
        • Is there a way to securely create online voting polls for federal or state elections?
          • Does everyone have personal access to computers and/or smartphones? This may still marginalize certain groups of people.
        • Can halfway houses serve as a medium to reach ex-felons for civic education?
      • Can international models/policies concerning felon-voting bans be applied to the United States?


  • End of Semester Celebration After a semester of campus engagement and policy writing, it felt good to kick back and relax at our celebration. Though the terrors of Finals Week were upon us, our members and alumni came together for an evening of good food and even better conversation. We looked back at all the hard work we had done and praised our ten members who wrote for the 2016 10 Ideas Series! With the Spring semester upon us, we look forward to a new set of goals, new accomplishments, and once again, another celebration!

Policy Inspiration-hear from Matt

Matthew Lazo is junior majoring in Geology with a minor in Economics and Public Policy. He is a part of the Honors College as well as the recipient of  Colin Powell Fellowship. Last Summer, he served as a Roosevelt Summer Academy Fellow in Chicago, where he interned for the Chicago Department of Transportation. His career goal is to promote sustainability in urban planning and policy.

“Inspired by the recent national net neutrality movement, I decided to explore Internet policy. With a high interest in urban policy, I also explored the relationship between cities and the Internet. I recognized that their is a growing inequality of Internet access in urban areas, particularly in New York City.

Low-income residents, especially in the Bronx and Brooklyn, do not have access to the Internet. Such access provides job opportunities, essential health information,  educational resources, and sense of inclusion within communities. This policy proposal aims to provide Internet services to the low income residents of New York City.” – Matt

Policy Inspiration-hear from Keanoo

Keanoo Hill is a current 4th year student of the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at the City College of New York. Born in San Jose, Costa Rica, she moved to New York when she was eight years old. When she’s not studying for her biomedical courses, she works for In Arms Reach Inc. and does research in immunology, yet one of her biggest passions is studying the health and social development of the adolescent population. She divides her time between friends and classmates in the surrounding Harlem area and with family in Brooklyn.

“The inspiration for my policy came from two sources. The biggest one is my work as lead facilitator of the In Arms Reach Inc. College Prep Program. I’ve been working with them for about a year now and I’ve come to truly appreciate what is means to be an adolescent in an urban setting, particularly in low-income neighborhoods. My students often inspire me to push boundaries and be their voice while at the same time helping them find theirs.

My second inspiration comes from my education. As a Sophie Davis student, I’ve become very familiar with community health, therefore, writing this policy was mostly about exploring the connection between two things I am passionate about. My policy calls for community health centers to recognize the lack of quality care that is made available to underserved adolescents and to make simple changes within their organizations that can make a big difference in the provision of health services to this population.” – Keanoo

Policy Inspiration-hear from Nadine

Nadine Pratt is a third year student in the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. She is pursuing a career as a primary care physician practicing in under-served communities. She is also minoring in theater and psychology and enjoys playing the piano and tennis as well. Since her first experience volunteering at her nearby veteran’s home, she has found interest in community based activities. This has led her to exploring the connections between various community factors and her field of study, primary health care.

“Through my experience in pursuing a medical career, I have come to understand how important it is to incorporate all the social, political, and economic factors of health care when studying it. As a part of my family’s non-profit organization called the MoorePark Foundation where money, toiletries and doctors are sent to Guyana for about 2 weeks to provide health care to needy communities, I have yet to join in person on the yearly trip. Through those who have went however, I have gained information on community health in under-served communities and what many societies have to go through there. My concerns have led me to take interest in forming programs that would help close the gaps formed by health disparities like education and money. Because of my cultural connection with Guyana and their need for sufficient primary health care, I started there. I found that mobile health is one of the best ways to deliver primary care to both rural and urban communities of Guyana. The funds are already available and simply need reallocation. An implementation of a mobile health program would bring public awareness to primary care health and all its benefits, improving the country as a whole.” -Nadine

Policy Inspiration-hear from Josh

Joshua Kemp is a Sophomore at the Macaulay Honors College at CCNY.  He is majoring in International Studies–concentrating in International Affairs–and minoring in French and Asian Studies.  Josh is a member of the International Studies Club, the CCNY Roosevelt Campus Network, and the FoodNotBombs Harlem chapter.  Josh spends some of his time outside of class interning at the American Skin Association and the Milstein Medical Asian American Partnership Foundation, as well as waiting tables at Fairway Steakhouse.   He spends his limited free time repeatedly breaking his collarbone playing Quidditch for the Macaulay Marauders Quidditch Team.

“My inspiration to write my policy was kind of that “Ah Ha!” moment we all have when we think about a problem our community faces that no one seems to be working on.  In my case, I was talking with a fellow Roosevelter at a policy-writing workshop about where we had each grown up–since both of us were children of military personnel and had thus lived in many places–and what languages we spoke.  I realized something that I definitely already knew but hadn’t thought about in the context of policy writing: the fact that the girl I was speaking with was more proficient in more languages because she had attended local schools in foreign countries while I hadn’t.  It highlighted for me the importance of starting language-learning early, something that the US and New York particularly struggles with.

Therefore, my policy proposes that NYS should promote early foreign language education by incentivizing school districts to implement elementary DLI programs. Participating schools would still offer English-only programs for uninterested families and would be provided with DLI curricula, professional development programs, and assistance in recruiting and training immersion teachers.  I was able to get a lot of context and precedent from Utah, as they recently did something similar, which was incredibly helpful.” – Josh

Fall ’14 Policy Workshop

With the Top 10 Ideas submission around the corner, the students within the Lower Northeast Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network are tackling a wide range of urgent problems. They shared their values and visions, such as food justice and equal to access to better education. They had ideas that address the issues while upholding our values. However, these ideas need to be in a form that systemically allows government and society to bring its intended result. That is policy. To help students write policy, the Lower Northeast Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network gathered at the CUNY City College of New York (CCNY) for the Policy Training Workshop.

On Sunday, October 26, students came together from various schools, such as New York University, New School, Fordham University, and Columbia University. The workshop started with presentations by students published in the 2014 Top 10 Ideas. The students offered methods and tips for how to approach policy issues. They passionately shared their ideas, such as health access in indigenous communities in Panama  and community reintegration of mentally ill offenders. One interesting advice that the published students mentioned was simply talking to others. Talking to professors, experts, and peers about your policy only helps to develop your idea. Different perspectives can address gaps in your policy or reinforce your idea.

The next section of the workshop focused on policy writing itself. Students were shown how to effectively outline their proposals. With the outline method down, the students went on to learn the writing format of policy proposals. They took extensive notes and ask thoughtful questions to workshop leaders. Such peer to peer engagement helps students develop their policy writings and ideas.

After a hearty lunch, the CCNY chapter had everyone in the workshop participate in a game called “spiderweb.” In short, the game forces a person to ask another person a random question, such as “If you had a time machine, where would you go” or “What was your most favorite gift that you’ve  ever received?” While holding the end of a paper stream, the questioner throws the paper stream to another person to answer the question. The process repeats until everyone answered one question. In the end, a web was created, like a network. Funny and touching stories were told. Jokes and deep truth were shared. Selfies were taken. Despite what may have appeared to be trivial, the students were able to see the Roosevelt Campus Network as a connection of like minded millennials working together to solves policy problems.

The workshop then proceeded to finish the day with an organizing training and Rethinking Communities presentation. The Lower Northeast Co-Coordinator, Dylan Welch, showed students how to build effective teams and power maps. Students learned to mobilize support and target key stakeholders to carry out policy changes. NYU project leader Eugenia Kim followed afterwards with a  presentation on Rethinking Communities. This project gives students the opportunities to address local problems within their campus communities.

Millennials have innovative ideas that can be translated into policy. Writing policy is a skill that can be learned by all students with any major or level of experience. However, positive change does not stop there. It requires organizing and on the ground action. From jotting down the policy outline to taking huge selfies, students left the workshop with more confidence in bringing their bold and new ideas into reality.

The 2014-2015 Leadership Team!

It is with immense pleasure and humility that I announce to you the new Executive Board and the new Board of Directors for 2014-2015! The names and titles of our amazing new leadership team is listed below.

We could not have asked for a better group of individuals to take lead of an organization that has meant and has done so much for the City College of New York and for our community. These individuals embody every great aspect that is the foundation of the Roosevelt Institute at City College of New York.

So without further a due, here are our next leaders!

Executive Board:

  • President: Moustafa Elshaabiny
  • Vice President: Matthew Lazo
  • Secretary: Rasheda Browne
  • Treasurer: Olivia Poon

Board of Directors:

  • Director of Publicity & Media: Morgan Flynn
  • Policy Director for Defense & Diplomacy: Suprita Datta
  • Policy Director for Energy & Environment: Kudzai Tunduwani
  • Policy Director for Economic Development: Fatjon Kaja
  • Policy Director for Equal Justice: Felix De Jesus
  • Policy Director for Education: Erica Martinez-Close
  • Policy Director for Health Care: Kimberly Downer
  • Policy Director for Science & Technology: Matthew Lazo

From the office of the president: Congratulations, Rasheda!

Our secretary, Rasheda Browne, has shown dedication, commitment and hard work. Indisputably, she goes above and beyond the secretary‘s duties and responsibilities. Thus, we decided to promote her to reflect the work that she does and give her credit that she, no doubt, earned!  

Keep up the fabulous work, Rasheda! And this shall show that hard work always pays off. We are proud of you!

Rasheda now is our “Secretary and Community Outreach”


Roosevelt Reflection: American Children in Danger Abroad and Granting Them a Safe Return Home

By Reem Aliessa

The escalation of violence in Syria has led to massive refugee populations in bordering nations and abroad. Obtaining refugee status and receiving benefits has proven to be difficult for many Syrians, especially for urban refugees.

Living through war and being displaced is perhaps the most traumatizing experience for an individual. So imagine what young, innocent, and helpless Syrian children experience day by day. They have been deprived of their playful childhood and education, to witness bloodshed and the death of their fellow Syrians.

However, among these children are American children of Syrian descent, some of them my relatives, who are unable to receive refugee status. They were born in America, but their parents never obtained a legal residency or citizenship and eventually returned to Syria. After one year of living in perilous conditions in Syria, some of my family members decided to return to America in hope that their children will be able to attend school and reintegrate into civil society. Since the American Embassy in Damascus was closed, my relatives helplessly made their way to the embassy in Ankara, Turkey in hopes of obtaining a visa to grant their children a safe return to America. Despite the fact that my cousins are American citizens and were too young to return to America alone, their parents were denied a visa twice. However, what was even more outrageous was that we knew several Syrians whom were granted visas to the US within the same time frame.

After witnessing this, the enigmatic process of issuing visas has proven to be unfair on various levels. I am sure the State Department abides by its guidelines for visa granting and regulations, but the fact that American children, whose lives are at risk because of war, are unable return to the United States with their parents is distressing.

After the second visa denial my relatives felt hopeless, but I, on the hand was passionate about this issue and sought the opportunity to raise awareness about it through writing a policy for the City College Roosevelt Institute Chapter. At first, I was discouraged because my target population was small. However, with the encouragement and support of members of the CCNY Roosevelt Chapter, I realized that this is a critical issue that needs to be addressed and that a policy proposal for the Roosevelt Institute was the root of the change I was seeking.

My family was ecstatic when I informed them that I was addressing their issue through writing a policy that might be published and distributed nationwide through the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network. Now that my policy has been selected for publication they hope that it can influence policy makers to ease visa regulations and guidelines for parents of American children in war-torn or conflict areas.

Two of my young American cousins have separated from their parents, leaving them behind in Syria, in order to live with their siblings in New York. However, every day is a struggle for them because they have the fear that one morning they will wake up as orphans.

It is vital for the State Department to ease visa regulations for parents or guardians of American children. We all believe in ‘no child left behind’ so it is time to address the displaced American children abroad that are being left behind.

Energy & Environment Policy Conference!

Roosevelt Institute at City College of New York will be hosting an Energy and Environment Policy Conference. There will be various Environmental organizations that will address problems in our current energy and environment system and identify issues our communities are facing. Together we can create a green, innovative, and sustainable Energy and Environment policy solutions for New York City!

Date: Friday, April 6
Time: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Location: The City College of New York
138 Convent Avenue, New York, NY 10031
Shepard Hall, Room 107

Register Here:

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