Tag Archives: The Reporter

Two Kendall Campus Students Snag Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

This piece was published in the Miami Dade College student newspaper, The Reporter. It’s part of a series of articles I wrote for them between August 2013 and May 2015, now being uploaded in whole to ElMonzon.com.


Two Kendall Campus students were awarded a prestigious scholarship to complete their bachelor’s degrees at highly selective universities.

Norka Lecca and Karen Burgos won the $30,000 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship that recognizes students’ academic persistence and achievement in the face of difficult circumstances.

“[Karen and I] were invited to go see [Lourdes] Oroza, the [Kendall] Campus
president, with our Honors College adviser, Jennifer Bravo,” Lecca said. ”We thought we were there for a ‘special project,’ but little did we know that we would
instead be told that we had received the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship.”

Considered the largest private scholarship available for students at twoyear institutions, the 13 year old scholarship selected 85 finalists from across the country this year from a pool of 3,705 applicants whose academic persistence and achievement in the face of difficult circumstances, such as an average gross adjusted family income of $25,000, made them worthy candidates.

Lecca plans to transfer to the University of Miami. Burgos hopes to transfer to Swarthmore, Florida International University or the University of Florida.

“I was taken completely by surprise,” said Burgos, who graduated from Miami Dade College on May 3 with a 4.0 GPA. “But when I realized it was for real, my first thought was that I couldn’t wait to tell my parents.”

Lecca was born in Lima, Peru. An alumnus of G. Holmes Braddock High School, she wants to pursue a career in political science, aspiring to be a civil rights lawyer and judge. During her time at the Honors College, she was a part of a student group that began a political awareness club. She was also involved with Phi Theta Kappa, becoming the vice president of scholarships by the end of her first year at MDC.

“This scholarship means everything to me,” Lecca said. “With it, I feel almost invincible, as if nothing and no one can stop me from reaching my goals.”

Burgos, a multilingual Cuban native, wants to pursue a career in linguistics. She sees language as a “giant series of patterns” that is worth analyzing, even though actual job opportunities for linguistics majors are “risky.”

A selfprofessed vocalist and longtime piano player, Burgos also enjoys songwriting and musical composition. Initially reluctant to attend MDC, the insufficient financial aid packages other schools offered, left her no choice. During her time at MDC, she maintained a 4.0 GPA and performed service activities in and outside of the College, from cleanup projects with Youth for Environmental Sustainability Club to working with autistic children at Caribbean Elementary.

“[The scholarship] means that the work I’ve done these past two years has paid off,” Burgos said. “In a way, it’s validating to know someone else finds value in what I’ve done.”

End of Spring Semester 2014

Hard at work at the Pinecrest Community Center on a bright Sunday afternoon.

Ah, here we are again. The end of semester #2 in college. This semester has been quite an interesting and busy one, what with 20 credits and all. Though my GPA did take a hit this semester (down to 3.80), this semester has officially knocked the socks off last fall. My work for The Reporter has progressed quickly, from being afforded the opportunity to write a last-minute summary of an upcoming lecture series (Radio Reporter Kenny Malone To Visit Wolfson Campus As Part of The MDC Journalism Speaker Series) to interviewing college officials (Bashford Tapped As InterAmerican Campus President) and even profiling the Wolfson Campus’ high-caliber Café (Campus Café Serves Stylish Sustenance).

I’m actually in the newsroom as I write this!

Officially the last picture of the semester! Taken as I walked out of my last final exam.

Beyond that, the two courses I learned a lot from this semester have truly left an impression on me: Intro to C++ Programming and Fundamentals of Music Theory. It was cool to try my hand at subjects that I’d never really involved myself in before, thereby challenging the feeling I often get after a school year or a semester passes: what did I learn that was really new?

Well, I certainly didn’t have the slightest clue as to how to read sheet music or program a text-based game before this semester, and now I do.

I got lucky and was able to catch a jam session going on in my theory class one day!
I got lucky and was able to catch a jam session going on in my theory class one day!

The semester also reinforced my idea that college is supposed to be a – amongst other things – a breeding ground for new experiences that will take me out of my comfort zone. I’m already used to classes where the norm is to listen to a lecture, engage in philosophical discussion and then write an essay about it all; therefore, it was a change of pace to engage in courses with a larger emphasis on hands-on activities, such as the labs in C++ Programming and the rhythm dictations in Music Theory.

The next two semesters will consist solely of prerequisite courses

such as Biology, Sociology and others.

Now it’s time to kick back and soak up the Miami sun!

You can very faintly see the sign of things to come on the display - The Reporter!
You can very faintly see the sign of things to come on the display – The Reporter!
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Protests Painful and Personal for Venezuelans in Miami


For Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus student Diego Almaral, watching Venezuelan protesters being shot at and beaten in the streets of his country Is painful and personal. Like many Venezuelans abroad, he is trying to raise awareness about the situation.

“Even though I am far from my homeland, I will continue to fight for the good of my people,” Almaral said.

The Venezuelan protests sprang from dissatisfaction with living standards, a hobbled economy and high crime, as well as from the frustration of government opponents who felt shut out of the political system, The New York Times reported. President Nicolás Maduro dismissed the protesters as coup-plotters and fascists.

Almaral hopes to raise awareness of the violence there by leading the newly formed Venezuelan Student Association at Wolfson Campus. It is a chapter of the Venezuelan Student Alliance at Florida International University. The Wolfson Campus currently hosts 166 Venezuelan students as international students, according to the Office of International Students.

The new club will host its first event, a lecture and student discussion entitled “S.O.S. Venezuela: a country in crisis,” on March 27 in Room 3208-09 from 5:40 p.m.– 7 p.m.

Venezuelan students at multiple MDC campuses have been touched by the turmoil in the country and are expressing their dissatisfaction. Many are showing their concern for their country by wearing T-shirts with messages in solidarity with the protesters, sporting Venezuelan flag pendants, painting S.O.S. Venezuela on their cars and attending rallies in Miami.

Voicing their support for the protesters and raising awareness about  the government brutality is just about all Venezuelans here can do. The Venezuelan government closed their consulate here two years ago in a diplomatic dispute leaving the estimated 300,000 Venezuelans here without consular services and protesters without a direct focus.

On a recent balmy night in downtown Miami, more than a hundred people wearing white as well as the red, blue and yellow colors of the Venezuelan flag crowded around a statue of the 19th century Latin American independence leader Simón Bolívar for an S.O.S. Venezuela rally.

The statue was a significant reminder of Bolivar’s key role in freeing Venezuela and other surrounding countries from oppressive Spanish colonial rule.

“If in Venezuela, they march 365 days of the year, we too have stand up for them,” Andrea Martini told the crowd in Spanish through a megaphone, her voice full of ardor.

This candlelight vigil began at 8 p.m. and included singing the Venezuelan national anthem and commemorating fallen student protesters.

S.O.S. Venezuela en Miami, a Miami-based activist group working for human rights in Venezuela facilitated the largest demonstration of anti-government sentiment on February 22 at J.C. Bermudez Park in Doral, attended by thousands. The Bayfront Park demonstration marked one month since the February 12 anti-government protests in Venezuela garnered global attention when three protesters were killed.

Doral is known for its high concentration of Venezuelans and MDC’s West Campus has a large Venezuelan population.

”Some of these students held a small rally at the campus that showed their solidarity,” said Ana DeMahy, Director of Administrative and Student Services at the West Campus.

Zacharias Cohen, a Venezuelan student at Wolfson Campus, is disturbed that the Venezuelan army has been using tear gas and rubber bullets against their own people. He notes the irony, that the force has “guardia del pueblo” (guardian of the people) inscribed on the back of their uniforms.

Cohen said life in his oil rich country is unstable and chaotic with mobs of customers invading supermarkets once their stock comes in. The availability of basic goods like sugar, butter, milk and flour (used to make arepas, a Venezuelan staple) are limited, with supermarkets placing signs such as “1 kilogram of powdered milk” per person.

“It makes no sense,” says Cohen, who returned to Venezuela at the age of 16 to finish high school but later returned to the U.S. to finish college. “Why would you want to limit your population?”

Cohen’s own friends are victims of the increased crime. He describes Venezuela’s recent history as a bubble that was waiting to burst.

“For 15 years, the same government has been in power,” Cohen said, adding that the current violence and anti-government demonstrations were bound to happen. “Basically, it’s just  chaos.”