Student from Bronx NY school awarded for his work to raise awareness about racial equality on campus and in his community
New York, NY – January 10, 2023. To support racial harmony and the unity of mankind, Moujan Vahdat, a billionaire New York based real estate developer and founder of Elmo Realty Co., has implemented an annual competition known as the “Race Unity Awards,” and just selected its inaugural winner. After a City-wide competition, junior Matthew Garaicoa at Lehman College in the Bronx took the top prize, which includes an honorary plaque along with a two thousand five-hundred-dollar ($2,500) check for his impressive efforts in taking action to raise awareness about racial equality.
“I am so proud of the hard work in promoting racial unity and racial justice that Matthew brings to his school and community,” Vahdat says, founder of Elmo Realty Co. “Racism is the most pressing issue confronting America. By challenging our worldviews and implementing actions towards progressing the oneness of humanity, we are building bridges that help others succeed and find hope for a united future.”
Vahdat received over one hundred essays from students at NYC-based colleges across all five boroughs. The nominees were put forth by their school’s faculty who based nominations on the student’s efforts in raising awareness about racial equality on campus and/or in their communities.
Specifically, the students had to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to empowering others by being effective advocates for racial equality or produce scholarly work which significantly improved others’ understanding about the challenges that diverse people face in America – whether the challenges are physical, moral or spiritual. Another criterion was to what degree the student implemented initiatives that promote race unity on campus and/or in their community. Lastly, they were judged on responses to the question of how they would use the money to help others become advocates for racial equality.
Garaicoa, the 2022 winner, is a Sociology major and a Social Inequality and Urban Studies minor. His impressive work during the Fall 2022 semester included his research project titled “History of the Gross Michel: The impact and importance of TR4 Fungal Disease,” which analyzed the global impact of the TR4 Fungal Disease from a societal, economic, and scientific perspective. His presentation wowed faculty and peers alike. In addition, Garaicoa spearheaded the “Let’s Go Bananas” collaboration between Lehman Lab for Social Analysis and the New York Botanical Garden. The project encourages an ethnographic and historiographic exploration of bananas and plantains, utilizing the rich knowledge of Bronx residents — many of whose family backgrounds are rooted in banana-producing regions and who consume bananas and plantains as a key ingredient in their foods.
He also co-wrote and starred in ¡Pa’lante!, a play inspired by the BLM protests that erupted during the covid pandemic. In a matter of nine weeks, Garaicoa along with eighteen other Lehman students created and staged an original story focused on a group of individuals, each advocating for their own people in a world of injustice, uncaring and inequality. The play sold out all three nights at The Lovinger Theatre @ Lehman College and was the first-time students and the community gathered to enjoy a show at the theater since the pandemic.
“Not only will this award help me further my education to better understand the history of racial inequality in the United States, it will also allow me to reinvest into my own communities by advocating for Race Unity here at Lehman college, and by supporting local businesses in the Bronx,” Garaicoa said.
A ceremony will be held at Lehman College (250 Bedford Park Blvd W, Bronx, NY 10468) in Shuster Hall in the President’s Conference Room 336 on Wednesday, January 11, 2023, at 4:00pm where Vahdat will meet with Richard Finger, Interim Vice President and Enrollment Manager at Lehman College and present the award and plaque to Matthew Garaicoa among faculty, family, and friends.
About Lehman College
Lehman College of The City University of New York has ranked among the top five institutions in the nation for fostering social mobility. A four-year Hispanic-Serving Institution in the Bronx, it offers bachelor’s, master’s, and advanced degrees and certificate programs in the Liberal Arts, sciences, and professions. The College’s community-driven mission and notable academic programs attract a diverse, international enrollment of over 14,000 students who take courses on its 37-acre, tree-lined campus and in its online degree programs. Many thousands more community members benefit yearly from its active cultural, educational, health, and economic outreach programs and services.
About Elmo Realty, Inc.
Founded by Moujan Vahdat, Elmo Realty Co. is a full-service real estate firm that for thirty years has specialized in multi-family development and affordable housing projects all across New York City. The firm has bought and sold over 75 properties and currently owns and manages over a dozen properties throughout New York City’s five boroughs.