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Shanker Scholarship winners aim to make ‘world a better place’

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Teenager standing with family members
Mike LoVerde

Sameh Abdellal (second from right) in Silver Lake Park on Staten Island with (from left) his sister, Sarah; mother, Geihan Hassan; brother, Muhammad; and father, Hosamelden.

Teenager wearing graduation cap with his arm around two adults
Erica Berger
Zulnorain Ahmed of the HS of Computers and Technology in the Bronx, with his parents, (from left) Hina and Basit.

When high school senior Katie Castrianni interned in 2019 at a community health outreach program at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, she had no idea how timely the experience would be.

“We surveyed community members about their access to housing, food and medical services,” said Castrianni, an Albert Shanker Scholarship Award recipient who is graduating from Fort Hamilton HS in Brooklyn.

Well ahead of the coronavirus crisis, the survey revealed how education and a good job have immense implications for health care and susceptibility to disease.

“It’s important to recognize income disparity is a large factor in our lives and health care,” she said. “It relates to everything.”

Castrianni is one of more than 180 city public high school students and graduate students to win Shanker scholarships from the UFT this year. She will use the $5,000 award when she studies nursing at the College for Health Professions at Pace University in Pleasantville, New York.

“The Shanker scholarships are another demonstration of our members’ deep commitment to their students,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

The union-funded awards each year provide almost $1 million to academically excellent and financially eligible city public high school seniors and graduate students. Since 1969, the program has awarded more than $50 million in scholarships.

Although the annual celebration at UFT headquarters was canceled because of the pandemic, scholars, counselors and teachers shared their classroom experiences — and the inspiration they found in each other.

Teenager wearing graduation cap being kissed by two adults
Erica Berger
Gabriella Fernando is congratulated by her parents, Nishan (left) and Tersila.
Teenager holding Stony Brook banner
Jonathan Fickies

It’s no longer a secret where Nigel Hector of Grover Cleveland HS in Queens will be going to college in the fall.

Teenager holding up Pace University T-shirt
Jonathan Fickies

Katie Castrianni of Fort Hamilton HS in Brooklyn will be taking her talents (and T-shirt) to Pace University.

Castrianni credited Niki Maratos, her junior year Advanced Placement English teacher, with helping her hone her writing skills, apply for the internship and more. “Everything in class was not just about academics, but building us up as people,” she said.

Castrianni always focused “on learning and interacting with her peers and the teacher,” Maratos said. “And she always wanted to interact with the materials with an eye toward making the world a better place.”

Honoree Sameh Abdellal will study civil engineering at the City College of New York’s Grove School of Engineering. He said his physics teacher at Curtis HS on Staten Island, Alia Jackson, “helped me understand civil engineering and I got interested in it as a career.” She also helped him brush up his writing skills.

“Anytime I presented an opportunity for an internship or program, he was interested in every one, even after school and on weekends, sacrificing his personal time,” Jackson said. “That speaks to his character.”

Nigel Hector is considering a major in English or economics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island. “My long-term goal is to study law,” he said. John Parkinson, Hector’s counselor at Grover Cleveland HS in Ridgewood, Queens, helped him with the college application process and “pushed me to go for something greater. I think he saw in me a spirit of determination, and he helped me to do more,” Hector said.

“Nigel is highly intelligent, with a tremendous thirst for knowledge,” Parkinson said. “He’s so beloved by fellow students. Everyone is rooting for him.”

Gabriella Fernando plans to study ethnicity, race and migration at Yale University in Connecticut. “I really like this major,” she said. “You can examine the issues from a policy, history and education perspective.”

Jessica Arkin, her counselor at the HS for Environmental Studies in Manhattan, encouraged Gabriella to reach for the Ivy League. “She always had high expectations for me, even in my junior year,” Fernando said.

“Sometimes students don’t see how amazing they are,” said Arkin. “Gabriella has an excellent intellect and writing skills. She needs to be in a thought-provoking environment.”

Zulnorain Ahmed is looking forward to studying computer science and neuroscience, including artificial intelligence, at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.

Jessica Cordero, his school counselor at the HS of Computers and Technology in the Bronx, said Ahmed, who built his own computer and keyboard, is “a go-getter who is interested in many things.”

“I’ve been at my school for 13 years, and he’s one of the best students I’ve worked with,” she said. “He’s extremely mature, an all-around great kid and a leader.”

Ahmed said Cordero made the process of applying for colleges and scholarships easy, proofing his essays and much more. “She was always encouraging me and my friends,” he said. But he also cherishes the easy-going moments.

“We had a lot of laughs in the counselor’s office,” he said. “She was such a blast to be around. She lightened the mood.”

Here is a complete list of this year's Shanker scholarship winners:


Azeezat Adesanya – Academy of Urban Planning HS
Aileen Li – New Utrecht HS
Mina Alamari – International HS at Prospect Heights
Ashley Lopez – New Utrecht HS
Daniyal Atiq – New Utrecht HS
Deanna-Marie Badio – Edward R. Murrow HS
Mosammat Begum – Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women
Lashanti Black – HS for Innovation in Advertising and Media
Jaida Brown – John Dewey HS
Jose Camacho – Pathways in Technology Early College HS
Katie Castrianni – Fort Hamilton HS
Bin Chen – John Dewey HS
Polina Didun – Edward R. Murrow HS
Anastasiia Fisiuk – James Madison HS
Mariyal Gebura – New Utrecht HS
Youssef Hasweh – Fort Hamilton HS
Pakyuzara Ho – New Utrecht HS
Kareem Hubbard – Automotive HS
Ishrat Jahan – George Westinghouse HS
Vicky Jiang – Urban Assembly School for Criminal Justice
Yuyi Jiang – John Dewey HS
Muna Jodeh – William E. Grady Career and Technical Education HS
Monique Johnson – Brooklyn Institute for Liberal Arts
Karem Katary – Fort Hamilton HS
Hailah Khatari – Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women
Bridgette Kovler – Fort Hamilton HS
Lauviah Labonte – Academy for Hospitality and Tourism
Yan Lai – New Utrecht HS
Irena Li – New Utrecht HS
Zhan Hao Li – John Dewey HS
Leyi Lin – New Utrecht HS
Andres Lin Huang – John Dewey HS
Tatianna Maurice – Academy for Hospitality and Tourism
Misty Chen Zeng – New Utrecht HS
Dieu Thy Nguyen – International HS at Lafayette
Brianna Panton – HS for Public Service – Heroes of Tomorrow
Christina Panton – HS for Public Service – Heroes of Tomorrow
Jennifer Pizarro Carrion – Sunset Park HS
Javon Roberts – Edward R. Murrow HS
Kimberly Rosario – International HS at Prospect Heights
Olasade Salami – Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women
Abu Sayed – Cypress Hills Collegiate Prep
Taohid Shadat – Brooklyn Technical HS
Lobna Shehab – Fort Hamilton HS
Wardah Sheikh – James Madison HS
Erica Shum – Brooklyn Technical HS
Ruhshona Sirojiddinove – New Utrecht HS
Khrystyna Stepura – Franklin D. Roosevelt HS
Kayla Tavarez – Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice
Patrice Tousaint – Edward R. Murrow HS
Abdul Wahab – John Dewey HS
Faith Whittaker – Brooklyn College Academy
Sanejeda Yeasmin – Edward R. Murrow HS
Yalin Zhang – John Dewey HS
Gao Zhen Zhen – John Dewey HS
Shaquille Zheng – Franklin D. Roosevelt HS
Maggie Zhu – Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women


Ismail Abalo Toga – HS of American Studies at Lehman College
Badaria Aboulaye – Bronx International Academy
Khaled Ahmed – Metropolitan Soundview HS
Zulnorain Ahmed – HS of computers and Technology
Patricia Anika – Bronx Collegiate Academy
Patrick Anika – Bronx Collegiate Academy
Enmanuel Baez – Bronx Envision Academy
Idelkys Checo – Ellis Preparatory Academy
Yeanoor Chowdhury – Ellis Preparatory Academy
Maria Delossantos – Comprehensive Model School Project
Moyhamed Dia – New World HS
Fatoumata Fadiga – International Community HS
Joseph Francisco – Academy for Language and Technology
Aresha Gill – Harry S. Truman HS
Goldie Hutchful – Gotham Collaborative HS
Yaniel Laureano – Bronx Inernational Academy
Nashara Marrow – Celia Cruz HS of Music
Kousso Monnet – Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science
Gabriel Mora – Dewitt Clinton HS
Gary Pazmino – Pelham Preparatory Academy
Chelsea Pereyra – Celia Cruz HS of Music
Christopher Perez – Herbert H. Lehman HS
Ahbabur Rahman – HS of Computers and Technology
Justin Ramirez – Bronx Design and Construction Academy
Froylan Reyes – Schuylerville Preparatory HS
Miguel Reyes – Metropolitan HS
Ariagna Reynoso – Pan American International HS at Monroe
Lia Sanchez – World View HS
Maceta Touray – Validus Preparatory Academy
Alexander Valerio – In-Tech Academy
Jaeliana Veras – Young Women’s Leadership School of the Bronx
Andrews Wiredu – Bronx Envision Academy
Abigail Zamora – Ellis Preparatory Academy


Aaliyah Alcibar – Professional Performing Arts HS
Julian Alvo – Professional Performing Arts HS
Pamela Anderson – HS for Environmental Studies
Oluwasogo Awofeso – Liberty HS
Manda Bah – International HS at Union Square
Loren Baret – Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics
Gladymar Bautista – HS for Environmental Studies
Helen Blanding – Facing History School
Michael Bolden – Eagle Academy for Young Men of Harlem
Keshanti Bruce – Talent Unlimited HS
Yesmil Cepeda – Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change
Tiffany Davis – HS for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice
Yasmine Essaid – Richard R. Green HS of Teaching
Stuart Estrada – Manhattan Bridges HS
Shams Fardeen – Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics
Gabriella Fernando – HS for Environmental Studies
Lamine Fofana – Life Sciences Secondary School
Kyra Garcia-Vera – Leadership and Public Service HS
Yehara Gutierrez Rodriguez – Gregorio Luperon Preparatory HS
Wei Kang He – East Side Community HS
Ugo Iroh – HS for Environmental Studies
David Jiang – Vanguard HS
Nicholas Jun – Stuyvesant HS
Daniel Kelly – Academy for Software Engineering
Michelle Lee – HS for Dual Language and Asian Studies
Ying Zi Mei – Stuyvesant HS
Cecilia Najera – HS for Environmental Studies
Gissette Noriega – Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics
Oluwadara Oyaniran – New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math HS
Jasmilka Pena – HS for Environmental Studies
Lani Perez – Gregorio Luperon Preparatory HS
Akbar Rimon – Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics
Jason Rodriguez – Manhattan Village Academy
Jair Ruiz-Mendia – The College Academy
Bryan Santos – Manhattan Academy for Arts and Language
Yuyao Shi – HS for Dual Language and Asian Studies
Rachidatou Sofiani – International HS at Union Square
Sabina Tafader – Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics
Kevin Wander – Chelsea Career and Technical Education HS


Nonyelis Abreu – Rockaway Collegiate HS
Tasnia Ahmed – Thomas A. Edison HS
Maisha Alam – Jamaica Gateway to the Sciences
Nina Therese Allera – Middle College HS at LaGuardia Community College
Amerli Almonte – Rockaway Collegiate HS
Shohely Anonna – Hillcrest HS
Lisbeth Arias – The Baccalaureate School for Global Education
Yogita Arjune – Flushing HS
Maritza Campoverde – HS for Arts and Business
Deylin Capone – Scholars’ Academy
Gisselle Cuzco – Benjamin N. Cardozo HS
Bianca Damas Hernandez – Queens HS for Information, Research and Technology
Arianna Deans – Thomas A. Edison HS
Jannahtullah Elgamssy – Francis Lewis HS
Arianna Escobar-Reyes – Queens Metropolitan HS
Sarahjireh Estrada – HS for Arts and Business
Maryam Fayza – Hillcrest HS
Daniella Fermin – Newtown HS
Jada Forrester – John Bowne HS
Karen Guanga – Benjamin N. Cardozo HS
Kimberly He – John Bowne HS
Nigel Hector – Grover Cleveland HS
Tasnim Islam – William Cullen Bryant HS
Denzil Jackson – Eagle Academy for Young Men III
Maisha Jacy – Newcomers HS
Fatima Jahra – Jamaica Gateway to the Sciences
Aliyah Jara – Benjamin N. Cardozo HS
Janeth Jerez – Francis Lewis HS
Realreet Kaur – Thomas A. Edison HS
Kingshuk Kundu – Flushing HS
Jessie Li – Maspeth HS
Christy Lin – Academy of Finance and Enterprise
Jolin Lin – Bayside HS
Sumayya Mokit – Queens Young Women’s Leadership School
Sthepany Monteros – International HS
Rachel Morales – HS for Arts and Business
Rodyna Mostafa – Astoria Young Women’s Leadership School
Melanie Ng – Benjamin N. Cardozo HS
Zariah Ramnarine – Francis Lewis HS
Manreet Ranu – Benjamin N. Cardozo HS
Rovaniaina Raveloson – Townsend Harris HS
Shahnaj Rima – Queens Young Women’s Leadership School
Tulsi Sewdass – Hillside Arts and Letters Academy
Magdalena Todorinova – Forest Hills HS
Kevin Weng – The Baccalaureate School for Global Education
Brian Yeom – Benjamin N. Cardozo HS

Staten Island

Sameh Abdellal – Curtis HS
Liath Asous – Susan E. Wagner HS
Isaiah Detres – Port Richmond HS
Fatou Gaye – Port Richmond HS
Chaya Perera – Port Richmond HS
Josias Pichardo – Port Richmond HS
Thenuri Poththewela – Port Richmond HS
Franciara Santos De Oliveira – Curtis HS
Belinda Tran – Curtis HS
Victoria Zhu – Staten Island Technical HS

Graduate students

Dildora Davronkulova – Jonathan Levin Education Award
Jannah Said – Murry Bergtraum Medical Award
Saddiya Mohammad – David Wittes Masters Award
Peter Simpson – A. Phillip Randolph Masters Award
Weichong Wu – Reuben Mitchell Masters Award
Kangjin Wang – Henry Linville Masters Award
Lina Sultan – Sidney Harris Masters Award
Nazrin Akther – Jules Kolodny Masters Award


Related Topics: UFT Scholarship Fund