New York State Assembly Member Aravella Simotas and Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney hosted their annual luncheon to celebrate Women’s History Month and to honor four exceptional local women and a middle school student for their commitment to community activism. The celebration was hosted by George’s at Kaufman Astoria Studios.
The honorees were Congress Member Grace Meng, who represents the 6th Congressional District of New York, Julia Schwietert Collazo, co-founder of Immigrant Families Together, Megan Stotts and Julia Sorrentino, co-founders of Hearts Across Queens, and student Angela Garvin, the inspiration for Astoria Park’s rain garden project.
Assembly Member Simotas said: “Since I first began hosting this event, my vision was always to honor women’s history and the great strides we have made, but also to recognize how far we still have to go and collaborate with each other on new ideas to bring us closer to reaching true equality. I am grateful to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a trailblazer in the women’s movement, for co-hosting this event with me and to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, an inspiring female leader breaking new ground for young women, for joining us. This has been a thrilling year for women in New York, with a wave of newly elected women taking office and giving us a historic level of representation in the state legislature. I was so pleased that one of these women, my incredible new partner in Albany, State Senator Jessica Ramos, could join us to recognize the contributions of five remarkable women in our community. Congresswoman Grace Meng, Julia Schwietert Collazo, Megan Stotts, Julia Sorrentino, and our youngest honoree ever, 12-year old Angela Garvin, have each worked tirelessly to advance the causes that are most important to women and families, and their commitment to service is a beacon of hope for a brighter future. I am deeply inspired by each of our honorees and all the special women who attended today’s event, and I am looking forward to all the great things we will continue to achieve together.”
Congress Member Maloney said: “I am so proud to join my exceptional colleague in government, Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, in celebrating Women’s History Month and in honoring five amazing women. Congresswoman Grace Meng, Julia Schwietert Collazo, Megan Stotts, Julia Sorrentino, and Angela Garvin are all fearless, strong leaders who committed to bettering their community. It is my pleasure to celebrate these wonderful women of Queens and the contributions all women have made throughout our nation’s history.”
Meng is serving her fourth term in Congress representing parts of west, central and northeast Queens. She is the first Asian American member of Congress from New York State, and the first female member of Congress from Queens since former vice presidential nominee, the late Geraldine Ferraro. Meng is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and also serves on the House Ethics Committee. Born in Elmhurst and raised in Bayside and Flushing, she resides in Queens with her husband, Wayne, two sons, Tyler and Brandon, and their dog, Bounce.
Congress Member Meng said, “It is an honor to accept this award and I’m thrilled to join my wonderful government colleagues, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for this outstanding celebration of women’s history. I thank them for being tire- less public servants and I am grateful and humbled to have been chosen as one of this year’s honorees. In Congress, I am proud of the work I have done in providing women and girls equal access to health care, education, and economic opportunities, and I will continue to do all I can to advance gender equality. I am also proud to recognize the accomplishments that women have made to our state and nation, from improving our communities to making our country grow and prosper. During Women’s History Month, I’m proud to commemorate the achievements and successes of women, and I look forward to continuing to do so throughout the month of March.”
Julie Schwietert Collazo is a former social worker and creative arts therapist, and a writer, editor, and translator. In June 2018, along with her husband, Francisco Collazo, she founded Immigrant Families Together, an organization of rapid response volunteers who fight back against the Trump administration’s harmful immigration policies, including zero tolerance and family separation. To date, Immigrant Families Together has posted bond for more than 65 parents, grandparents, and older siblings who were detained by Immigration and separated from their children and families. They also provide ongoing support and services for many of these families as they undergo asylum proceedings. Julie has lived in Long Island City since 2003.
Megan Stotts, Astoria resident and mother of two young boys, co-founded Hearts Across Queens with 11 other local moms in 2016. The organization empowers western Queens residents to join together to create positive and progressive change and advocate for tolerance and diversity. She draws inspiration from all the ways the women in her community work to improve the neighborhood and the world. Megan is a corecipient of the Taminent Regular Democratic Club 2018 Political Activism Award.
Julia Sorrentino lives in Astoria with her family and teaches at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York. She co-founded Hearts Across Queens. She is creator of the series, Queens Women in STEAM, where local women are featured each day of Women’s History Month to share their stories with District 30 students, and their neighborhoods. Julia was a founding member of a grassroots progressive movement that educated voters on issues in the New York State legislature.
Angela Garvin, 12, is a native of Astoria and attended PS 122 from kindergarten to 5th grade, as did her mother, grandmother and great-grandfather. She now attends the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan for middle school. When Angela heard that Astoria Park was being renovated, she became intensely interested in incorporating sustainability into the renovations and began attending planning meetings with her grandmother. In 2016, when she was just 10 years old, Angela gave the NYC Parks commissioner a comprehensive proposal for rain gardens, which are now being incorporated into the new construction of Astoria Park.
Simotas concluded the event by offering her deep gratitude to Kaufman Astoria Studios and specifically to President Hal Rosenbluth and Vice President Tracy Capune, as well as George’s restaurant for their generous support in making the event a success.