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Photo by Steve Mosco
By Steve Mosco

LaGuardia Community College marked the start of Women’s History Month with a luncheon to honor outstanding women and their achievements in education and administration last week.

The event was hosted by LaGuardia President Dr. Gail Mellow and presided over by state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) — two women who know a thing or two about defeating the odds and exceeding expectations.

Nolan began the festivities by honoring Mellow, who has been president of the college since 2000. Nolan said it was fitting for this luncheon to be held at the Long Island City community college since Mellow has achieved quite a bit by leading a college that represents 160 countries and boasts 110 different languages.

“Gail has made an incredible difference here at LaGuardia,” said Nolan. “But now it is time to give back and honor women who continue to inspire us on a daily basis.”

Nolan, Mellow and others in attendance went on to honor six women in education and administration for breaking barriers and effecting change in the face of ever-lingering gender bias.

Honored by the assemblywoman and the college were AnneMarie Anzalone, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights); Alithia Rodriguez-Rolon, director of state governmental affairs; Randy Seabrook, principal of PS 111 in Astoria; Denise Vittor, principal of Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood; Vivian Selenikas, principal of Long Island City High School; and Eileen Taylor, the now-retired principal of Aviation High School in Long Island City.

“Albany can be a cold place, and I don’t just mean the weather. It can very unfriendly toward women,” Nolan said. “I know about the hardships each of these women experienced.”

Each woman received glowing introductions from leaders in their community, including City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Diana Reyna (D-Ridgewood), who joined city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

The women spoke about their own experiences in their particular field, the challenges they faced and the gratitude they now feel for the opportunity to learn from such obstacles.

Vittor, who became principal at Grover Cleveland in 2011 after a stint as principal of Queens Vocational High School, fought against the city Department of Education last year when the city threatened to close her school.

She said that experience taught her to always expect the unexpected.

“I am about looking forward,” she said, while praising Walcott as a pleasure to work with. “When he pledges his support, he means it. And that has not always been the case with chancellors.”

Walcott was in attendance to receive that praise in person, but he doled out the honors as well.

“This is a great gathering with great leaders in education,” he said. “They have done tremendous work. It is truly amazing and inspiring.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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