Gift of Giving recognizes Elmont students


The Gift of Giving Foundation honored 11 Elmont students for completing the student ambassadors program at a luncheon at the Guggin Café and Grill in Elmont last Saturday.

The students were awarded citations from Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages and a certificate from the Gift of Giving Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that helped teach high school students how to operate a business.

Six students from Elmont Memorial High School and five from Sewanhaka High School were selected to be mentored under the leadership of local business owners each Saturday in October, and the program helped students with financial tools and the communication and customer service skills needed to run a business.

The businesses that mentored the students during the month were A2Z Automasters auto repair shop in Garden City, and Belimage, a graphic design and printing studio in Elmont, as well as the 5th Precinct police department in North Valley Stream.

Elizabeth Forbes, founder of the Gift of Giving Foundation, said she was grateful to the businesses for participating.

“They are always there for the students and the community and I am grateful for the guidance and the experience of being able to collaborate,” Forbes said. “It was something we thought was needed and it was better than expected. We look forward to many others like this.”

Belimage owner Van Saint discussed what it meant to mentor the students. “It’s a great program and I loved the ability to teach, to show and, most of all, to inspire,” Saint said. “This is really what I’m here for, inspiring the youth. They are the next generation that’s going to pick up where I leave off.”

Jessica Brown, director of the Elmont Student Ambassadors Program, spoke on the lessons the students learned from the program.

“The program in itself has provided the Elmont student ambassadors with the tools that are utilized in each of their futures,” she said. “Looking back to where we all started, the young men and women have shown drive and have done outstanding work for the community.”

The program provided the 11 students with business management skills that they said will help them in the future.

“It was a great opportunity to learn and improve my skills of communication and overall learned a bunch of things,” Mondy Olivier, a junior at Elmont High School, said.

“At Belimage they showed me everything from graphic design to customer service. A2Z Automasters showed how to interact with customers. It really showed me how everything has to do with how you speak to people and how you work. The most fun parts were meeting new people, and they gave me advice about life. It was a great experience and it was definitely something that I’m glad that I did.”

Elmont High School senior Kimone Walker said she was thankful for the program and the lessons learned. “We learned more about the business experience and pursuing your passion,” Walker said. “Pursuing your passion, however, you need to have those for your dreams to be successful. Overall, the program was very informative.”

Many of the students said that the program helped them decide what they want to do after high school.

“I was very unsure about what I wanted to do in the future before I joined the program, but now that I’ve completed the program, I feel like I’ve learned a lot more about hard work and perseverance and believing in yourself,” Dorah Naisssant, a junior at Elmont High School, said. “I always thought that I had to go through a specific career path, and I feel like this program allowed me to learn about new ones and to keep my options open.”

Following the success of the ambassadors program, Forbes said she is looking for more ways to help the community and to grow the program by including even more students. Forbes said that there is a waiting list of 19 students and she wants to expand from Elmont into Floral Park, New Hyde Park and Valley Stream.