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Profiles of Six Outstanding Queens College Graduates


(Digital Images Available of Each Student)

From Homeless Mother to Honors Graduate

Rosse Mary Savery, 35, who went from being a homeless mother to an honors graduate, is proof positive that when times are tough, you can’t give up – “you’ve got to make your way and keep going.” As she looks forward to celebrating her June graduation surrounded by her husband – who is getting his own diploma from the University of New Paltz – and two young daughters, Savery is ever mindful of the difficult path she travelled to get here.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Savery graduated from Washington Irving High School with honors and continued her education at Eastern Michigan University, but left after her scholarship ended. Later, as a married mother of two in Florida, she put aside schooling. When she lost her job, her husband’s salary couldn’t cover their bills. So the family moved back to New York, where Savery and her husband could finish their degrees. By the time she enrolled at QC, her family was living in a homeless shelter in Brownsville, Brooklyn. With the help of staff and faculty at QC, Savery, a sociology major, was able to complete the spring semester – accumulating a 3.93 GPA – while working as a part-time paraprofessional for a Queens public school. She and her family are now living in Springfield Gardens, Queens. After graduation, Savery plans to continue her studies and become a social worker.

Athletic Neuroscience Researcher is Duke Bound

Erica Rodriguez, a resident of Kew Gardens, is realizing the dreams her parents – who are from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic – had for her. A Macaulay Honors College student who double-majored in biology/neuroscience and psychology, she was recently accepted to Duke University’s master’s/PhD neurobiology program with full tuition and a substantial stipend. Rodriguez’s work at Queens College, which included her study of neurogenesis and memory in songbirds with Psychology Professor Carolyn Pytte, brought her other research opportunities. For example, through QC’s MARC U-STAR (Minority Access to Research Careers) program, Rodriguez landed a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at Rockefeller University in the lab of renowned neurologist Fernando Nottebohm, assisting his investigation into the biology of vocal learning and nerve replacement in songbirds. Despite her demanding course load, Rodriguez has found time for her other passion: swimming. Currently the captain of the college’s swim team, she earned all-Metropolitan Swimming Conference honors in 2009 and 2010. She has also given swimming lessons to children enrolled in QC’s aquatics program.  Last spring, she received the college Paul Paplin Scholar Athlete Award.

Star Student Soccer Player, Determined to Help and Heal

Olivier Francois Noel, a native of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, and a resident of Flushing, has been admitted with a full scholarship and stipend to the MD/PhD program at Penn State. 

The chemistry/biochemistry major began his studies at Queensborough Community College, but transferred to QC within a year, a process made easier by his excellent performance in the classroom and on the soccer field. Despite the rigors of his academic schedule – which include research on the development of embryonic hearts in Biology Professor Nathalia Holtzman’s lab – and on the playing field, where he captained the soccer team, Noel has been committed to helping others by tutoring students in French, Spanish, Biology and Chemistry. He also traveled to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, and recently returned to the hospital environment as a volunteer at the Queens Hospital Center Emergency Room. A regular on the dean’s list, Noel has garnered several awards, including an American Heart Association Summer Research Fellowship, an NIH MARC U-Star Fellowship Award, CUNY International Student Essay Competition Award, and Region 15 Excellence in Sports and Academics Award.


Holding Down a Full-Time Job, Raising a Teenager and Earning College Degree in Four Years? No Problem for This Budding Accountant

Stacy-Ann Barnett, an adult student who will be graduating this September, is achieving her goal of completing her degree in four years while holding down a full-time job and raising a 14-year-old daughter. A resident of Jamaica, Queens, Barnett was 19 when she came to the United States from the other Jamaica – the island – with her mother and three brothers. The analytically inclined Barnett, who is majoring in Accounting and minoring in Economics, says she is grateful to QC for igniting in her a passion for writing and literature. While she intends to take the CPA exam, she also wants to explore other fields like auditing where she can have more personal interaction.


Shedding Light on Transracial Adoption Through Poetry

Dana Collins, who is graduating with an MFA in poetry, is a published poet and teaches creative writing at QC. After visiting Korea last summer and finding her birth family, she became inspired to write about transnational adoption. Last February, at the Associated Writing Programs conference – with 9,000 attendees, the nation’s biggest creative writing conference – Collins organized, moderated, and participated in a panel of poets and authors who address transracial adoption. A composer and band keyboardist, Collins gives private lessons in piano and flute and tutors middle and high school students in Math. After graduation, the Deer Park, Long Island, resident plans to work toward an advanced certificate in teaching English and resume writing poetry and a young-adult novel.

Passionate About Playwriting

Jonathan Alexandratos, who is graduating with an MFA in playwriting, teaches English and coordinates the MFA in Art and MFA in Writing projects at QC. Despite the fact that he’s been writing plays since the sixth grade, Alexandratos never imagined he could pursue playwriting either academically or professionally. In fact, he had originally planned to pursue a legal career; but it was while working for three years as a paralegal in a midtown law firm – which he hated – that he became more obsessed with playwriting. Already, Alexandratos has had several of his plays produced, and recently he co-founded his own nonprofit theater company in Manhattan. After graduation, the Manhattan resident plans to continue writing plays, teaching, and tutoring.                                                           


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(718) 997- 5597

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