The Latina Hat Luncheon Honors NYIT Alumni
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Fancy hats, floral dresses and a familiar energy were on display at the Latina Hat Luncheon, a networking event that had the historical Belmont Park racetrack for its backdrop.
The event, in its 11th year, was created by the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to bring together people and small businesses in the spirit of community support. Five Latinas were honored in front of a full Turf & Field Room, including our very own New York Institute of Technology alumna Christine Bragan. NYIT was well represented in the audience as well.
“It’s just really nice that so many people here who work hard and do a lot for the community want to recognize me,” said Bragan about receiving the LIHCC President’s Award and Corporation of the Year.
Christine Bragan was the keynote speaker for the event as well as an honoree. She is vice president of corporate marketing and communications at AMC Networks, which includes BBC America, IFC, Sundance TV and WeTV.
The LIHCC provides members with business support, professional development workshops, advocacy programs and networking opportunities in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and support for education and the arts.
Bragan sponsored a full table for NYIT students at the event. Six students had the opportunity to network with the attendees, escorted by the chair of the communication arts department and professor Donald Fizzinoglia and an alumni relations administrator.
Shannon Duer, a communication arts major and captain of the NYIT basketball team said she was honored to have been invited to celebrate the honorees’ accomplishments. Duer said she enjoyed hearing about the diverse background of the successful women present. “They showed that no matter who you are or where you live, you have the potential to be successful and achieve your dreams if you work hard and believe in yourself,” said Duer.
Bragan (B.F.A. ’03) had an unorthodox college experience, joining NYIT in adulthood and already a customer service representative at Cablevision in Long Island. She attended classes part-time in the evening and climbed the ranks at Cablevision, achieving top management at the community affairs department. Upon graduating, Bragan was no longer with Cablevision but joined AMC Networks as the director of communications and marketing in 2003. In 2008 she was promoted from director to the vice presidency of the department, the title she currently holds.
“I had a good time (at NYIT), the professors at the school were so supportive and so helpful in guiding me through the things I needed to do to help advance my opportunity to get a degree,” said Bragan about the challenge of going to school part-time and working full-time.
Professor Fizzinoglia was Bragan’s professor during her time at NYIT. “She was a good student,” said Fizzinoglia about Bragan’s willingness to learn. He believes networking events like these are very helpful to current students. “It’s a great thing for the students to see somebody here who has gone through the system and made it,” said professor Fizzinoglia.
Another NYIT alumna participated in and organized this year’s Latina Hat Luncheon. Amanda Ramirez (M.A.’03), obtained her master’s degree in mass communications 10 years after getting her bachelor’s degree in theatre from Long Island University Post, NYIT’s neighbor. She is an accomplished independent television, film and documentary producer, having produced over 6 films. Her latest films “Indestructible! Baseball on the Isthmus,” a documentary about the history of baseball in Panama and “Welcome to Willits,” a thriller set deep in the California woods are in post-production and will be available by next year.
Ramirez had a son named Eric at age 21. After graduating from LIU Post she worked as executive assistant in the TV industry until she decided she wanted to write for television and enrolled herself in NYIT’s master’s program. She said she wanted to go back to school for training, feeling a need to advance professionally. “Because I was paying for it I paid more attention (in class),” she said about her experience at NYIT, “I went from being a ‘B’ student as an undergrad to being an ‘A’ student as a grad because I was footing the bill.” Ramirez believes going to school later in adulthood helped her because she knew what she needed to learn to achieve her career goals. Eric was 11 years old when Ramirez graduated. He cheered her mother on at the NYIT commencement ceremony.
William Clyde a supporter of LIHCC and director of the Higher Education Opportunity Program at LIU got to know Ramirez well while helping her become a 4-year recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship. “Amanda is a young woman who’s got drive and a lot of spunk and was not afraid to get her hands dirty,” he said. A LIHCC supporter of its educational and networking initiatives, Clyde’s table also sponsored LIU Post students.
Four other very accomplished women were honored at the Latina Hat Luncheon and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano attended the event. Jelena Alonso, chief financial officer of the New York Racing Association received the Executive of the Year award. Iris Almario, an actress and model received the Arts and Media Excellence award. Francesca Kennedy, founder of fashion company Ix-Style won the Entrepreneur of the Year award. And Julie Torres, assistant principal at Paul D. Schreiber High School was honored with the Educational Advocate of the Year award.
Asked about advice she had to give, Bragan said, “Focus on school, make sure you do whatever you need to do to take advantage of any opportunity that you’re presented with. Success is like one-third luck and 2-thirds preparation. You have to be lucky and be at the right place at the right time and an opportunity presents itself. But if you’re not prepared to take advantage of it, then that opportunity is meaningless,” said Bragan. She encourages students to network, speak to people and get involved to make that opportunity happen.
Ramirez understands the college struggle as well and offers her own piece of advice, “Even though it seems tedious, there’s a method to the madness as far as training. As many talented kids as there are out there, there’s still so much to learn.” She reassures students to trust their professors because they are professionals in their field.
William Clyde has made a career of helping young students succeed. He believes networking events like the this one are essential for student success. “I think it was important to have the connection,” he said about the LIU Post students he sponsored. “To understand that you go to an event like this, you never know who you might meet. And under that umbrella, your career could change, you just don’t know.” Clyde said that a conversation with someone might not lead you directly to where you want to go, but that can point you towards the next step.