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Nicotra Foundation Celebrates “HERstory” With Staten Island Students

Students from John W. Lavelle Prep Charter School watch "Hidden Figures" at Atrium Stadium Cinemas.
Students from John W. Lavelle Prep Charter School watch “Hidden Figures” at Atrium Stadium Cinemas.

The Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation invited more than 200 middle school students from the John W. Lavelle Prep charter School to see the movie Hidden Figures at Atrium Stadium Cinemas on February 7, 2017.

The event celebrated “HERstory,” and showed the children the importance of supporting and encouraging female empowerment. Hidden Figures tells the untold story of how Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — three brilliant, female, African American scientists at NASA — launched astronaut John Glenn into orbit in 1962, an era when female scientists were rare.

The movie’s theme of celebrating women’s historical achievement deeply touched the Nicotras and inspired them to host the foundation’s first movie event: “We were moved when we saw the movie and we thought that every little girl with dreams — or maybe, those little girls without dreams — should see Hidden Figures.”

The foundation’s goal was to create a positive experience for the students that went above and beyond the typical experience of going to a movie theater. “Greeting each student at the door of the Atrium theater and personally shaking each young woman’s hand was a way to set this apart and, from the moment they disembarked from the bus, give the students a feeling that this was not just a movie, it was an experience,” said Kristine Garlisi, Chief of Staff, Nicotra Group.

Kristine Garlisi greets each student before they enter the theater.
Kristine Garlisi greets each student before they enter the theater.

The foundation believes hosting events like this that celebrate the achievement of women is an important part of developing confidence in children, especially young women, and inspiring them to set goals. “Whenever educators take learning outside of the classroom walls, it tends to resonate deeply with students,” said Garlisi. “The history we learn at school is also ‘HERstory,’ and that’s something that Hidden Figures communicates clearly and with creativity. When these students look to a proud past of smart women using their intelligence and strength of character to have a big impact, we think it shapes how they see their own future.”

The event was a success, and the movie’s positive message that women can thrive in anything they put their minds to, inspired the students with ideas about all the great things they plan to achieve in their bright futures. Mya Evans, a 12-year-old, seventh grader, describes her experience: “I’m glad they told this untold story. It was very inspirational. I’m glad we got to watch it because now I am very inspired and I know I can do great things in my life.”

The Nicotra Foundation supports schools across Staten Island and has given more than $560,000 to Staten Island nonprofit groups in the past five years due to the profits from its COMMONS café, which awards 100% of the profits to do good things on Staten Island. From that total, the foundation has awarded more than $100,000 to schools. Read a full list of schools supported by The Nicotra Foundation here.

“Everyone who lives or works on Staten Island should do what they can to support the children in our community,” said Garlisi. “They are our future in every way — they are our future leaders and neighbors. The children who grow up on Staten Island will also shape how our borough is perceived by others — the Nicotra Foundation wants the very best for them.”

Watch a video recap of the event below:

Amanda Gough
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