My name is Adrienne Cabral and I am a graduate of the class of 1979. After graduation, I went on to attend and earn a degree from Syracuse University’s School of Visual and Performing Arts in speech communication and broadcast journalism. While my career aspiration was to share the 20/20 desk with Barbara Walters, life led me in a completely different direction. I have spent the last 30 plus years in publishing and information technology sales management.
I have many fond memories of my time at Aquinas. My fondest memories are Freshman Baby Day where senior sisters dressed up their freshman sisters like babies and had a contest in the gym. Afterward, senior sisters would take their freshmen sisters out to Jan’s for ice cream. And who can forget Ring Day (skating from Fordham Road to the school)? I also thought our worship services in the gym were the best!
What has impacted my life the most from my time at Aquinas are the values of integrity, commitment, sisterhood and love that were instilled in each of us, as well as the importance of education and excellence. Our teachers were committed and took the time to know us, resulting in relationships of mutual respect. We felt valued as young women and our potential was encouraged and supported. We knew that our similarities were much greater than our differences, and while we had our challenges and periods of conflict, we were able to work through them and remain sisters.
In 2006, I graduated from Aquinas and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Latin American and Latino studies from Fordham University in 2010. I’ve always had a love for science and animals, and I was very interested in becoming a veterinarian. At Fordham, I had a tough time keeping up with the course load that would have allowed me to get into veterinarian school so my dream of becoming a vet seemed unmanageable. I started doing more research on the field, and I came across an article about veterinary technicians and it peaked my interest. I had no idea that veterinary technicians (nurses) existed because I was working as a veterinary assistant for a very small clinic and they did not employ technicians.
In the fall of 2010, I enrolled at Mercy College. I instantly fell in love with the Veterinary Technology Program and my teachers and advisers were very knowledgeable and caring. During my time at Mercy College, I got a job at a smaller hospital, City Veterinary Care, where I still work today. There, I was able to put all my schooling into practice. I took my VTNE (state exam for technicians) in November 2013 and passed the first time around. I graduated in the spring of 2014 and am now a veterinary technician. In addition to working full time, I work weekends on an economical spay and neuter truck called The Toby Project where I help those who would not be able to afford the cost of spaying/neutering their pets. It truly has been the most rewarding career.
My time in Aquinas were the best years of my life and I have never forgotten the lessons I learned. Aquinas gave me confidence and made me believe I could accomplish any dream I had. I still remember all the pep rallies, “wacky tacky” days, friends and teachers. We may not all speak to one another today but that does not erase the good times I experienced. What I hope for all the young ladies at Aquinas is to enjoy their time, take it all in and learn as much as you can because those four years fly by. I want them to be proud to be a part of this community.
We would like to introduce Janine Wilson, Class of 1994, our May Alumnae Spotlight.
As a graduate of Aquinas High School and a class member of 1994, I am very thankful for the education I received at Aquinas High School. An alumnae gleams with pride where there is high school excellence where 25 years ago, ranked #4 in New York City. I remember my first day as a freshman to my ring day, prom and graduation day. I remember participating in the Glee Club with Mr. Roman for all 4 years. Every year the Glee would prepare to take part in the Christmas and Spring Plays. Twenty five years later, I still remember what certain teachers taught me. Those including Ms. Iozzo, Sr. Elizabeth, Mr. Behlin and others who played a part in my education. During my time at Aquinas, my mother grew sick and died of cancer. The staff at Aquinas made sure I received grievance counseling as well as seeking a sponsor to help my widowed father pay for my tuition. After I graduated in 1994, I attended Norfolk State University. I majored and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology in 1999.
While I was an undergraduate, I was introduced to the person that is now my husband. We were friends for 2 years before he proposed to me. I gave birth to my 2 oldest sons while I was studying for my undergraduate degree. I birthed 3 more children after I obtained my Bachelor's degree. As of July 24th of this year, we will be married for 20 years. In 2010, I graduated with Honors from South University. I obtained my Master of Arts in Professional Counseling.
I am a Medical Technologist in a hospital laboratory. I also use my Master's degree currently and I work as a rehabilitation counselor in a state prison. I work with youth offenders from the age from 18 to 26 years old. My duties include individual counseling and facilitating group classes. I have also work with HIV patients as a medical case worker and performed assessments on children with behavioral problems in the school system.
Over the years, I have developed my skill and love for photography. Currently, I have photographed numerous weddings, numerous sports championships at arenas, as well as local events including a Mayor's gala. I am identified as a freelance photographer for Jasper Sun Times in South Carolina. My sports photography has been featured on the front pages of the sport sections of the Jasper Sun and Bluffton Today newspapers. My gallery of work is also on the Jasper Sun Times website, sports section. A gallery of some of my photography can be seen on my Instagram page @jwynnwilsonphotograhy. I am hoping one day I will work full time as a contract photographer for National Geographic or ESPN!
I have a 21-year-old son who is a senior at Coastal Carolina University, studying exercise science. I have a 23 working young man, who also produces music and is an artist. My middle son is enlisted in the Unites States Marines, and he is currently at Boot Camp. My baby boy is an 18-year senior who will be graduating this week. My youngest and only daughter is 17, who is graduating early due to taking high school classes in 8th grade. She will also be graduating this week. They both will be attending the University of South Carolina. My son will be studying communication and journalism. My daughter will be studying exercise science and she does very well with cosmetology. She was featured on the Best and Worst Prom Dresses of 2019 on YouTube in all turquoise with an umbrella. As a member of the class of 1994, I cherish the memories of my alumnae and proud to be an Aquinite!
Dr. Maria Vallejo
We would like to introduce Dr. Maria Vallejo, Class of 1970, our April Alumnae Spotlight.
Maria was born in Puerto Rico and raised in the South Bronx. In the spring of 1970, Maria graduated from Aquinas High School where she would soon move on to higher education. "My experiences at Aquinas provided the best academic preparation for college and the club activities, especially the ASPIRA CLUB. They provided the confidence, and leadership development necessary to be successful in life. The sisters were challenging and supportive and they expected the best from us. By the time I started college, I was filled with determination to be successful. I was on a mission. In fact I transferred out of a college because I felt the focus was on grades not on learning. Aquinas and Sister Margaret Ryan instilled that in me. It's a truism that if you have high standards for students, they will rise to the challenge."
Maria later returned to college to receive her bachelor's degree from Hampshire College, two master degrees from Columbia University and her PH.D. in Bilingual Curriculum Development/Higher Education from New York University.
Dr. Maria Vallejo's over 40-year career exemplifies a lifetime commitment to the community college mission of access, opportunity, learning and service. Her accomplishments demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of college leadership as well as her various constituents. Recently, Dr. Vallejo was promoted to Palm Beach State College (PBSC) Vice President for Growth and Expansion as well as Provost for both the Belle Glade Campus and recently opened (2017) Loxahatchee Groves Campus. This promotion comes after serving as Provost for the Lake Worth Campus of Palm Beach State for 17 years.
Dr. Vallejo was on the Board of Advisors of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber, who awarded her the Shining Star Award, the Women's Chamber of Commerce, which honored her with the Giraffe Award, as well as the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches who honored her with the Women in Leadership Award in 2010. She was a member of the Belle Glade Chamber, and a trustee for The Central Palm Beach Chamber. She was one of the 12 women honored in South Florida as a "Hispanic Woman of Distinction" and was honored at the "Portrait of A Woman" Charity Luncheon in 2012, benefitting Quantum House of Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast.
In 2015, she was named one of the Top 100 Women in Higher Education by Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Dr. Vallejo is a founding member (1977) of the National Association of Black Women in Higher Education (ABWHE) where she served as Vice President.
"Aquinas' Christian foundation taught me, love and responsibility for my 'fellow man'. I acquired there the foundation for my future career to "do the right thing" on a daily basis, and provide access to education for all groups. Aquinas is living proof that access to quality education changes lives for generations to come."
Maria has been married for 38 years and has lived in Wellington, Florida for 20 years. Maria has two grown sons who are proud Palm Beach State Alumni.
We would like to introduce Christina Williams, Class of 1958, our February Alumnae Spotlight. I arrived at Aquinas in September of 1954. My bus journey everyday to and from Washington Heights was a long one. Once in the Bronx more Aquinites would board and sit together, finishing homework, studying for tests, and having a lot of laughs. We were often reminded by Sr. Concepta on the" PA System" about proper bus behavior befitting an Aquinite.
My years there until my graduation in June 1958 were filled with new friends, new knowledge and for me feeling safe and cared for by my teachers. Having attended St. Rose of Lima grammar school for 8 years, I was fortunate to spend 12 years with the Sparkill Dominicans. Within a few years of graduating I lost both of my parents, got married and had 3 jobs. I started a family in 1965. I have 4 daughters and 6 grand children who are all beautiful, smart and the loves of my life.
During that time I did a lot of volunteer work at my parish but I always had hopes of going to college. In 1986 I graduated from Old Westbury with my BA in in Psychology and in 1993 I continued my education at Adelphi University where I graduated with my Masters in Social Work.
Most of my career in Social Work has been with addicts and their families, an illness that has greatly impacted my own family. I am semi-retired now but still see a few clients in my private practice. It has been very fulfilling work.
Back in 1954 one had to take individual acceptance tests at every school you wanted to possibly attend. For me Aquinas was love at first sight, the beautiful place where I learned values that have stayed with me throughout my life!
Tsedale M. Melaku
Aquinas brings back such fond memories filled with joy and lots of laughter. I had the best time at Aquinas. I met lifelong friends and developed a sisterhood that has sustained me until this very day. I loved that my classmates and I were able to enjoy the spirit of Aquinas in a way that reflected our upbringing and continuously challenged our intellectual pursuits. Sr. Eileen, affectionately known as "Speedy" kept us on time, Ms. Breden (Gallo) and Ms. Santos encouraged us to never give up, Ms. Calabro opened new doors that peaked my sociological imagination as a freshman, Sr. Ancilla exuded such kindness and warmth, while Ms. Yezzi pushed me to reach for the presidency! All of this happened at the perfect rhythm set by Sr. Margaret Ryan, accompanied by countless others from Ms. Iozzo, Sr. Catherine Rose, to Jimmy. In addition to receiving a top-notch education that paved the way to both my intellectual curiosity and ambitious endeavors, I learned to love to learn and to build a community of support that would help me throughout my journey. That began at Aquinas.
Upon graduating from Aquinas, I attended New York University and received a bachelor's of arts degree in Sociology and Africana Studies and a minor in Psychology. With a strong desire to go to law school, I decided to work at a law firm to gauge whether the legal field was right for me. My exposure to the legal field led me to pursue a doctorate. I completed my Ph.D. in Sociology with a concentration in Africana Studies and Women's Studies at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Shortly thereafter, I was appointed as a visiting Assistant Professor and postdoctoral research fellow with the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas & the Caribbean (IRADAC). During my time at the Graduate Center I established myself as an emerging and sought-after scholar whose expertise on women in the workplace has not only been recognized among my peers in the academy but also at a national level through features on NBC Left Field and the TODAY Show. Also, I have been invited by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and the Brooklyn Historical Society to participate in an expert panel to reflect on the implications of the midterm elections and discuss the role that race and gender continue to play in American politics. My forthcoming book, You Don't Look Like A Lawyer: Black Women and Systemic Gendered Racism, is scheduled to be published in Joe R. Feagin's prominent race series, Perspectives on a Multiracial America, in April 2019. The findings presented in the book have already been noticed by The New York Times, which will be featured in a forthcoming article.
You Don't Look Like A Lawyer documents how systemic gendered racism and white racial framing deny access and advancement to partnership for black female lawyers. Drawing from narratives of black women, their experiences center around gendered racism and are embedded within institutional practices at the hands of predominantly white men. In particular, the book covers topics such as (1) appearance; (2) white narratives of affirmative action; (3) differences and similarities with white women and black men; (4) exclusion from social and professional networking opportunities (the Boys' Club); and (5) lack of mentors, sponsors and substantive training. The core of this book highlights the often-hidden mechanisms elite law firms utilize to perpetuate and maintain a dominant white male system. By weaving the narratives with a critical race analysis, the reader is exposed to this exclusive elite environment, demonstrating the rawness and reality of black women's experiences in white spaces. This framework allows us to hear the voices of black women as they tell their stories and perspectives on working in a highly competitive, racialized and gendered environment, and the impact it has on their advancement and beyond.
I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. I have a loving family, supportive friends and a community that nurtures and uplifts one another. My husband, Dr. Christoph Winkler, and I have two beautiful, healthy and loving sons, Lukas (5) and Yonas (2). The Lord continues to guide our love, providing sustenance for our daily lives. The greatest impact Aquinas has had on my life is building upon the foundation laid out by my parents: to continue to live every day with kindness, love, warmth, and thanksgiving, sharing in the abundance of life, and for that I will always be grateful.