Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams on Tuesday honored a local baker who organizes birthday celebrations for homeless children and an educator who has developed innovative programs to teach both children and adults.
Maria Nitti, the owner of Isabella’s Creations in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, was declared “Hero of the Month” for May; while Rose Graham, the Jamaican-born vice principal of PS 399 Stanley Eugene Clarke in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, was named June’s “Hero of the Month.”
Nitti and Graham were lauded at a ceremony in the rotunda of Brooklyn Borough Hall, a continuation of Adams’ “Hero of the Month” initiative honoring the accomplishments of Brooklynites from all walks of life.
“These women went beyond the call of duty,” Adams said. “Their work personifies the work of a hero — going beyond their job descriptions to fulfill a need and provide real help to people in our community.”
“Oftentimes we think of saving a life as a physical act by a police officer or a firefighter in an emergency,” he added. “But anyone who has touched a life as Maria and Rose, has also saved a life.”
In 2014, Adams said Nitti donated several boxes of cupcakes for a Christmas party at the CAMBA Flagstone Family Center in Brownsville, a shelter for about 150 families with more than 400 children.
After seeing the joy on the faces of children at the shelter, the baker decided to launch Operation Birthday Party.
Every month, Adams said she organizes local food vendors to throw a celebration with birthday cake, a disc jockey, face painting, and gifts for children at the shelter who are celebrating their birthdays.
“Maria recognized that the children living in a homeless shelter often miss out on the joy of being a child,” Adams said. “Even more than simply saying ‘Happy Birthday,’ she wanted to create memories for the children, and offer them a chance to have cake and open presents and enjoy that experience of being a child.
“By organizing other local business owners to contribute, she has become a hero for children,” Adams said.
He said Graham has dedicated her life to the profession of teaching, first in her native Jamaica and then at both parochial and public schools in New York City since 1983.
As vice principal at PS 399 Stanley Eugene Clarke in East Flatbush, she created literacy programs for adults and children, as well as a summer Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) initiative to encourage students to pursue these fields of study, Adams said.
For her efforts, Adams noted that she was recently honored with a New York Daily News “Hometown Heroes in Education” award.
“I am proud to honor Rose as a leader in education here in Brooklyn,” Adams said. “Much of her work has focused on STEM proficiency that will allow our children to compete in the 21stcentury.
“In addition, her work on adult literacy responds to a need that has too often been ignored: the many adults who cannot read and should have that ability,” he added. “Her career as an educator has been heroic.”