Why Hunter’s track team won’t stop running

Hunter College track and field team resting in the shade at the East River track Wednesday morning. Photo by Yvonne Chow.

Participating in Hunter’s track and field team taxes the body and mind—but these student-athletes say the biggest sacrifice of all is time.

The team is seeking to win another championship at the Outdoor Track & Field CUNY Athletic Conference, and preparing for the pressures of races drives them to push limits and maintain nutritious diets.

Relentless competitiveness is the reason CUNYAC All-Star and vegan Robin Marshall joined the team. Feeling productive and pushing her limits drives her daily, despite the huge time commitment. “I set my bedtime as 10 p.m.,” Marshall said. “It’s not just running but also staying healthy, rolling, stretching, and icing.”

For Julia Leask, rookie of the week, the time spent getting a challenging workout with the team outweighs the pressures of racing. Leask said: “I hate racing so much, but I enjoy watching everyone else race.” To her, good teammates and always pushing herself a little bit more are the keys to a successful season.

The women’s outdoor track & field team has won six championships and earned 14 cross country championships, the most all-time in CUNYAC history. Talking about 8 a.m practices in Central Park and Hunter’s basement gymnasium, they all said they enjoyed one thing: challenging themselves.

“I’m always looking to improve myself,” said Zoe Colasacco, sportsmanship of the year recipient. Knee injuries have been her biggest challenge, but she tells herself that it’s not permanent – that she’ll only come back physically and mentally stronger. Like her teammates, Colasacco credits her success to a positive attitude, faith in coaches, showing up, giving your best and not being afraid to push herself.

Helping them develop a passion for the sport, as well as a sense of accomplishment and self-worth, is all Coach Daniel Selsky could hope for. “What’s key in this sport is finding intrinsic motivation,” he said. “Obviously, it’s nice to win awards, but if that’s the sole reason you’re doing it, you’re going to be disappointed.”

For Selsky, his biggest challenge is getting everyone in a team atmosphere and finding the positives in racing when it’s so easy to get caught in an individual and negative mindset. “Another challenge is getting them understand that there’s a bigger picture,” he said.

Coaching also requires being more strategic in spending time with family and friends since working on weekends is part of the sport. “The weekends are part of being track and field,” he said. “Where other people might be able to just say, ‘hey, let’s do this Saturday,’ here that’s not necessarily the case.”

 

The MTA Fare Hike Has a Silver Lining

Commuters are paying more for their rides at 42nd street subway station. Photo from Flickr.

 

MTA riders think service is getting worse, and they’re not happy about rising fares —but they’re still grateful for the city’s subway system.

The weekly MetroCard increased from $31 to $32 on March 19th Sunday. The monthly pass increased from $116.50 to $121, the pay-per-ride remained at $2.75 with a bonus decrease from 11 to five percent and the seven-day Express Bus Plus rose from $57.25 to $59.50.

In interviews with more than a dozen MTA users in Southern Brooklyn and on the Upper East Side recently, riders expressed support for the system despite its shortcomings.

“I don’t operate on the weekly or monthly,” said Sam Parson, 27, a street musician from Michigan. “I buy single fare so it doesn’t really affect me too much, but I know it’s coming.” His transportation fees cost 15 to 20 percent of the money he busks but said he’s grateful for the subway system because he wouldn’t have a job otherwise. “Other than that, I’m pretty happy. I can literally get to any place in town with my instruments for three bucks, which is crazy.”

Another rider shared similar mixed feelings about the new fare hike. “I’ve been here for 20 years. When I moved here, the monthly was like $57,” said Nicolas Letman, 45, from Ditmas Park. He recalls waiting for three trains to pass during rush hour before fitting into one. “It’s an okay system, but you go to Japan or France you could learn something,”  Letman said although trains here are never on time compared to Japan, he praises MTA’s around-the-clock service. “It’s 24 hours a day. That’s magic.”

“It could be a lot worse,” said Juliano Carrillo, 26, a GrowNYC Clothing Drop-off coordinator from Brooklyn, who doesn’t mind the hike, which he said is lenient compared to other states. “Every state is different. If you compare New York to Washington, D.C., you pay for where your destination is.”

Most of the money goes to pension and health-care costs for subway workers, which is why infrastructure and services seem to deteriorate. “If it’s going to the workers then I don’t have a problem with it,” said Lindsay Lisa, 32, who works in the Upper East Side.

“A lot of money is going into amenities which is not really essential, ” said Amy Jeu, 39, an NYC Geospatial Information Systems and Mapping Organization (GISMO) Board member.

She explains that customers are paying too much while services are not improving, and has ideas about where the money should be going instead. “They’ll do things like wifi access, signs that show us when the bus is coming, charging ports,” Jeu said. “I think it should be going into infrastructure and more trains coming to accommodate ridership.”
“Some students get subsidized MetroCards and that money comes from people who are working,” Jeu adds. Fortunately for middle to high school students like Ariana Stein, 11, they continue to commute for free. “I have a student MetroCard,” she said. “So I don’t have to pay for it.”

Women in Computer Science Club Holds First Meeting

New members of Hunter’s Women in Computer Science Club eat pizza and chat. Photo by Erin Williams.

Women are still very much a minority in computer sciences, and as universities struggle to encourage more to go into the field, one Hunter club aims to increase the number of women pursuing technology careers.

“There aren’t enough women in computer science, and also a lot of women who do go into computer science end up dropping,” said Rivka Ligier, 20, one of the four founders of Hunter’s Women in Computer Science (WiCS). She started the club because she was the only woman in one of her classes. “I’ve had classes where it’s 10 kids, but there’s always two, three girls. It’s not like I have a problem with guys, but sometimes it’s nice to have a girl who I can talk to.”

Nationwide, women make up about 16 percent of undergraduate computer science majors, according to ComputerScience.org. Even with Hunter’s 65 percent female gender distribution, only six women graduated from the computer science program in 2015, while 42 men did, according to MatchCollege. According to Joseph Driscoll, assistant to the chair at the department of computer science, about 500 students are computer science majors and only 18% of them are women, which is very close to the national average. 

Over 20 female students attended the club’s first meeting, the majority of whom were Computer Science majors. At the event, each person shared their major and what they hoped to gain from the club.

“I hope to meet other women in Computer Science that I probably already share classes with and never had the proper setting to speak to them,” said Yasmeen Hassan, 22. “I also hope to gain from this club a chance to create a network of women, who are pursuing the same degree and can relate to the struggles of pursuing a major as a minority.”

Lieger and co-founder Pravindi Herath noticed the predominantly male computer science Facebook groups and made a decision. “We need to start a club for women to focus on portfolios and getting internships together and doing hackathons – basically helping each other improve and get to the top,” Lieger said.

The club, which meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in HN 1000J, plans to go to hackathons like hackNY and HackNYU, set up member-taught coding workshops, solve algorithms and discuss portfolios and future activities.

“It sounds like a good idea,” said Raffi Khatchadourian, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and the CUNY Graduate Center. Khatchadourian also works with the National Center for Women & Information Technology as part of the Committee on Women in Computer Science at Hunter College on recruiting and retaining women students in the Computer Science Department. “I think we need more diversity in our field, and with the job landscape changing it would be great to get different kinds of people involved in technology from different walks of life, cultures, environments.”

Local events, hackathons, classes, opportunities, programming, and resources are announced on both the club’s Facebook page (Hunter Women in Computer Science) and Slack channel (Hunter Women in CS). “It’s a great way to know about different opportunities and events that’s occurring,” said Susan Lei, 21. “It also provides a platform to celebrate female leaders and successes.”

Closing the gender gap won’t be easy, but this group seems confident in their problem-solving skills.

“Growing female computer scientists is a real issue at the moment,” said Susan L. Epstein, professor of computer science. “I really believe that when women see other women doing AI they believe that they can too.”

Robert Gonzalez: His Life in a Capsule

Robert Gonzalez in his house on a Sunday. Photo by Yvonne Chow.

 

Robert Gonzalez, 75, enlisted in the U.S. army when he was 19 years old, right after graduating from Grady Vocational High School. After stationing in Germany for two and a half years, he worked as a rehab counselor from 1968-1975 at the Narcotics Addiction Control Commission and then as a nurse at the Brooklyn Developmental Center for 25 years. He got his Associates degree at New York City Tech in 1970, Bachelor of Science at Brooklyn College in 1975 where he studied health science, and graduated from Cornell in 1982. His parents were born in Puerto Rico, he has two sons and four granddaughters, and he lives in Brooklyn, where he was born and raised.

Y: What was your college experience like?

R: I went to school nights, so it was not much of college life because I went to school with people who, like myself, worked during the day.

Y: Were there any challenges along the way?

R: The challenge was that I had to work, raise a family and go to school. That was a real challenge. I got divorced 13 years after we were married, so then I was a single dad from there on.

Y: What was it like working as a rehab counselor?

R: It was very interesting. I was part of one of the first drug addiction programs in the country. There were mostly young men who had become addicted to heroin drug use. At that time, it was heroin via needles and some of them had come out of prison in lieu of a lesser sentence if they took a rehab program. It’s a terrible thing to see people addicted to drugs, especially when they’re so young.

Y: Why was it interesting?

R: I was never familiar with IV drug use. I had just come back from the army and I had never seen that before. What interested me was that it was the first in the whole country. No state of the union had ever implemented a program like this and here we are 50 years later with a worse problem than ever. Today, drug use is an epidemic and too many young people are dying from overdoses, so it’s actually worse than back in the 60s.

Y: What was it like in the army?

R: I was stationed in Germany. It was interesting, being the first time I had ever been in another country. I speak German too. I’m rusty, but I WAS very fluent when I came out of the army. I didn’t want to wait to be drafted so I enlisted for three years, and I was lucky because I didn’t have to go to Vietnam. which started just shortly after I was discharged. I missed out on the war. Thank god.

Y: So you were a nurse for the developmentally disabled?

R: There was 6,000 patients in Willowbrook State School at the time.  Our job was to bring three to four thousand back to Brooklyn. I thought deinstitutionalization was the greatest thing that could happen to those people. Institutions do not breed good things.

I got promoted to community mental health nurse, and worked with developmentally disabled people in family care homes. I would interview people who were interested in opening up their homes, I’d interview the client, follow their medical histories, write nursing plans. When they were placed in the homes I would visit them periodically – usually once a month, once every two months. I’d follow patients throughout hospitalizations, get the family involved, explain what medications they needed to take, their histories, medical follow-up, take them to doctor’s appointments, if god forbid there was an emergency I would be right there. I also taught medication administration to the family providers. I traveled all over Brooklyn. I was free. I went into a lot of bad neighborhoods – Brownsville, East New York –  dangerous places. That was the nicest job I ever had. I loved it.

Y: Do you have any hopes for the future?

R: I hope we never have war.

Y: Do you have anything to add?

R: I’m hoping my grandchildren will go to college. I live in a very mixed neighborhood like when I grew up, which I’m very pleased about. I just hope for the very best for the country and for New York. New York is a great state. Too many taxes but, still, a great state. Progressive. So that’s basically my life in a capsule.