Queens College is First College in New York State and Second in the Nation to Hold Yellow Heart Memorial Honoring 123 Members of Its Community Lost to COVID-19

—Event Spearheaded by Two Queens College Students—Sisters Jessica and Danielle Alejandro—in Memory of Their Grandfather; Names of the Deceased Will Be Read Aloud—

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Visuals: One hundred twenty-three yellow paper hearts bearing the names of the deceased will be displayed on the windows surrounding the entrance to the Queens College Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library.

Queens, NY, April 8, 2022—Members of the Queens College community will honor 123 loved ones lost to COVID-19 through a Yellow Heart Memorial event on Wednesday, April 13, from 9:30 to 10:30 am at Cooperman Plaza in front of Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library. College administrators and elected officials will greet those gathered. The names of the deceased will be read aloud after the college’s jazz ensemble performs a musical selection.

Yellow Heart Memorial is an initiative sponsored by the eponymous nonprofit organization that aims to acknowledge those who died from COVID-19 not as statistics, but as beloved family members, friends, and colleagues; their names or pictures are placed on individual yellow paper hearts and displayed in a common area. ​

The Queens College Memorial will display the hearts on the windows surrounding the main entrance of Rosenthal Library. Those being honored during the ceremony range from family and friends of college community members to faculty, staff, and alumni.

Queens College is the first college in New York State and the second in the nation to hold such a memorial. The event was spearheaded by two students—sisters Jessica and Danielle Alejandro—in memory of their grandfather Joseph Anthony Szalkiewicz, who died from complications of COVID-19 on March 8, 2021. Like so many who were separated from their loved ones during the pandemic, the Alejandros bid goodbye to “the heart of their family” over FaceTime shortly before his death. Both sisters are pursuing education degrees.

“Jessica and Danielle Alejandro have made it possible for us to grieve together the immeasurable losses to families and friendships that still reverberate through our community,” says Queens College President Frank H. Wu. “So many of us lost precious time with loved ones while in isolation before losing them to COVID, making this physical gathering even more significant and necessary. Jessica and Danielle have added a special poignancy to our school motto, ‘We learn so that we may serve.’”

The event will be hosted by the Alejandros. Speakers will be President Frank H. Wu; Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr.; Senator Joseph Addabbo; Assemblywoman Nily Rozic; Queens College Student Elizabeth Durand, who lost her parents—Gloria E. and Michael C. Kelly—to COVID-19; Gerry Brostek, the son of Joseph Brostek ’55, a COVID-19 victim; Yellow Heart Memorial Founder Rosie Davis; and Office of Student Development and Leadership Administrative Coordinator Kayla Cato, who served as the administrative liaison to the Alejandro sisters and helped plan the event.

“My sister and I wanted so much for our Queens College family to have the opportunity to honor a loved one through the Yellow Heart Memorial—as we did with our Papa [grandfather]—and to be part of a community that understands their depth of grief,” says Jessica Alejandro.

“When we lost our Papa, our world stopped, but the world around us continued to move forward,” adds Danielle Alejandro. “It is our mission to make sure that the world knows that our Papa and other loved ones lost to COVID were here, that they are still loved and deeply missed and are more than just statistics.”

Davis founded the Yellow Heart Memorial as an online community following the loss of her mother Mary Castro to COVID on May 17, 2020. The memorial currently has twelve national chapters and one international chapter. Having found comfort and support through this online community, the Alejandro sisters sought to transform their grief into advocacy for others affected by COVID loss by spearheading the commemorative event at the college.

As the New York City team leads for Yellow Heart Memorial, the sisters will help host the second annual COVID March to Remember—a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge—on Saturday, August 6, 2022. They are also working with New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo to create a permanent Yellow Heart Memorial to honor New York City residents lost to COVID.

About Queens College
Queens College produces more education graduates who become principals, teachers, and counselors for the city’s public schools than any other college in the metropolitan area. The college contributes to the local talent pool as a powerful economic engine and a leader in tech education. 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 over 100 Grammy Awards and nominations.

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 more than 20,000 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 has been cited by Princeton Review as one of America’s Best Value Colleges for four consecutive years, 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​.

Maria Matteo

Media and College Relations