Photo Journal: My Class in Elmhurst, Queens.



On behalf of Café Avra, Happy 2011 to all.

I must apologize for the short  Café Avra break I have taken. I see my last post was quite a long time ago, on December 23rd!

I have been lucky enough to have been traveling off and on the last 3 weeks, once to Philadelphia and twice to Washington DC, both for business and pleasure. Photo Journals on these journeys to come in a future post.

I also am starting to prepare for my Israel trip, in which I leave in less than a month. Time does fly I must say. I leave on  Feb 13th, preceding a short vacation with my family in which we leave on February 4th.  So I really only have three more weeks left at home.


Today, and coincidentally on Martin Luther King Day, I want to share with you quite a new experience I have had over the last six weeks since I arrived back in New York. One that I did not need to travel barely beyond my backdoor.

You probably have seen that throughout my trip in Africa I began to help a few artists, non profits, and organizations build and manage their own website. I currently call this service “Café Avra Productions”.  My goal was to assist those who could never afford to have their own website, or even take a class to learn how to make one, with creating and managing their own blog/website to use for whatever purposes necessary.  To view a few from my Africa trip please see:

When I first arrived back to New York, I was speaking to a good friend and talented colleague of mine, John Moreno. Originally from Colombia, currently based in Queens, John, who amongst many endeavors, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Latino Youth for Higher Education Program which, through workshops, tutoring, mentorship programs (etc) helps to promote college awareness and success to minority students in New York, especially those of Latino origin and new to the United States.

Please do check their website :

I was telling John how I started to teach blogs/websites in Kenya/Uganda and how amazing it is when I see my students begin to update their websites themselves, get really creative with the appearances, and really take initiative in the process. Also, it seemed that the experience of creating the website was almost therapeutic for the student, especially when working with refugees. Keep in mind though I was working on a one-on-one basis, not in a classroom setting.

He asked me if I was interested in possibly doing an after school program at one of the schools he provides services to, The Pan American High School in Elmhurst, Queens. The student population is Latino high school students who mostly arrived in the country within the last year and do have a problem getting accustomed to the US education system, the English Language, and can have trouble with their social skills. Most are from Colombia, Dominican Republic and Ecuador.

I thought it would be quite the challenge and almost an experiment;  first to actually teach a class in a High School which I have never done before. And also, just arriving backing from Kenya, to see the differences between working with Latino Youth from quite poor countries versus those in Africa. How similar would their engagement be in this technical, creative process?

I ended up doing 7 after school sessions and had about 15-20 students throughout the course. Some dropped out, or couldn’t make it to every class due to other commitments, loss of interest, or even part-time jobs.


I now invite you to meet some of my students

Despite the language barrier, and a few technical difficulties in the beginning, the class went quite well.

I taught my students how to create an appearance for the blog, how to upload photos and videos, create pages, and most importantly create your own style.

I was very very impressed with their computer skills and creativity. Obviously some of the students were a bit faster than others, but all had email addresses’ already, quickly understood the concepts of posting, creating pages, and uploading photographs. Compared to a few of my students in Africa, and maybe due to the time already spent in the United States, all my students I could consider tech-saavy.

Some of their English skills are a bit weak, so it was a challenge to write longer posts in English, but I am glad to have pushed them and I was impressed how quick they got the system in English.

Last Thursday (January  13th, 2011) was our last class and we had four students compete in a competition on who had the best website based on the following criteria:




They were required to have a post on how their Christmas was this year, a page on their country, and a page titled “About Me”.

Additional posts and pages were encouraged!


As you can see from the photos above and below we had a successful evening, two winners, and just a lot of fun over the last 6 weeks.

I encourage you below, as I introduce you more personally to some of my students, to visit their websites and make comments!

First our two winners were:

Brian Tolentino, a junior from the Dominican Republic:

And Eric Riera, a freshman from Ecuador:

Both attended every class, were committed to their work, and I could see had a lot of fun and growth over the course. I must congratulate them again, and as a side note they won tickets to the cinema and I believe both have never been to the movies in the U.S. before!

Our two runner ups were:

Julio Lozano from Colombia:

And Franklin Carias from Honduras:


And lastly, here are a few more sites of students who came to class regularly, and have wonderful sites, but because of various reasons could not make the competition.

The lovely Sheina Toleninto, sister of Brian:

And below we have Cris Flores (Middle) and Diego(second from right).

Cristobal Flores from Ecuador:

Diego C. from Ecuador:


I do hope you appreciate some of their websites.

I have to thank my students for giving me the opportunity for working with them over the last 6 weeks, as it has been a true pleasure and as always, quite the learning experience.

I will miss coming to Queens every Wednesday and Thursday!

And I can not forget a special thanks to my two friends above, Sonia and John.

Sonia Sendoya, the coordinator of LYHEP, helped me on every aspect of this course throughout the past 6 weeks and I could not have done this with out her. Sonia is an amazing, energetic, caring person and has many exciting experiences ahead of her, both professionally and in other endeavors she might want to pursue!

Another thanks to John Moreno for trusting me to teach my first class in a NYC school and do something a little bit different this time around. Keep up everything that you are doing with the passion you already have. You are an inspiration for many to have great ideas and act on them!


I encourage all, who like me never truly had the opportunity to teach a class, to try it out one day if possible.

You will never stop to be amazed on what the students end up teaching you.

Please reach out to LYHEP , as they do have quite a variety of volunteer opportunities.  You can email them at

Thank you again for continuing to follow Café Avra!

***THE END***

One Reply to “Photo Journal: My Class in Elmhurst, Queens.”

  1. You are an amazing and inspirational woman. I just caught up on your blog and reading about all of the amazing things you have done and all of the lives you have touched is truely inspirational. You have done so much good in the world I am so proud of you and so happy that you are in my life.

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