Denise Ortiz entered the world with Red Storm blood coursing through her veins.
Born in Manhattan, the St. Francis Prep graduate was very confident that she would continue her education at St. John’s University, for it was the only school that she applied to her senior year of high school. Ortiz was well-exposed to the campus, visiting the Queens campus and the different colleges with her sister, who was then a student majoring in paralegal studies. By then, St. John’s was where she wanted to be.
“I had already gotten to know the campus and I liked it, so when I got accepted, SJU was the school for me.”
Looking back on her first couple of years in college, Ortiz recalls very fond memories that have molded her into the vivacious and very involved individual she is today. A member of various educationally-minded organizations, including America Reads and the Teacher Opportunity Corp.[T.O.C.], this elementary education major credits the school’s healthy crop of teachers for her well-rounded participation in campus clubs. Ortiz has a special appreciation for Charisse Willis, the Assistant Dean of The School of Education.
“She was key in making sure I joined groups such as T.O.C., America Reads and the Ed Society. She was also the one who helped us bring about the ‘rebirth’ of Kappa Delta Pi. With her help, the e-board and I re-started this honor society in SJU.”
With incredible guidance from her dean, Ortiz has found that T.O.C. is the organization that really hits home and means the most to her, since she has made eternal friendships and is also able to expand her participation off-campus. Recently, Ortiz traveled to Albany where she was given the opportunity to experience political petitioning first hand.
“I was up there attending a T.O.C. conference lobbying against budget cuts to the senators.”
As a member of T.O.C., Ortiz has also done extensive work with the American Red Cross, playing a major role in disaster relief efforts after Sept. 11. On the one-month anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, Ortiz brought that work back to St. John’s, planning the campus’s memorial ceremony. For Ortiz, it was a forever-cherished event.
“Every time I see the plaque dedicated to that day, I remember all the hard work that was put into creating that memorial service. I am proud to be a part of organizations that help out like that.”
So what’s in the cards for Ortiz after graduation? As is the choice for many graduates in this time of economic uncertainty, Ortiz plans to go on to grad school. And, naturally, St. John’s is her school of choice.
“After a nice little vacation that is well deserved, I plan to go straight into grad school for education. I am applying to St. John’s University, which is my first choice for grad school. I am also applying for a Grad-Assistance position, so with some luck I may get one.”
Between teaching, lobbying, event planning and her part-time work in a law office, Ortiz has certainly kept her options open, gaining skill in more than a few professional fields. Although many of her life experiences have stemmed from campus activities, much of her knowledge has been attained from dealings beyond the school’s iron gates. For Ortiz, this is vital.
“Usually when you get out of the customary environment and step into some place totally different like a homeless shelter, a respite center, or even an inner-city elementary school, you usually learn a lot more about the people you are helping and what they have to deal with on an everyday basis.”