East Ramapo Activist Succumbs to COVID-19

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. East Ramapo Activist Succumbs to COVID-19
2. Carole Anderson Appointed to School Board
3. Student Essay: A Proud Product of the East Ramapo Central School District

1) East Ramapo Activist Succumbs to COVID-19

Jose Vitelio Gregorio passed away on April 30 due to COVID-19. He was a loving, hardworking father and provider for his three children, Natalia (12), Kevin (9), and Michele (23). Jose was immensely proud of his family and his community. He was also a strong advocate for quality public education for the children of East Ramapo. Jose was one of the courageous plaintiffs who stood shoulder to shoulder with the NAACP to fight for the rights of people of color in the Voting Rights Act lawsuit against the school district. His loss is felt deeply and could not come at a worse time for his family. 

Jose was the keynote speaker at the Noche Latina celebration at Ramapo High School on April 9, 2011. You can view his speech here: https://youtu.be/KrfHtIhjtWU

Jose, who worked in construction, was the primary earner for the household. His wife, Diomara, and his daughter, Michele, have lost their jobs during the pandemic. With resources depleted during Jose’s nearly month-long illness and no current sources of income, Jose’s family is dire need of financial support to provide for essentials until they can get back on their feet.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help his family. Your donation will go directly to Jose’s wife to assist them in this time of hardship.

2) Carole Anderson Appointed to School Board

Carole Anderson, public education activist and longtime supporter and friend of The Power of Ten, has been appointed an interim member of the school board.

Here is her biographical statement from when she ran for school board in 2011: As a former educator with 28 years in New York City schools and two Master’s degrees in Education and Administration, Carole is aware of the problems that our schools are facing. As a mother, she knows that the quality of EDUCATION in our public schools affects both our children and our community. She will work to restore the dedication to services, student performance, and excellence that once made East Ramapo one of the top districts in the state. The renewed reputation for excellence and success will raise property values and rally community spirit for all residents.

Carole will hold this seat until the next election, which has been indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic. Her time on the board may be short, but she will surely have a positive impact while she is there! Carole knows what an effective board looks like, she was active when our board was the envy of NY State, when Georgine Hyde, Dr. Danielle Bright, Dr. Susan Gordon, and many other luminaries led our district to the top position in the state. We now have three strong women of color on our board, and we hope to add to that in the next election with candidates Sherry McGill, Ana Maeda Gonzalez, and Kerry Victor, as well as Hiram Rivera.

3) Student Essay: A Proud Product of the East Ramapo Central School District

Ellen Sue Cola graduated from Ramapo High School in June 2016, and matriculated to Brown University, an Ivy League school located in Providence, RI. She triple-majored in Economics, Public Policy, and Africana Studies, a feat that only 2% of Brown undergraduates accomplish. This is her second essay for The Power of Ten, the first can be found here.

After graduating from Ramapo, I felt prepared to succeed in college due to the rigorous coursework that my educators provided me. During my first semester at Brown, I took an Introduction to Africana Studies course where students were responsible for completing the assigned readings and writing a weekly 2-page response paper. I remember my peers felt overwhelmed by this weekly task. I did not share that same sentiment because when I was in my 11th grade AP U.S. History course, I, too, had to write weekly response papers. Furthermore, the grading rubric that my high school history teacher used was more rigorous than that of my Brown University professor. All in all, going into college, I was academically confident in my writing because I knew East Ramapo gifted me with the tools necessary to authentically and persuasively communicate my thoughts on paper. As a matter of fact, in my first year at Brown, I conducted graduate level research and was one of the first students to present that research at the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.

My educational experience in East Ramapo was also shaped by the amazing faculty and staff. They truly put their students first and utilized the limited resources that they had to provide their students with the best possible educational experience. Educators would often stay after school to help students, going the extra mile to assist them however they saw fit. For example, my psychology teacher at Ramapo stayed after school with me on multiple occasions to help me write my college essay. This task had nothing to do with the Psychology material or homework assignments for class. Rather, he really wanted to help make my dream of going to college come true—and he did. Those are the types of educators that are present in the district—those that want to see their students succeed, believe in their students’ abilities, and will work with students to make their dreams become realities.

Obtaining an ERCSD education made me competitive in the college application process; it showed my resilience through times of challenge and difficulty. In a sense, the institutional difficulties that I experienced in East Ramapo forced me to be resourceful and ingenious. I came to realize that in life, you may not always have access to what you need, and it is vital to make the best out of the situation presented before you.

East Ramapo Central School District produces high achievers, risk takers, hard workers, and the like. Granted, there are some institutional and academic issues that need to be addressed and by no means am I claiming that they do not exist. However, there are powerful leaders and world changers that are bred within this district and that is something to be proud of and remember. Being a product of East Ramapo Central School District was an invaluable experience that I would not change for the world. I am a proud Ramapo Gryphon.