Nelson Figueroa Jr. was 5 feet, 10 inches and just 125 pounds when he played baseball at Lincoln HS in Brooklyn but, buoyed by the leadership skills and life lessons instilled in him by his teachers and coaches, he impressed enough people to pitch in college and eventually be signed by his favorite team, his hometown New York Mets.
Dr. Sara Guevara built on the mentoring and support she received in Brooklyn public schools to become a family medicine physician who is working in underserved communities in New York City.
Carla Boutin-Foster is a world away from the 5-year-old who spoke only Creole when her parents — sights firmly set on the American dream — brought her to Brooklyn from Haiti.
Emmy Jo Favilla started reading at 3½ years old. “I asked my mom to confirm,” says BuzzFeed’s senior manager for brand voice and its style guru. Favilla grew up loving books, reading and writing.
Nickemil Concepcion attended public schools on Staten Island and Manhattan's New School of Ballet, which would become Ballet Tech, the NYC Public School for Dance. The programs and his teachers nurtured Concepcion's natural talent, and his photo hangs in the hallway at Ballet Tech, celebrating a career that began on Broadway in “Cinderella” when he was 11 and has continued to this day in dance companies performing throughout the country and around the world.
Lourdes Ventura was sworn in as a judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York on Dec. 18 at Queens Borough Hall, the same venue where, as a child, she accompanied her mother to translate at a housing court proceeding. The eldest of three children, Ventura was born in Queens to immigrants from the Dominican Republic. She was educated in public schools in Corona and Elmhurst.
James Gaffigan, the music director and chief conductor of Switzerland’s Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, attended public schooling on Staten Island. “If I didn’t go to public schools, I never would be where I am today,” says Gaffigan. “It’s an extraordinary gift to have a great teacher because that’s what gets kids excited about something. I remember so many of them and their passion.”
Lawrence Mohr is a doctor, an educator and a much-decorated Vietnam veteran, who served as the White House physician for two presidents. He is also a graduate of New York City public schools.
Jon Favreau says his four years at Bronx HS of Science are indelible for him. "Only now can I appreciate what a great life experience it was," he says. "I got a good working knowledge of many different cultures and as I travel or meet people throughout my life, I can draw upon that."