Monday, May 31, 2010

Staten Island Memorial Day Parade

Today marked the 91st annual Memorial Day Parade in West Brighton, Staten Island. I wanted to savor the holiday by honoring not only those who served this country, past and present, but to honor my Uncle Aldo, who served in the United States Army during World War II at the Battle of the Bulge, and Grandfather, John Giebelhaus, who served in the United States Navy during World War II.

My participation in the parade gave me the opportunity to say thank you to the service men and women who sacrifice their lives to protect our freedom. Freedom is a privilege; it is protected by the men and women in uniform, and it is kept alive by the veterans. This day is about the men and women who put themselves in harm's way for this country. Thank you to all our war heroes who demonstrate the true meaning of patriotism.

Jennifer Scacco, Miss Staten Island 2010, Jordan Kolwalski, Miss Liberty's Outstanding Teen 2010, and Kara Kowalski, Miss New York's Outstanding Teen 2009

The Marines

The Navy

Rolling Thunder, a group of veterns devoted to POW-MIA issues

Friday, May 28, 2010

World No Tobacco Day

May 31st isn't only significant for Memorial Day. Each year on this date the World Health Organization celebrates World No Tobacco Day, highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce consumption. Tobacco use is the second cause of death globally and is currently responsible for killing one in 10 adults worldwide. The World Health Assembly created World No Tobacco Day to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and its lethal effects. It provides an opportunity to highlight specific tobacco control messages and to promote adherence to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Tobacco use is the number one preventable epidemic that the health community faces.

The theme this year is gender and tobacco, with an emphasis on marketing to women. This event will draw particular attention to the harmful effects of tobacco marking and smoke on women and girls. It will also highlight the need for nearly 170 Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in accordance with their constitutions or constitutional principles. Women comprise about 20% of the world's more than 1 billion smokers. Women are a major target of opportunity for the tobacco industry, which need to recruit new users to replace the nearly half of current users who will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases. There is also a rising prevalence of tobacco use among girls, which points to evidence that tobacco advertising increasingly targets girls. World No Tobacco Day 2010 will give the overdue recognition to the importance of controlling the epidemic of tobacco among women. The World Health Organization will also encourage governments to pay particular attention to protecting women from the tobacco companies' attempts to lure them into lifetimes of nicotine dependence. I believe that protecting and promoting the health of women against tobacco use is crucial, not only for the women of today but also for women of future generations.

Inspired by the theme for World No Tobacco Day 2010, I went to the Immaculate Conception School on Staten Island. I spoke to the girls about my platform, T.E.A.C.H. It was important for me to educate these young girls about the harmful effects of smoking; to protect them from the consequences of tobacco use. Remaining open-minded to T.E.A.C.H, these girls were ready to bring home my folders and show their parents, siblings, neighbors, anyone in their lives effected by smoking. I always find it rewarding when I can inspire the minds of our future leaders. I know these girls will lead a smokefree life, and inspire others to follow suit. So, on Monday, when you are enjoying the warm weather, barbecuing hot dogs, and waving to the beauty queens in the parade, remember to stand up to Big Tobacco and encourage the women in your community to say "No" to smoking.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Two BIG announcements happened today:

1. The Miss America Pageant is back on network television!!! Sam Haskell, III, Board Chairman of the Miss America Organization, announced today on Fox and Friends with Miss America 1989 Gretchen Carlson along with Caressa Cameron, Miss America 2010, that the pageant will celebrate its 90th anniversary with a multi-year deal with the ABC Television Network as their network television partner for the 2011 Miss America Pageant. The pageant will be presented on January 15, 2011. Miss America has not aired on network television since 2004. ABC will now once again retain the exclusive telecast rights through 2013.

"We were given a chance to re-brand, to keep what was traditional but make ourselves more today, and I think we've done that," Haskell said. "We're now back with a lot of strength and back to show everyone that Miss America is the American tradition. It's a pop icon."

2. Remember when I had my television interview for the Not On Tobacco program? Well, Time Warner Cable has just announced the air dates for that interview! Here they are:
  • Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 7:30pm on Channel 35
  • Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 10:30am on Channel 34
  • Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 7:30pm on Channel 35
  • Wednesday, July 1, 2010 at 10:30am on Channel 34

The interview can be seen on Time Warner Cable Television- SICTV and Version Fios on SI. The interview will also be aired in Brooklyn and Queens.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Asthma Walk 2010

This morning I participated in the American Lung Association's Asthma Walk at Battery Park, New York City. 100% of the proceeds from the Breathe NYC: Asthma Walk 2010 will support the fight for healthy lungs and clean air. In New York, an estimated 2.5 million people suffer from lung diseases including asthma, lung cancer, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Many of these illnesses are due to smoking. Every day more than one million adults and over 400,000 children across the state are struggling to breathe with asthma. Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of men and women in New York. In New York, an estimated 2.75 million adults and 140,000 youth smoke. And if it wasn't bad enough, secondhand smoke kills 2,500 New Yorkers every year.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Montefiore's Spring Fling

Throughout the month of May, Children's Miracle Network's partners and friends are helping raise awareness about the important work of children's hospitals. I wanted to take part in this May is for Miracles campaign by visiting the children at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore. Unfortunately, I received an email from Paula Ammirato, Program Director for the Children's Miracle Network at Montefiore saying that the hospital was not currently taking visitors to see the children in the hospital because of infection control issues. However, I was not deterred by this news because as they say "when one door closes, another one opens." Ms. Ammirato told me that there were some volunteer opportunities I would be interested in. So, I took her up on her offer and became a volunteer for the hospital's annual event The Spring Fling.

Lili Beit, Senior Application Manager for the Professional
Services Department and Organizer of the Spring Fling

The Spring Fling is an event held to benefit Camp CHAM, a day camp for children with diabetes. The camp, which was originally named the Diabetes Support Group, was organized in 1993. The Spring Fling also honored Montefiore's dedicated and hard-working nursing staff. The event took place at the hospital's newest addition, the West Garden. Let me tell you, the weather could not have been any more perfect than today. We were truly blessed with this beautiful sunny evening. During the first hour of the event, I was in charge of selling Wish Lists to attendees. The Wish List helps support the wishes of Camp CHAM. Each contribution goes towards a specific item/event/sponsor that are necessary in having a successful camping experience for the children of Montefiore hospital. The wishes included:
  • $10 for Measuring Utensils to promote healthy eating skills with proper cups and spoons for nutrition class on carbohydrate counting.
  • $15 for Awards and Certificates to reinforce skills learned and goals reached in diabetes management.
  • $20 for Sports Equipment including basketballs, soccer balls, jump ropes, and exercise tapes to encourage physical activity while providing fun.
  • $50 for Swim Fund including bathing suits, swim caps, goggles, and swim shoes to promote healthy exercise habits and water safety skills.
  • $75 for Scholarship to send a child to Camp CHAM.
  • $100 for Coaches and Speakers to share their expertise and teach the children new skills.
  • $200 for Field Trips to expand the campers' horizons with outings to the Bronx Zoo, Playland, and more.

After my shift was complete, I mingled with the employees of the Montefiore Hospital and discussed the connection of the Children's Miracle Network with the Miss America Organization. Staff and children of the Camp CHAM thanks attendees for supporting the Spring Fling and for giving kids with diabetes the opportunity to forget about their disease and enjoy quality time with family and friends. Two of the Camp CHAM kids, Maxine and Jose, talked about how much fun they have at the camp each year and are excited to return again in the summer. These adorable kids are so inspiring!

Before the night concluded, I was asked to emcee the raffle drawings. Maxine, one of the Camp CHAM kids, was a great helper assisting me by handing me the winning tickets. This was Montefiore's most successful Spring Fling to date. The event grossed over $11,000, which is more than any of the previous three years of hosting this event. After deducting a few expenses, the Montefiore hospital will be able to donate $10,000 to Camp CHAM. This is the fourth year in a row the hospital has achieved this goal! It was a privilege to have been able to participate with one of the ten Children's Miracle Network hospitals in New York. I can definitely see why May is for Miracles.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Great Kills Memorial Day Parade

Okay, I know what you're thinking...Memorial Day isn't for another three weeks! However, on Staten Island we remember the significance of this day earlier than most do. The town of Great Kills (which is the South Shore of Staten Island) hosted its annually Memorial Day Parade today in honor of war veterans. I attended the parade alongside my pageant sister Olivia Devoti, Miss Richmond County's Outstanding Teen. It was truly a beautiful day for a parade. I will also be attending the borough's annual Memorial Day Parade on May 31st. Here are some pictures from today's parade:

Knights of Columbus

During the Ceremony

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not On Tobacco

On April 23rd, I became a facilitator for the American Lung Association's N.O.T. Program. As an advocate for the anti-tobacco campaign, I wanted to expand my involvement with the American Lung Association. Through my platform T.E.A.C.H., I was already educating the youth on the dangers of smoking. This was my way of utilizing my platform as a prevention tool. But what about teens who had said "yes" to Big Tobacco? I wanted a way to help teens who were already smoking but wanted to quit. This workshop gave me the opportunity to educate the youth from both spectrums: those who have not started smoking and need continued guidance to stay on that smokefree path, and those who are smoking that want to quit the habit for good.

Not On Tobacco is the nation's leading smoking cessation program for teens. The American Lung Association and West Virginia University developed N.O.T. in 1997 because there were no cessation programs for teens. Also, there was a public health concern about the high prevalence of teen smoking nationwide. Research has shown that 54% of high school students say they want to quit but can't do it on their own. N.O.T. is a research-based, easy to use program that gives teens the support and motivation they need to help them quit. As a facilitator, my job is to guide teens through ten weekly sessions that will ultimately help them either quit smoking completely or reduce the amount of cigarettes they are smoking. Some of the topics discussed during the program are understanding why these teens are smoking, preparing for quit day, nicotine addiction and withdrawal, accessing and maintaining social support, and coping with stress. N.O.T. has a 21% quit rate, which has a higher success rate than any other teen cessation program. N.O.T. is proven to be the most widely used and most successful program in the United States to help teens quit smoking. The proof is in the benefits teens gain thanks to this program:
  • Teens are successful in quitting smoking completely or reducing the amount of cigarettes they are smoking dramatically.
  • Teens gain a sense of control over smoking.
  • Teens are motivated to do well in school.
  • They build a positive relationship with the other teens in the program.
  • They have improved physical fitness, managing stress better, and are eating better.
  • Teens are saving money (Cigarette packs cost over $2000 per year).

Tonight I was invited as a guest on a local television show at Time Warner Cable TV Studios to discuss my position as a facilitator for the American Lung Association's Not On Tobacco Program. The episode is a half hour long and will be aired on Staten Island and Brooklyn during the month of June. When the interview was over, one of the producers came up to me and said, "Wow! I cannot believe you knew so much about the program and you didn't have any notes!" What a great compliment! That's when you know you fully embody your platform. It becomes a part of you. My crusade in having a generation of non-smokers has been a part of my life for the past nine years. And I have no intention of stopping now.

Dr. Anthony Luizzo and Maryann Drandorff RN, Co-Hosts of the show

David Wyle, Director

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Smurfs

Becoming a successful actress has always been one of my career ambitions. I aspire to perform as a triple threat in film, television, and on Broadway. Like most performers with the same ambition as me, I have been promoting myself to casting directors, choreographers, and producers on a daily basis. Building a strong resume is a key factor in becoming successful in this very tough career path. I got the opportunity to make my resume stronger by adding a feature film to it. Yesterday morning I received a phone call from C & G Casting that I had been booked as an extra for the upcoming film The Smurfs!!!!!!!!!!!!

I woke up extremely early this 3:45am get ready for this exciting day. I arrived in Prospect Park, Brooklyn around 5:45am and was immediately sent to the holding tent to check in. Once I was checked in, I was pampered by the hair, makeup, and wardrobe departments in order to be camera ready. At 8:30am, all the actors (about 150 of us) headed to the set to begin shooting.

The scene was a launch party for a new cosmetic line, Angelou. I was a socialite invited to this extravagant event. Everyone started outside during the cocktail hour of the party. During this scene, I met Tim Gunn (from Project Runway) and shook the hand of Neil Patrick Harris, who is starring in this film. It was a great opportunity for me to get a behind-the-scenes perspective of how the movies are made. As a Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Student, this gave me the insight to how a director works with the actors and the surroundings of the scene. For instance, we could not film a scene outside until the ducks stopped quaking or an airplane flew over us because the sound department could not pick up their noises.

Two and a half hours later, we headed inside to film the party. Sofia Vergara (star of the television show Modern Family) made her presence known as the C.E.O. of the cosmetic line and boss of Neil Patrick Harris' character. She is BEAUTIFUL in person! We worked on this scene for another hour or so before we took our break for lunch. We returned to the set around 3:30pm where we filmed the remainder of the party scene. The day ended roughly around 6:15pm.

This was one of the greatest opportunities I have ever had in my acting career. I had so much fun on the set. And I must say I had my fair chances in front of the camera. So hopefully I won't be on the cutting room floor...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Curse of the Barberi

So this morning, around 10:30 to be exact, I was driving home from the gym listening to Z100 when all of a sudden there was an announcement, "Breaking news! The Staten Island Ferry has crashed! More details after this song."

.....(gasp) WHAT?!?!?!?!?! was my initial reaction to the news. I was in a state of shock for two reasons: 1. The ferry had crashed into the dock of the Staten Island Terminal and 2. I would have to wait until AFTER a song to play to get any information.
Once I got home, I turned on the television and watched the drama unfold on NY1. Just in case you we not aware of the crash, here's the 411:
  • At approximately 9:25am, the Andrew J. Barberi ferry boat crashed into the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island.
  • Interestingly enough, this is the same boat that crashed in 2003 that killed 11 passengers when the pilot, suffering from extreme fatigue and on painkillers, passed out at the wheel and the boat hit the terminal in St. George at full speed.
  • Multiple blasts on the ship's whistle were used to warn the passengers of an emergency. The "Red!" heard by passengers was a signal to the crew from the captain of an imminent emergency situation.
  • Janette Sadick-Khan, Transportation Commissioner, said the crash was due to a “mechanical error”.
    -The ferry's throttle failed to engage as it prepared to dock which meant that the crew was unable to use the engines to apply reverse thrust and slow down. Instead, the boat sped up as it crashed into the dock.
  • Captain James DeSimone, the ferry's chief operating officer, said it was unlikely that the mechanical failure had anything to do with damage suffered by the vessel in the 2003 accident and that it had passed all the required inspections so that it could be placed back in service.
  • Out of the 252 passengers and 18 crew members on board, a total of 37 passengers were injured: 17 with serious injuries and 20 with minor injuries.
  • The Andrew J. Barberi vessel will be taken out of service and resigned.
The first thing that went through my head when I heard the news was : "I hope no one I know was on this ferry". As a native Staten Islander, it is second nature to use the ferry as a means of transportation to get into Manhattan. When I was a freshman in high school, I knew several people who were killed on 9/11. This incident had that same impact in the sense of wondering if there was anyone I knew effected by this devastation. Luckily, there was no one I knew on the ferry at that time. Please continue to pray for those effected by the crash.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Clean Up the Butts!

Ever since the Miss America Organization has taken up the Go Green Platform, I have been developing ways to incorporate my platform with the Keep America Beautiful Campaign, whose mission is to engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community environment. Now one of my pet peeves is when people flick cigarette butts onto the ground like it's nothing. Little do these smokers realize how hazardous this habit is to the environment. Cigarette butt littering constitutes as a major environmental crisis, which is why I thought this was an excellent way to make the going green connection with my platform.

Keep America Beautiful launched the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program in 2002. It wasn't until 2005 when the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program made a statement addressing the nation's most widespread litter problem- improperly disposed cigarettes butts. Research has proven that cigarette butts are the most littered item in America, accounting for nearly 0ne-third of all litter nationwide (measured by item number, not volume). Smokers who would never consider littering an aluminum can, a piece of paper, or other items may be littering cigarette butts. This epidemic of cigarette littering is caused when ash receptacles are not readily available. Littering mainly occurs at transition points- places where a person must discontinue before entering a smoke-free environment. Some examples of transition points include bus stops, store entrances, and walkways leading toward public buildings. Lack of awareness and increased outdoor smoking adds to the visible impact of cigarette littering. Many American smokers believe that cigarette butts are an exception to the no-littering rule because they see butts as a more natural kind of trash than a plastic bottle. Most people assume they are biodegradable and pose no long term threat to the environment...BIG MISCONCEPTION. The fact is that 99% of cigarettes sold today are filtered. Those filters are made of cellulose-acetate, a form of plastic that is not biodegradable. Filters capture substantial amounts of tar and nicotine from burning cigarettes. Once cigarettes become used butts, they act as repositories for other toxic chemicals. So if a cigarette butt enters a sewer, it will be swept into the river and eventually out to sea where it releases toxins like benzene and cadmium. These toxins end up killing marine life and contaminating domestic water supply systems. Cigarette butt littering is also costly. Cleaning up the butts requires additional sidewalk and street sweeping, greenway and park maintenance, storm drain cleaning, and increased maintenance of storm water filters. Residents and business owners bear the expense of cigarette butt litter cleanup around entrances, exits, sidewalks, and parking lots. Last year, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom placed a 33-cents-a-pack tax in order to cover the $11 million that the city spends annually to remove cigarette litter. So not only is cigarette butt littering unsightly and ubiquitous, but it is also expensive to clean up.

Staten Island has been increasing the number of facilities and other public places that have made the transition to become smoke-free. I spent the day visiting some of these public places to see where cigarette butts are prominent. Since Staten Island is known as the "Borough of Parks", I decided my first stop was going to be the most visited park on the island: Clove Lakes Park. I was pleasantly surprised to find only a few cigarette butts by the entrance of the park (clearly a transition point). I believe people have a respect for nature and treat the park as a recreational location. I saw many people either walking, running, or bike riding...definitely not smoking. I was pleased with the results and moved on to the next location: some of Staten Island's health care facilities.

Clove Lakes Park

Just a few cigarette butts at the entrance of the park

...and right by this bench which is also by the entrance

As I was heading to the health care facilities I imagined that they would have the same results as the park...I was wrong...very wrong. Richmond University Medical Center was the next stop on my cigarette butt mission. As soon as I approached the entrance I was greeted by an enlarged stop sign that read "THIS IS A SMOKE FREE/TOBACCO FREE CAMPUS". However, people have disregarded this sign because I saw two groups of people actually smoking within the campus. There were clutters of cigarette butts just a few feet away from the campus. Across the street is the Regional Radiology North. They also had signs that covered the entire fence. Once again, there was a group of people smoking by the fence. Both areas had no ash receptacles, not even at the entrance of the campus.

Richmond University Medical Center with one of its smoke free signs by the entrance

As you can see it is pretty hard to miss this sign

Regional Radiology North with its tobacco free sign
...and the cluster of cigarette butts right below the sign

Staten Island University hospital North was my last stop of the day. Just like the two facilities before it, the hospital also had a smoke free sign at all the entrances. However, I made an interesting discovery as I walked around the campus. On the Mason Avenue side of the hospital, I noticed cigarette butts everywhere with no ash receptacles. On the Seaview Avenue side, I found two ash receptacles (finally a sigh of relief). However, it seemed that some smokers did not use them. I found a few cigarette butts right next to them! You would think people would have the decency to dispose of their cigarettes properly. What disturbed me the most was when I found a cluster of cigarette butts right at the entrance of the hospital's Heart, Lung, and Surgery building. Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer. Finding these butts by this specific building made me realize that people do not respect the health care facilities as much as the recreational locations such as the parks.

Staten Island University Hospital North enforcing the smoke free environment

The result of lack of ash receptacles on Mason Avenue

An ash receptacle on Seaview Avenue...with a cigarette butt right next to it

A broken ash receptacle on Seaview Avenue

Some positive reinforcement: The Smoke-Free Air Act assures clean air and healthful environment by prohibited smoking throughout the facility, prohibited smoking on the property of the facility, and requiring the posting of signs.

And here are the cigarette butts found right outside...

...the Heart, Lung, and Surgery building

I am committed to improving the appearance of my community by making ash receptacles more available. I have contacted the three City Council Members who represent Staten Island asking for a sponsorship to place ash receptacles at places where smokers must extinguish their cigarettes before entering a smoke-free environment. This would act as a visual reminder to properly dispose of cigarette butts. Having more ash receptacles will alleviate this epidemic and ultimately improve the community. I hope to achieve my goal by the end of this year.