Simotas & Maloney Celebrate Women’s History Month

Officials honor Queens women and a young student for achievement in community activism and environmental protection
March 22, 2019

Astoria, NY – On Friday, March 22, New York State Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and U.S. Congresswoman 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 U.S. Congresswoman 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.

Assemblymember Aravella 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.”

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney said: “I am so proud to join my exceptional colleague in government, Assemblymember 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.”

U.S. Rep. Grace 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 Geraldine Ferraro. Grace 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 her dog, Bounce.

U.S. Rep Grace 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 tireless 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 been lived in Long Island City since 2003. 

Julie Schweitert Collazo said, “As one of the most diverse counties in the nation, Queens residents are in a unique position to defend and protect the rights of immigrants, regardless of their status. I am honored and grateful to live and work among so many leaders who understand how important is to show up, speak up, and fight back against hateful and harmful immigration policies so that the rest of the country can grow to understand what Queens residents have long known: our diversity is our strength and it is not a threat. I am also grateful to work with activists and advocates who understand intersectionality and how the issues that are of greatest importance to our borough are all related.”

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 co-recipient of the Taminent Regular Democratic Club 2018 Political Activism Award.

Megan Stotts said, "I would like to thank Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas for their leadership and this incredible honor. I would also like to congratulate my fellow honorees, who inspire me and have given so much to our community and world. One woman alone is mighty, but, as many women in this community have shown, all of us working together are unstoppable. I'm excited to continue the work with these brilliant, courageous women. Together we can build a community that benefits all our neighbors."

Julia Sorrentino lives in Astoria with her family and teaches at LaGuardia 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 a grassroots progressive movement that educated voters on issues in the New York State legislature.

Julia Sorrentino said, “Astoria is a strong, vibrant, and loving neighborhood, and at its heart are the women who live and work here. It is no wonder that we are represented by women who truly care, who tirelessly work for this community. Thank you Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney and Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, and State Senator Jessica Ramos. Thank you for conferring this honor on me, and for being the role models that our children need and deserve. I am proud to live in a community filled with, and represented by, so many vibrant and strong women.”

Angela Garvin 12 years old, 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 Parks Commissioner a comprehensive proposal for rain gardens, which are now being incorporated into the new construction of Astoria Park.

Angela Garvin said "My neighborhood is important to me, my family has been in Astoria for a long time and we will be here for a long time to come. This world is not only for us to enjoy today, we have to take care of it for future generations to enjoy it in even more ways than we have.”

Assemblymember 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.