Unity in Community

~ Rising as One ~

Rise Together

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”


The Unity in Community: Rising as One Festival highlights and honors the collaboration, passion, and compassion that has served to raise up our community. Our ability and commitment to join together with a common purpose is a testament to who we are, and who we have always been as a college community.

Unity is a celebration of individuality. It is a deep appreciation and respect for the unique gifts and talents in all of us. The journey of unity is the creation of one voice that speaks to harmony and fellowship…individuals coming together with a mission to rise as one.

Rockland Community College continues to rise, to inspire, to choose hope over despair, to build an environment where all are cherished.

“We are each other’s harvest, we are each other’s business, we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” 

~Gwendolyn Brooks
Poet, Author, Educator

We must embrace our roles as changemakers to be a beacon, that light in the darkness for our students and our colleagues. We must be vigilant in our mission and pursuit of excellence for those with whom we work, educate, and mentor. Only together will we rise as one community, dedicated to providing purpose-driven educational opportunities and empowering individuals to positively transform themselves and their communities.

This is our 4th annual Unity in Community Festival. Most of the events are free and open to the public. Those that charge an admission fee are noted in the event descriptions.

2024 Unity in Community Events

United diversity and unity partnership as heart hands in a group of diverse people connected together shaped as a support symbol expressing the feeling of teamwork and togetherness.

2024 Unity in Community

Patty Maloney-Titland – Co-Chair
Rachel Kraushaar – Co-Chair
Christopher Plummer
Rosemary Witte
Christina Schaudel

Alumni Representatives:
Ryan McNeill
Andrew Marcinak
Felix Vazquez Ayala

Student Representatives:
Emily Gerges
Frank McCue


Patricia SzobonyaOur Constitution is our supreme law of the land, and it calls for a more perfect union. There is no greater time to have a more perfect union, and unity in our community, our Country, as well as unity around the world.

For true unity in community our laws should be applied consistently and uniformly to ensure fairness, justice, and equality for all inhabitants within modern society. For true unity we need to examine, support, and promote the proposed Equal Rights Amendment that has repeatedly come to the floor of Congress for over 100 years and has yet to be passed.

The ERA sets forth equality in the law regardless of sex, it would solidify that laws and policies treat men and women equally and prohibit discrimination based on sex. While there are other existing legal protections based on sex, they are not woven into the fabric of our Constitution.

Sadly, around the world, where many countries have adopted our Constitution and used it as their defining template, they included women explicitly and grant women equal rights under the law, while the United States Constitution does not.

Let’s revisit the ERA together, what it stands for, the history, the call for justice, equality, and inclusivity for women. Further, in a broader context, let’s define “sex” to include all communities, in particular the vulnerable LGBTQIA+ community.

Ryan McNeill performing in RagtimeMy name is Ryan McNeill – RCC Alumnus Class of 2012. I am currently the dance choreographer for the Visual and Performing Arts Department and the Rockland Shakespeare Company, as well as a teaching assistant for Physical Acting for the Stage. My journey within the Arts stretches as far back as I can remember; from performing in church plays, finding my voice in the choir, dancing to the concerts of Michael Jackson, and role playing as the swashbuckler Zorro for several Halloween’s in a row (and many days in between.) Discovering poetry at the age of 15 with Tupac Shakur’s compilation “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” literally saved my life when dark times arose. And since then, I have dabbled in almost every form of writing.

If there was one thing that became clear as I navigated this life of creativity is the stories that are birthed from each of those mediums. As an actor, nothing is more satisfying than slipping into a character and providing perspectives that elicit an emotional and personal reaction from an audience. The healing power of music is universal; from the elegance of a single voice to the grandeur and majesty of a hundred. They say when the passion is too great to talk, you sing, but when the passion is too great to sing, you dance – and dancing, to me, is the epitome of “freedom of expression”. And poetry or the spoken word is, unfortunately, one of the most invisible, yet strongest pillars of storytelling. Entire cultures rest on the shoulders of their histories woven into art.

There is no stronger force to draw people together than artistic expression – but the secret sauce is the story being told. It is what we walk away with and impart to others. It is the shared experience as we look upon that expansive mural or listen to the cry of a violin. It is the joy and memories of dancing the native step of our people, or letting ourselves be moved by the child’s poem that consists of only 6 lines. There is a collective realization in these moments – some so great, we say to others “you just had to be there.” It is these priceless moments in the presence of art that let us all, for an instant, forget our biases, our walls, and even our fears. We engage together and allow ourselves to be swept to a different realm, only to return to recount the story of what we just experienced.

The Arts is not only sacred, but an essential piece of the human journey. Where would we be without that film that rerouted our lives, or that one song that just says it all? That novel or poem that gave your imagination permission to burst forth and breathe? Isn’t it fascinating that when we have these revelations, the first thing we’re compelled to do is to…tell someone. To draw someone into the world we’ve come to know and have them experience it for themselves. We build a community in this way – one for every niche. And with every new soul that enters that world with us, we tell the story.

~Ryan McNeill

Christina Schaudel“The arts and humanities define who we are as a people. That is their power — to remind us of what we each have to offer, and what we all have in common. To help us understand our history and imagine our future. To give us hope in the moments of struggle and to bring us together when nothing else will.”
-Michelle Obama

When we think back on the early days of the pandemic, we remember the horrific images of overcrowded hospitals, of temporary morgues in the form of tractor trailers, the harrowing statistical reporting of rising covid cases in our communities, and the dreaded phone calls from family and friends to report to us who had it. We lived in a perpetual state of fear and uncertainty, where our normal practices and functions were held underneath a microscope and our every move dictated by a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Medical professionals, like nurses and doctors, needed to isolate themselves from their families. In fact, I always think of the doctor who had to stop his 3-year-old son from running into his arms and hugging him. He broke down and collapsed in tears as his son looked on in a state of confusion. The mere thought of showing our love and affection towards the people that mattered to us the most disappeared in a flash as we suspected every point of contact as a potential catalyst of covid transmission. We put ourselves into veritable bubbles of 6-foot diameters. The world, as we had come to know it, shut down.

But with every dark moment, every deep seeded fearful day, every venture of uncertainty, a beacon of light was able to break through. It offered comfort, distraction, laughter, inspiration, hope, and a bonding of the masses that seemed so far out of the realm of possibilities. How can one thing still manage to unite multitudes of people from afar so that we still have pathways with which to connect to one other? The arts, no matter the form, possesses this innate quality to cultivate shared experiences even in times of adversity. We turn to its optimism and escapism in order to carry on through each day. We create conversations around it that detract from the horrific stories that would otherwise take center stage. It silenced political opposition in households where war-filled fighting words had once reigned supreme and replaced it with a shared love for Baby Yoda and a mutual hatred of Carol Baskin. And, for this moment in time, we connected with each other in ways that would have otherwise seemed impossible. The arts helped us to appreciate each other, to be present, and to slow down and treasure our loved ones.

The unification of the masses through the arts can also be measured from an economic standpoint. The Motion Picture Association reported a 26% increase in streaming subscriptions at the start of the pandemic, bringing the total of at least 1 subscription to over 1 billion households (Faughnder, 2021). In accordance with the Nielson’s ratings, the top 10 shows of 2020 were Ozark, Lucifer, The Crown, Tiger King, The Mandalorian, Umbrella Academy, The Great British Baking Show, The Boss Baby: Back in Business, Longmire, and You (Faughnder, 2021). The top streaming network was Netflix. Instead of premiering films in theaters, production companies turned to streaming networks to ensure that their revenue would thrive. HBOMax launched their own streaming network with Wonder Woman:1984 premiering on it as a means to entice users to subscribe. The entertainment world continued to turn, and the masses consumed it in great quantities. Shonda Rhimes took a little obscure book that she read while on vacation and instilled Bridgerton in all our lives. She created such a phenomenon that audiences were clamoring for more. Sadly, like most shows, all production came to a screeching halt, and we were forced to watch the series on repeat, hoping that the industry would find creative ways to get the second season filming so that we could escape into the decadence of regency England. Nicola Coughlin, who plays Penelope Featherington in the show, reported that the last scene that we saw in season one was the last day they were able to film as studios and productions were forced to cease and shut down the very next day. Luckily for them, it also happened to be the production company’s last day of filming.

In Italy, people took to their balconies to sing, play music, dance with their loved ones, and play movies on the sides of apartment buildings. People were laughing and smiling in these shared moments. They bonded with one another. On the stoops of New York City, Broadway performers and Opera singers gave free concerts. On Zoom, performances and play readings were able to continue moving forward. Our very own Rockland Shakespeare Company hosted a production of Much Ado About Nothing and Monologue Madness! Recreational reading saw a substantial increase in 2020-2021, especially in print book sales (Khatib,2021). Statistically, recreational reading saw a 35% increase globally at the start of the pandemic (35% of the World Is Reading More during the Pandemic. Thanks, Pandemic?, 2020). The National Endowment of the Arts reported that Arts and Culture created $876.7 Billion in revenue for the United Stated in 2020 (2022). A study from the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union entitled Art & Wellbeing reported that over 85% of people who took part in this mixed methods research claimed to consume differing styles of art during the pandemic (Art Consumption and Well-Being during the Covid-19 Pandemic, n.d.). The researchers also offered recommendations on how people can continue to create art as a means of promoting well-being. If you have time, I encourage you to review their wonderful research in the link included below and consider their recommendations and how you can incorporate them into your own life or help support policy makers and institutions in understanding why the arts need to be incorporated into the structures of education and daily life practices.

Now that the world has returned to some semblance of normalcy, I ask you to remember the beacon of light that shined in our lives during our darkest days. Like a good friend, the arts have always been there for us. Remember to value it and recognize its significance in all our lives. The arts make us well-rounded and cultured individuals. It still possesses the power to create bonds with people that you may have otherwise overlooked. We engorge ourselves with the arts every day by listening to music in our car on the way to work, talking with our colleagues about last night’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, buying the entire Bridgerton book series because the power of a TV show brought us back to recreational reading, or making sure that we get our tickets to Immersive Van Gogh in NYC so that we can saturate ourselves in his incredible artwork. Remember the countless people who work tirelessly to provide you with the thing you crave the most and the creative ways they needed to develop strategies for the arts to continue to keep up with the high demand. Next time you are at the movie theaters, I ask you to sit and watch the credits of a film. Look at the hundreds of names scrolling across the screen. All those people came together to create that for you. Without even realizing it, we spend more than a 1/3 of our lives consuming it. The arts make us laugh when our hearts are broken, help us to learn about different cultures and different mindsets, and reach down into our souls to enlighten us on the vast possibilities of everything that life has to offer. It makes us interested in travelling to different civilizations as it shows outsiders what makes their culture beautiful. Give thanks to the arts because it unified and uplifted us during a time of great vulnerability and ambiguity. It has been there for us for thousands of years and continues to be there for us now. THE. ARTS. WILL. ALWAYS. BE. THERE.

Christina Schaudel, M.F.A
Student Success Advisor – School of Arts, Education, Humanities and Social Science
Adjunct Professor – Visual and Performing Arts
Doctoral Candidate- Educational Leadership


35% of the world is reading more during the pandemic. Thanks, pandemic? (2020, November 11). Literary Hub. https://lithub.com/35-of-the-world-is-reading-more-during-the-pandemic-thanks-pandemic/

Art consumption and well-being during the Covid-19 pandemic. (n.d.). Art & Wellbeing. https://art-wellbeing.eu/research-covid-19-pandemic/

Faughnder, R. (2021, March 18). Streaming milestone: Global subscriptions passed 1 billion last year. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2021-03-18/streaming-milestone-global-subscriptions-passed-1-billion-last-year-mpa-theme-report

Khatib, J. (2021, March 12). How the Pandemic Changed the Way We Read. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/03/12/books/reading-trends.html

National Endowment for the Arts. (2022, March 15). New Data Show Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Arts & Culture Sector. https://www.arts.gov/news/press-releases/2022/new-data-show-economic-impact-covid-19-arts-culture-sector

Rachel Kraushaar singing with band

“Where words fail, music speaks.”
–Hans Christian Andersen

When I was five years old, I begged my parents for a piano and lessons. Thanks to the generosity of an aunt, the piano wish was granted; the lessons, on the other hand, would have to wait until I learned to read. I don’t think this is typically a milestone before one can start piano lessons, but it was my highly literate parents’ scheme to prod me to learn how to read.

At the age of six I began taking classical piano lessons. I was wholly committed to the genre until my older brother began hosting rock band practices in my family’s basement. It was there that I first heard the keyboardist in the band play Styx’s “Come Sail Away.” From that point on, I was dissatisfied with learning Mozart and Chopin, and obsessed with figuring out how to play the rock songs I was hearing on the radio.

By age eleven I had started my own rock band. At that time, there were no girls playing rock music and there were no competition shows like American Idol or The Voice. So, when none of the boys would invite me into their bands, I started my own. We branched out from the junior years in my basement to the “Concert Against Cancer” and the “Battle of the Bands” in high school.

In college, I would sneak off to the piano practice rooms and play tunes for hours and hours between studying and classes. Music has always been like oxygen to me. After I graduated college, I juggled teaching during the day with gigging at night. I joked that I was the adult Hannah Montana.

However, when I started teaching at St. Thomas Aquinas College after graduate school, I decided that this was a part of my identity that I needed to keep separate from my colleagues, administrators, and students. I was there to teach writing, research, and literary analysis; this was the mode of literacy that was most valued in the academy, and I believed that I needed to model that mode with integrity and modesty. I felt that they wouldn’t take me seriously once they discovered I played in a rock band.

I hid this facet of my life for nearly twenty years. Ultimately, though, the launch of social media thwarted my attempts at secrecy. Students who’d graduated requested me as a Facebook “Friend”. Suddenly, my posts about my musical life and advertising for gigs began to spike. It was shocking to discover that it was the very students I had been hiding this part of my identity from who were my most devout supporters! Then…the game changer…for their Senior Week events, the graduating Honors class scheduled one of my gigs as part of their celebrations and surprised me by showing up.

When I started at RCC several years ago, I was excited to bring my musical experiences to the College as a spark that might ignite the flames of creative collaboration. My hope is to support musical students in starting a Music Club and showing them how to host an open mic night, market themselves and their groups.

“Where words fail, music speaks.” There are multiple literacies, and the Unity in Community inspires us-all in our community-to share, collaborate, create, and celebrate the unique light that is within us in our individual ways. Nothing should eclipse that passion.

Rachel Kraushaar
PhD, MPhil, M.Ed.
Assistant Professor of English


The inspector says that the first
step to assessing the damage
is to check for open fissures,
or for unique signs of ravage
in the foundation.
However, I quickly learned that
surface rock cannot determine
peace of mind.
And that there can be no full-time
tenants in a house of ill-repair.

You may lock those doors up tight,
but that dwelling only looks safe
from the outside.
The interior is teeming
with remnants of a well-kept past,
and despite popular belief,
there are no skittering bats
in the attic…
only a complex web of netting
that keeps the neighbors at bay.

Common vermin lurk in closets,
but, worse, hundreds of prowlers
parade unchecked in the basement.
Bumping up against each other
in the damp dark.
Every once in a while, one
slips through an adjacent door, and
a bell rings on the second floor
to alert the homeowner that
the lurkers are stirring— again.

The astronomy of the past?
do traces of light-lines,
tracing distance &
trace the Sol solar system’s
history in solar systems
different from mine?

Or is ours
the sole solar system
that cares about meter and rhyme?
are we the only solar system
marking our passage through time?

But see, the question was;
What Do We See In The Sky?

Perhaps the physics of immortality;
the star-shapes of constellations
and star-signs

But again
that it does not matter what is
seen in the sky.
What matters is the eye;

through which rays of light intertwine,
as electricity down paths of flesh
powered by hot liquid that
runs from the heart up to the neck,
to mesh lines of light with lines of color,
to mesh lines to light up brain-cells like
grey cathode-ray tubes finally meeting

So see,
What Do We See In The Sky?

Winner of the 2023 Earth Day Poetry Contest

I lie
In the arms of mother earth
In a haze of her floral perfume
the tender kisses of her golden rays
like crimson lipstick stains
in the billows of her milky clouds
in the creases on her forehead
streaks across a tumultuous sky
spidery lashes
her arched branches sway
and catch little raindrops
with slender fingers
that airbrush the thunder
in the cracks on her back
the swelling of her spine
in the blazing rage
fiery gaze
of her stormy wrath
on hot summer days
and the icy breeze
of her cold defeat
in the arms of mother earth
I lie

Campfire, 2023 Mixed: three neon tribal names, stack of wood, frying pan 36 x 26 x 34 inches

Cultural memory is long—
when it wants to be.
Otherwise, we seem to
reminisce about things
steeped in “tradition.”

But, what about the tradition
of soul ravaging?
How often we forget
the essence of being
lies within us all.

Too often we forget that all
of our ancestors
have sizzled in that pan
of oppressive pressure—
a force born of ember.

Longer than we can remember
we have had to hold
our own feet to the fire,
because we are mortal.
It’s not a divine right.

And so, what is right?
Is it giving into
the desire to play God,
or growing into
the realization that we’re One?

Cultural memories trick one
into believing
this shadow of neon
spires is worth saving—
But, we’re no strangers
to resurrection.

We’ve done it before…
and, we’ll do it again.
Aho mitakuye oyasin.

nobody that looks

at her

ever stops to wonder

why white porcelain

does not crack

(it does).

nobody that loves

on her

knows her heart

and the words she whispers

to the moon

(she screams).

she is broken –

on the inside.

to the world she is

a statue.

she is a dreamer –

in her soul.

to the naked eye she is


she holds the world

between the folds

of her robe,

and when asked –

she bows.

her sad eyes

meet the ground

where her fate


just like the shattered


of the ones

who stood proudly

(before her).

Eclipse the sun with fears of death and what’s left for the light to cascade?
But eclipse the stars within your reach and what couldn’t it’s grasp parade?
Because the bleak of day, the grim and gray, the mundane of once was blue,
Is but only the moments you refuse to acknowledge the beauty inside of you.
Imagine Opulence and cheer, or insecurity and fear,
The antithesis of tranquil seas.
Oh, just picture a life, where one could suffice on the idea of laughter and glee.

Naivete is a noose tied around a village’s throat
as cracks of rebellion lets life seep in,
the broken are swept away with a subtle breeze
from a safe prison cell to the dangerous unknown.
Freedom is buried in a basement
and the sinners paste a mask of belonging
on their tired faces, to hide their desires
because hope has no home in the village
but defiance, it bubbles and simmers like pressure cookers
Questions are banned from the brick structures
where bearded men hold gods in their pockets
handing them out like candy, excuses for their crimes
while justice stays lodged in the pages of a prayer book.
“The rainbow is a sign of God’s wrath”
“A women’s knee is the devil”
and the dreamers are foolish
to find peace in the colored stripes
and dreams in the weeds outside the picket fences
And so I go, and it goes, in circles
the rumors flooding the streets, wiping the windows
the neighbors are staring, curtains twitching
to catch a glimpse of a sinner
a girl with a textbook
a girl with a dream
a girl that is me.