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From Soccer to Special Ed: Meldryck Parraga Awarded Full Tuition for Graduate Study at Queens College

-- QC Grad, of Dominican and Ecuadorian Heritage, Will Teach in Home Neighborhood of South Richmond Hill While Earning Master’s in Special Education --

QUEENS, NY, August 25, 2017 – Growing up in a Spanish-speaking home in Queens, Parraga had the values of perseverance and hard work instilled in him from a young age. His father, a native of Ecuador, worked as a painter, and his mother, born in the Dominican Republic, was a hairdresser who cleaned houses to earn extra money. But Parraga also had a passion for soccer and worked hard at the sport from the age of 13, playing with clubs in Flushing and competing against leagues throughout the borough. At Bronx Community College where he earned his Associate’s degree, Parraga demonstrated his talent on the soccer team and received its Sportsman of the Year Award.
 
As a realistic young man, Parraga was also attracted to a career in education, especially the prospect of teaching students with disabilities. At Queens College, he pursued this goal by earning a BA in Social Studies Education (grades 7-12), with a minor in political science. Now as the recipient of the Peter Greeman Scholarship, the tuition and fees for his graduate work at QC will be paid in full.
 
“This means the world to me--I never expected to receive a scholarship,” said Parraga. “It will provide me with the means to further my education while also allowing me to help out my parents. It definitely relieves the financial strain.” The first in his family to earn a college diploma, Parraga has two younger brothers. The middle brother, Kevin, will be graduating from York College-CUNY this year.
 
“Like so many of our students who are immigrants or the children of immigrants, Meldryck took advantage of the opportunities that college offers and focused 100 percent on achieving his goals,” said Félix Matos Rodriguez, president of Queens College. “We’re very proud that he has received this scholarship and glad that he will be putting his education to work at a high school in his home borough.”
 
The Peter Greeman Scholarship for graduate study, funded by Community Teachers Initiative, Inc., was first offered at Queens College in 2015. It is awarded to outstanding students with financial need who have demonstrated an interest in teaching, tutoring or otherwise helping students in the metro New York area, and have participated in activities that benefit the community. Parraga, the third Greeman Scholar at Queens College, will be joining a Division of Education that is one of the largest producers of teachers and educational leaders for New York City schools. By focusing on “transforming educational practices,” the division expands its impact on the well-being of students and families and conducts research and scholarship to promote equity, excellence and ethics in teaching.
 
Parraga entered QC as a student in SEEK, a state-funded program designed to help promising but economically disadvantaged students who may need academic support to reach their full potential. He is also one of the charter participants in the QC NYC MEN TEACH program.  NYC MEN TEACH is a collaboration between Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Young Men’s Initiative, CUNY, and other city agencies to engage and recruit men of color to teach in New York City public schools, leading to a more diverse teaching culture and perspective in classrooms.
 
“Queens College was an amazing experience,” said Parraga. “I joined one of the best campus clubs, the Alliance of Latin American Students (ALAS), which I served for a year as treasurer.” ALAS, Parraga explained, not only helps spread Latino culture both campus- and community-wide, but also holds fundraising events for charities. One event’s proceeds went to a nonprofit that provides supplies to inner-city schools. Other funds raised were donated to the QC club Students Helping Hondurans, which helps build schools in that country.
 
“And at ALAS I met my girlfriend Lisbel Diaz, the club president and a Macaulay Honors student who’s now a teacher,” added Parraga.
 
This summer, Parraga taught summer school for students enrolled in The Facing History School in Harlem. This opportunity, along with teacher test preparation and other support, was made possible through his involvement with NYC Men Teach at Queens College led by program director William A. Anders, which has an office located within the Dean of Education’s suite in the Division of Education.
 
Recently Parraga began course work towards his next objective: a Master’s of Science in Education-Teaching Students with Disabilities (grades 7-12). Guided by Craig A. Michaels, dean of the Division of Education, Parraga recognized the value of taking the courses needed to add a “Bilingual Extension” to his degree.
 
“As children of parents who don’t speak English as their native tongue, my brothers and I would teach them words and phrases,” said Parraga. “We had soccer teammates who were immigrants and over time, we would give them help with the language, too. So being able to teach Spanish-speaking students means a lot to me.”
                                                                
Now, as Parraga starts his graduate study, he will also begin his first full-time teaching job at August Martin High School in South Richmond Hill, the neighborhood where he grew up and still lives.
 
What motivated him to focus on teaching special education students, which some might consider particularly demanding?
 
“To me, teaching students with disabilities means providing the best education for people from all walks of life,” he answered. “Too often it happens that students with disabilities aren't held to the same standards, which isn't fair to them because they can achieve just as much as anyone can.”
 
The same positive, can-do spirit in the face of challenges also applies to Meldryck Parraga.
 
About Queens College
Queens College graduates the most teachers, counselors and principals in the metropolitan area. The college contributes to the local talent pool as a powerful economic engine and a leader in tech education, with more computer science majors than any college in New York City. Queens College also has the third-highest number of accounting and business students in all of New York State. Students from across the country and around the world are attracted to study at the Aaron Copland School of Music. Its renowned faculty and alumni include nationally recognized composers, conductors and performers who have received nearly 40 Grammy Awards and nominations over the past 40 years.
 
Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. With its graduate and undergraduate degrees, honors programs, and research and internship opportunities, the college helps its nearly 19,000 students realize their potential in countless ways, assisted by an accessible, award-winning faculty. Located on a beautiful 80-acre campus in Flushing, the college is cited each year in the Princeton Review as one of the nation’s 100 “Best Value” colleges, as well as being ranked a U.S. News and World Report Best College and Forbes Magazine Best Value College thanks to its outstanding academics, generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs. Visit our homepage to learn more.
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