The Firefighter Christopher Santora Educational Scholarship Fund Website

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Gabrielle Monge:
2015 Winner
CCC Queensview Inc.

Gabrielle Monge

Winning Essay

When I used to hear the word “justice” I would quickly think of a courtroom with a judge slamming down a gavel, sending the bad guy to jail to serve time for his crimes. I would only think of it in context of the law. My ideas on the word changed once I thought about it in the context of the Pledge of Allegiance. “With liberty and justice for all.” When hearing it like this I began to view justice in a far more general way. It’s not in reference to criminal cases; it simply means fairness or equality. Our pledge ensures us justice for all, not just the rich, not just the good looking, not just men. Although there have been times where there hasn’t been justice in our country, we can see throughout history when wrongs were righted and justice was present.

One of the first places I learned about justice is when I would go to vote with my parents. I would follow them into the big room filled with machines and people. I was always very enticed by the machines with their many levers and switches, but what I remember most are the people. Looking around that room I would notice all the types of people who surrounded me and think, “I can’t wait until I get to vote”. I thought it was such a cool thing to be able to do. That memory resurfaced now as I think about what justice means. I saw justice in that room because every type of person was standing in that room, men and women, and people of many different races, all of them ready to cast their vote, a right they have in our democracy. It is disturbing that currently there are poorly conceived efforts to limit people’s right to vote. There are different states whose legislators want to force people to have specific forms of ID in order to vote. The opponents of this feel that people in poor districts would be most affected by this, they would not be allowed to vote, and the loss of those votes could give an unfair advantage to one or the other political parties. To me, this is going backwards. There is no social justice in this.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in August 1920, granted American women the right to vote. It was a 70 year struggle, but finally, women could vote. The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in February 1870, prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s race, color, or previous condition of servitude—or slavery. Much more recently, in August 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. Despite the 15th Amendment, there were still many barriers at state and local levels that prevented African Americans from being able to vote. The Voting Rights Act was put into place to eliminate those barriers. The current movie “Selma” describes the protest march that led to President Johnson’s action. Legislators in our nation saw there was a problem with how things were and worked to change it. These changes were made and then there was a little bit more justice in our country.

One thing is for sure, despite what the pledge says, there is not justice for all. A lot of work must be done in order to make that be completely true. Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and right here in Staten Island highlight this. I was not in any courtroom. I did not hear any grand jury testimony. Maybe I don’t know the “whole story”. What I know to be true is that unarmed black men died at the hands of white police officers and this leaves me very angry and with many questions. How can it be that those police officers faced no criminal charges? I continue to think about Eric Garner. If he thought about the possibility of getting caught, did he leave his house that day thinking his actions would result in his death? Where was the equality? Five police officers against one man? Certainly not justice for all.

In 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the “Justice for All” Act. Its purpose is to provide victims with certain rights in a court case. But if the victim died as a result of that crime, where is the justice?

Despite my anger towards these situations, I believe our nation has the power to right itself. I believe this because it has been done many times before. There have been long periods of time when groups of people experienced injustice but eventually light was shed on the problem and it was recognized. Then it was fixed. Although these fixes didn’t create a perfect world free of injustice, they did remove a piece of it. Eventually the pieces add up. I can be confident that the current issues of the world will be fixed because I know people care so passionately about it. At the Oscars, John Legend spoke about these issues and how they had to be fixed. I was touched by the live rendition of “Glory”, nominated for Best Song from the movie “Selma”. When the song won, the two performers, John Legend and Common, gave very touching speeches. John Legend said “Selma is now. The struggle for justice is now.” And so it continues. Common’s words touched me even more. When referring to the bridge that the protesters walked over, demanding their voting rights, he said that the idea of the bridge was “Built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated by love for all human beings.”

That is how I want to think of ourselves, this human race, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or social status. We are different but together. Is it unrealistic to think that we can all get along one day? And what will bring us together? Will it be music? Will it be art? Will it be love for each other, knowing that we can only cross the great divide when we listen to each other, when we let each other breathe, when we respect each other? We’re still good people who want to do the right thing. We are Americans.

I will be starting my college years this September. I have visited CUNY campuses, SUNY campuses, private colleges and Catholic colleges. At each of them, I have heard about their faculty, their dorms, their sports teams, and their many, many clubs. But the campus organizations that interest me the most are the social justice organizations and campus ministry. I have always been involved in activities that in some way reach out to those less fortunate or those in some way at life’s disadvantages. I intend to continue doing that when I get to college in hopes of being a part of righting injustices.

Biography

We would like to wish Gabrielle Monge the best of luck moving on to Macaulay Honors College at Queens College. Congratulations!

I am Gabrielle Monge and I am 18 years old. I will be attending the Macaulay Honors College at Queens College in the Fall of 2015 and I am very excited about it. I am happy to be attending college in this city that I love so much. But my path to graduating high school has been quite different from what you might expect, and it was certainly different from what I expected. My older brother and I started our education as home-schooled students, and then attended traditional school as middle-schoolers. I expected to go to a local Catholic high school but after an audition at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, I got accepted into the vocal studio and now, four years later, will graduate from FSSA with Honors. I love the diversity of the students at FSSA and I have learned so much from my teachers, from my friends, and from the general student body, because everyone has so much to offer.  I now have experiences to remember like singing on stage for Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett and sitting in the second row of a Paul McCartney concert at my school.

I love to sing, and the education I have received from FSSA and at my private music school, Art House Astoria, along with my experiences with helping people, such as walking in the March of Dimes March for Babies Walkathon for many years, have helped shape my career path. I want to combine my knowledge of how our bodies work to produce sound with my genuine desire to help those around me and I believe I can do that by studying speech pathology at Queens College. I fully intend to go on to get my Master’s Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders.

As I said, I love this city and I love living in Queensview. It has been my only home and I treasure it. And I have come as far as I have because of the love and support of my parents and my brother Daniel.  

I want to thank the Santora Family for all of the work that they do in memory of their son Christopher. This scholarship means very much to me and it will help fund my college education.

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