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Student Profile - December 2013

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Desiree Rotundo


“I learned that so many people have the potential, but only a top percentage succeed. There is something that differentiates these people from others, and I want to know what that something is,” says the twenty-seven-year old Broadway actor Hjordy’s Matos, on her decision to enroll at LaGuardia Community College. With a smile to light up a stage, the Writing and Literature Major, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) member and President’s Society Ambassador is dedicated to making the most out of her second endeavor in getting a college degree. “This time around, I’m doing it right.”

A lack of direction after her enrollment at City College led her to put her education on hold and decide to pursue a career in theater as a singer, dancer and actor for Broadway and off-Broadway productions, including a rendition of the acclaimed Westside Story in which she played the beloved Maria. For seven years, the Dominican performer cultivated an education outside of school by reading a lot on her own and developing relationships with people that she met, which involved meeting students who inspired her to return to college.

“I want to be the example and have my younger siblings think for themselves. So I came here,” says the oldest sister of six children—a role that magnified her motivation to continue her studies.

Upon her acceptance at LaGuardia, Hjordy’s took charge of her college experience by reaching for every possible opportunity she could find while building her GPA to an admirable standing. The peer and faculty support she gained from her learning community, Medicine, Mind, and Body—a liberal arts cluster that offers courses organized around a single interdisciplinary theme—strengthened her momentum as her grades earned her a place in the College’s Honors Program and a $1,500 scholarship from the LaGuardia Community College Foundation. “It's good to have that support from your peers. It just put me on the map for wanting more for myself," she says.

While visiting the campus library to submit an essay for the Library Research Competition, Hjordy’s came across a flyer for the President’s Society, a unique program at the College that creates a base of professional skills and experiences for highly motivated students to succeed in their futures, which offered yet another golden opportunity the avid student could not refuse.

“I saw that the President’s Society helped with your leadership skills—skills you wouldn’t get in the classroom. When Freda gave her speech at the UN, I thought, ‘wow, where else are you going to get that,’” Hjordy’s says about a distinguished LaGuardia student from the first graduating academy of the President’s Society.

Since her acceptance into the program, her source of motivational inspiration was replenished through meeting peer ambassadors who shared the solidarity of ambition and realizing their potential. “They’re a cool bunch to begin with, but it wasn’t until we all had to come in with what we felt was an accomplishment of ours, and when you hear around the table their stories of what they’ve done, that I thought, ‘we are really going through this together.’”

Meeting such program supporters as Marilyn Skony Stamm and Pamela Weinberg and learning about their achievements also invigorated Hjordy’s sense of empowerment, having been raised mostly by women her whole life. "Out of my grandmother’s strength and her work, she got me here. None of this matters without her,” she says about her grandmother, who left everything behind in the Dominican Republic so that her family can find better opportunity in the U.S.

From the program’s curricular sessions on etiquette and dress to public speaking—a skill she seems to have already mastered—Hjordy’s absorbs every drop of training and is ready to apply what she has learned in the real world. “I’m even a lot more comfortable asking for business cards!” she exclaims with pleasure.

She also recalls feeling deeply impressed by Director Robyn Barsky’s presentation of the elevator speech. “What she called it was the ‘ingredients’ that people will already see when you give them your experiences. It completely changed the way that I think about myself, the experiences I’ve gone through, and what I’ve actually done,” she reflects.

“Its so awesome that its happening here with the population full of minorities and first-generation students. Just to know that there is more out there—that’s a lot,” she adds.

Hjordy’s is currently researching her future options at Columbia Univeristy, Yale, Cornell, Hunter College and John Hopkins, for a Bachelor’s Degree in writing, on her ever-growing list of ambitions.

And so far, the possibilities seem endless. “To visit the Carlyle Hotel, to see where these professionals are and what they’ve gone through to get there—I’ve realized that its not out of reach, that we can do that too," she says. “I already feel like things are changing.”


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