Aquinas Honor Society

The Aquinas Honor Society works on several outstanding projects each year.

Here are just a few of them described below:

The Historic Districts Council issues an award , the Grassroots Award, to organizations that have been especially influential in the preservation world.


The Aquinas Honor Society of Immaculate Conception School publishes their third book 

with Arcadia Publishing.

Please read about the event at Barnes and Noble below:



The Aquinas Honor Society of Immaculate Conception School was a recipient of this award in 2013.

Please read about the Awards below:



Please download and see the Powerpoint VIDEO Presentation below:





Please read about 4 of the Aquinas Honor Society’s most recent activities and accomplishments

by clicking on the RED  “ARTICLE” below each photo:

1)   10th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony. Here are two photos above the link:


2) Maple Grove Cemetery and burial ground ceremony. Two photos are shown above the link.

The second photo refers back to the Jacob Riis bust – another Aquinas Honor Society accomplishment


The Aquinas Honor Society is jubilant !

The Jacob Riis’ bust survived Hurricane Sandy

Read the article from the Daily News below:

DAILY NEWS article on Jacob Riis’ bust



3)  Another article about the African burial ground at Maple Grove Cemetery.

One photo is shown above the link


4)  Article about help being sought for finding the names of those buried in the African burial ground
in Maple Grove Cemetery


On Saturday, May 14, the Aquinas students did a Book Signing of their new book Images of America: Jamaica at the Fresh Meadows Barnes and Noble.

The book features over 200 vintage and rare photographs, some never before seen.
The beautiful front cover has a 1915 photograph by Frederick Weber and considered a masterpiece in photography.Senator Tony Avella presented the students with a New York State proclamation.

Below some of the facts discovered and mentioned at the book signing…

Amanda Lallemand and Neela Dookie worked on the Indian word for Jamaica – Jameco on page 13. Did you know the word means  ”place of the beaver” which were once abundant in the area?

Kimberly Ramcharitar and Gabrielle Hollant worked on the Jamaica Movie Theatres page 78. Did you know there were six movie palaces in Jamaica? The Jamaica opened in 1913, The Rialto which became the Savoy opened in 1918, The Merrick opened in 1921, The Hillside opened in 1926, The Alden opened in 1928 and the Valencia opened in 1929?

Kirkland Arjun and Tobi Ayeni worked on The Civil War Monument on page 52. Did you know that inside the pedestal is a box with the names of all soldiers,white and black who fought in the Civil War?

Jexel Sarbordo worked on the Jamaica Fire Department – on page 49. Did you know that the first Jamaica fire department had 13 volunteers and started in 1797

Sarah Rodriquez and Valerie Bressier worked on Jamaica Avenue – page 11. Did you know that Jamaica Avenue was originally an Indian trail used for the trading of skins and furs for wampum…In 1790 George Washington wrote in his diary, “Jamaica Road is more sandy and appears to have less strength, but still good and productive.”

Nandita Mathura and Gaurav Srivastava worked on Jamaica Hospital – page 54. Did you know that Jamaica Hospital started out as a temporary hospital? The first fund raiser for the hospital was held in 1883 and raised $179.40.

Varun Arjoonsingh worked on Idlewild and JFK Airport – page 120. Did you know Idlewild was once a community and golf course created near Jamaica Bay in the 1920s. In 1946 and 1947 the City of New York claimed eminent domain and moved the people from their homes. Today that area is known as John F.Kennedy International airport.

Orlando Santiago worked on St. Mary German Church of Jamaica  – page 32 and 33. Did you know that this parish church began in 1886 with the first mass held in a 1767 farmhouse and today is called Presentation.

Patrick Menchaca worked on the Jamaica Train Station – page 37.Did you know that the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad, the first railroad on Long Island was incorporated in 1832 and completed on April 18, 1836 running from the East River to Jamaica.

Tori Dasraj worked on Candace and Dora Wheeler – page 93. Did you know that that Candace was the most important textile and interior designer of the 19th century. She worked with Tiffany Company producing designs for the White House and the home of Mark Twain.

Tracy Singh worked on Prospect Cemetery – page 15. Did you know that Prospect Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in New York City dating back to 1668?

Amrit Singh Bhatti worked on the King Manor House  –  pages 84 and 85. Did you know that Rufus King purchased his Jamaica house in 1806? He helped draft and signed the Constitution, was ambassador to England spoke out against slavery decades before the Civil War.

Tarah Anne Rancy and Jessica Netto worked on the history of Hillside Avenue – page 16. Did you know that Hillside Avenue was built in 1870 and built along the side of a hill?

Gabrielle Hollant worked on the community of Cambria Heights – page 118. Did you know that the community of Cambria Heights, Jamaica was established in 1923 and named for the Cambria Title Savings and Trust Company that financed the development?

Mat Tupas and Nicholas Strickland worked on General Nathaniel Woodhull – page 80 and 81.Did you know that this American Revolutionary War patriot was captured by the British at Carpenter’s Inn at 197th Street and Jamaica Avenue? When ordered to say, “God save the King,” he replied “God save us all” and was savagely beaten.

Brandon Arjun and Jewel Sarbardo worked on the community of Hollis – pages 110 and 111. Did you know that the town of Hollis, Jamaica was started in 1895 and by 1900 there were 130 houses built around the Hollis train station?

Kemraj Sobhai and Cliff Mayard worked on King Kullen – page 98. Did you know that the first King Kullen supermarket opened on Jamaica Avenue on August 4, 1930 and the Smithsonian Institute recognizes King Kullen as America’s first supermarket?

Julio Ulloa worked on Rev. Abraham Ketelkas – page 82. Did you know that the Rev. Ketelkas lived on his farm in Jamaica at 144th Street and at the outbreak of the American Revolution was a fiery patriot and proclaimed that he would shoulder his musket rather than pay the tea tax?

Amne Madi and Tahina Felisca worked on Illinois Jacquet  –  page 122. Did you know that Illinois Jacquet of Jamaica was heralded as one of the greatest jazz saxophonist of all time?

Tarnjot Parhar worked on Peter Stuyvesant and The Ottlie Orphanage– pages 13 and 62. Did you know that Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant gave the early settlers of Jamaica a charter to found their town on March 21, 1656?

Nalisha Rampersaud worked on The Presbyterian Church of Jamaica – pages 21 and 22. Did you know that this church has a record of continuous activity since it was founded in 1662?

Krystal Madarin worked on Temple Israel of Jamaica – page 34. Did you know that this temple was founded in 1918 and once stood at 160th Street and Hillside Avenue?

Lia Lewis worked on the Family Trees of the Jones and Lewis Families of Jamaica – page 71 . Did you know when Lia’s grandmother Marguerite Jacobs moved to her Jamaica home on 174th Street in 1930 and it was surrounded by farmland.

Abigail Rafael and Alyssa Balkarran worked on The Old Stone Church and Senator Chauncey Depew – page 20. Did you know that the Old Stone Church was built in 1690 and served as a meeting house for the people of Jamaica and was host to Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Dutch preachers?

Aniyah Smith, Dominque Gay and Alexis McNeille worked on the Maps of Jamaica and the Glacial Period –  page  10. Did you know that the slow moving glacier of the Last Great Ice Age stopped at Hillside Avenue 18,000 years ago? The melting ice washed out to the Atlantic making the land from Hillside Avenue to Jamaica Bay flat?

Bri’Elle Price worked on the Gertz Mall – Page 77. Did you know that the Gertz Family came from Russia and started a small stationery store in Jamaica

Amne Madi  worked on the great musical entertainers of Jamaica – page 100. Did you know that many great music legends lived in many parts of Jamaica? Count Basie, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Illinois Jacquet, James Brown, James Price Johnson to mention just a few.



Below some of the photos taken at the book signing…

Please click on the Link below to read the recent

NY Daily News article on the project to restore the

Jacob Riis bust for Far Rockaway Park


The Aquinas Honor Society and Mr. Ballenas co-authored

a recently published book on the history of Jamaica Estates.

Read a NY Times article about the book below:

Jamaica Estates History

You can also see a video about the book held at Barnes and Noble

on Union Turnpike in Queens. The video was filmed by the online

Catholic news magazine, “Currents”. Please click on the link below:

Book Publication Event at Barnes and Noble




Honor students from the Aquinas Honor Society of the Immaculate Conception

School, Jamaica Estates have a deep passion for local history. They have been

working on the history of their community for the last four years. Academically

gifted, they have dedicated themselves to uncover the history of Jamaica

Estates. During their research they studied old maps, found century old

newspaper articles, dug into dusty archives and interviewed many people in their

quest. Soon they amassed a huge collection of historical data and gave the first

Walking Tours of Jamaica Estates during Open House New York in 2008 and 2009. It

was their hope to document their work in a book so that the information would

not be lost. Arcadia Publishing gave them a book contract and after a lot of

hard work they had a manuscript ready. Their book on the history of Jamaica

Estates will be available to the public on March 8, 2010. It is filled with many

facts and stories about events and people from the past. It has over 124 rare

vintage photographs, many of which have never been seen before.  Eleven year old

Lia Lewis said, “Becoming an author has changed my life, this project has

inspired me to learn more about my community.”

It was during their research for the book that a startling discovery was

made. It was learned that New York State Senator Chauncey Depew had built a

residence in Jamaica Estates. He was the attorney for Cornelius Vanderbilt,

became the president of the New York Central Railroad System, and elected United

States Senator from New York from 1899 to 1911 but is best remembered for his

excellent abilities as an orator and public speaker.  He had a great admiration

for President Abraham Lincoln whom he had met a number of times and gave many

tributes in his honor. As New York Secretary of State from 1863 to 1865 Depew

had the honor of escorting President Lincoln’s body from the New York State

border to Buffalo, New York on its way to Springfield, Illinois to be interred.

A clue to the location of the Depew house was found in a 1969 Jamaica Estates

Association book on the history of the community and it stated that the Senator

lived on Midland Parkway but did not offer an address. While searching through

the New York Times newspaper online archives the students were amazed to find an

August 24, 1913 article with an architectural drawing of the Depew House to be

built in Jamaica Estates by Architects Mann and MacNeille!  Upon viewing the

drawing many students recognized it as a house that still stood on Midland

Parkway by the Grand Central Service Road. Photos were taken and compared and

there was no doubt that they had found the house. Mr. Ballenas, their teacher

and Queens Historian, added a new twist to the find when he showed them a

photograph of President Lincoln’s Springfield home. The two houses were

identical! It was clearly apparent that Senator Depew had decided to further

honor President Lincoln by building a brick replica of his Springfield house for

himself in Jamaica Estates with a few small modifications. Twelve year old

Tahina Felisca, said, “I have passed this house almost every day and now I have

discovered that it has a connection to Abraham Lincoln who did so much for our

country. This upcoming Black History Month will now give me much more to think

about.” Fellow student, eleven year old Abigail Rafael said, “Finding something

that had a connection to Abraham Lincoln made me feel that I had met Lincoln


The house is in disrepair and has lost all its distinctive dark green shutters

and has been boarded up. They hope to find out more about the house and perhaps

one day place a historical marker in front of the house so that the entire

community can learn about this wonderful historic residence.

On Monday, January 25, 2010, members of the Aquinas Honor Society processed

to the Depew/Lincoln house holding portraits of President Abraham Lincoln and

Senator Chauncey Depew and a photograph of Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield house

to honor these two great men.

This article was written by the following Aquinas students: Oscar Loja, Justin

Martin, Alyssa Balkaran, Sarah Rodriguez, Valerie Bresier, Aniyah Smith, Amrit

Singh Bhatti, Dominique Gay, Lia Lewis, Alexis McNeill, Roma Patel, Tahina

Felisca and Abigail Rafael.



APRIL 4 – 5, 2009


Since February 7th the Aquinas students have met every weekend to work on their Stained Glass Window of PEACE and HOPE project. Week by week they have witnessed the evolution of their hard work under the guidance of artist Mr. Mendoza and his family. It was a wonderful learning experience and all who attended have had their life changed profoundly.

Over the past weeks we have had many visitors coming by to watch the students at work. Parents, parishioners, friends and guests have marveled at the beauty of the design, the amount of work and the true meaning of the entire project. Aquinas student Arianna Goberdhan’s father paid a visit and offered his assistance with the soldering of the window and true to his word showed up this past weekend and offered a tremendous amount of help. Both sides of window were soldered with a solder mixture of tin and lead. A number of Chemistry lessons were offered when questions were asked when the liquid flux was brushed onto the copper foil allowing the tin/lead mixture to adhere to the pieces. On a religious note it was also said that prayer takes on many forms and the progress of creativity and offering one’s time on such a special project is indeed a wonderful form of prayer.

On Palm Sunday a thick finishing layer of the tin/lead solder was applied to all the seams. Then the window was tenderly and carefully washed and polished. The tin/lead mixture gleamed to a bright silver polish finish. The next step was to wash the window in liquid patina. This caused a chemical reaction and the tin/lead solder aged before our eyes. What would have taken decades was accomplished with the wipe of the hand. The bright silver tin/lead mixture took on a matted black appearance. At first the students were dismayed but after it was washed one last time and all the glass was polished they realized that the colors of the glass shone more brilliantly and the lines faded into the background. The names that were engraved on the glass could now be easily seen.

The three leaves, forming the olive branch, were cut from the steel beams of the Twin Towers and they stood out. Its surface is rough and rusted over. It makes a stark contrast to the high polish of the glass but its meaning is not lost to those who gaze upon it. All stood back silently and held a feeling within them that something extraordinary had taken place. We still have not seen the full window held up to the sunlight and when that happens, it will glow and take on an entire new appearance.

A display board has been created and a few select photos from the hundreds take over the past few months were chosen to give everyone an idea of what has been accomplished. The display board is now set up in the vestibule of the church.

It has been decided that on Sunday, April 26 at the 1PM Mass the Aquinas Stained Glass Window of PEACE and Hope would be dedicated and blessed. The window will be temporarily framed and light will pass through it for the first time. We hope you will come to this special occasion, meet the students and see this small little masterpiece of PEACE and HOPE.

See the Photo Below:

peace window


This year the annual Freedom Seder with the Immaculate Conception School of

Jamaica Estate and the Solomon Schecter School of Nassau County was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and was held at their Manhattan office. The ADL

wanted us to create our Freedom Seder for a very special guest, the newly

installed Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan. It took a lot of preparation on the part of Mr. Ballenas the Aquinas Moderator at Immaculate Conception, Rabbi Moshe Schwarz from the Solomon Schecter School and Deena Eisenberg from the ADL. Both schools prepared Power point presentations about the history of slavery and the Holocaust.There were fifty five students from each school who attended this year’s Seder.Immaculate Conception’s group consisted of the Aquinas Honor Society and the Honor Choir. We were accompanied by Father Jed Sumampong, C.P., Ms. Breen our principal, Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J., and special guests, noted author and lecturer Inge Auebacher and CEO and President of Maple Grove Linda Mayo Perez.

The Aquinas students are presently engaged in creating a large Stained Glass Window of Peace and Hope for our school. When we were told that we would meet the Archbishop the students decided to use the left over scraps of glass and fashioned for him a smaller stained glass window. They used some of the small design elements of their original design and recreated the image of the Peace Dove, a cross and a crescent moon.

The crescent moon was found in the Coat of Arms from the Archbishop and refers to his devotion to the Immaculate Conception.  In the mouth of the dove is an olive branch and the leaves are formed from steel from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Since the ADL was spending so much financially on the Seder a third window was created and showed the image of the Peace Dove with the same unique olive branch.

We waited patiently for April 22 to arrive and boarded two buses to take us to the Seder. Earlier that week we had written letters of introduction to the Solomon Schecter students and were anxiously waiting to meet them. We arrived at the ADL and were escorted upstairs to a large room beautifully set up for our Seder with many round tables. Mr. Ballenas brought three display boards filled with photographs from our previous Seders and they were placed near the podium. The Seder began with introductions, welcomes and prayer.

The ADL staff provided an ice breaker activity which we enjoyed very much and made everyone very relaxed. The Rabbi explained the meaning of the word Seder means “order” and is a Jewish ritual feast held on the first and the second nights of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The Seder is integral to Jewish faith and identity. If not for the Exodus the Jewish people would still be slaves in Egypt. Therefore, the Seder is an occasion for praise and thanksgiving and for re-dedication to the idea of liberation.

On the tables were found symbolic foods that were explained to us including the bitter herbs to help remind us about the bitterness of slavery. We also had our newer symbolic  foods such as colorful jelly beans to show that we are many up of many different cultures but on the insider we are the same people and licorices sticks to remind us about the whips of slavery.  Instead of wine we used red and white grape juice.

It was very reverent to follow in traditions that are thousands of years old and held so much meaning. Immaculate Conception did their History of Slavery Power point and as we finished our special guest entered Archbishop Dolan along with the National Director of the ADL Mr. Abraham Foxman. There was a flashing of light bulbs from cameras all over and it lit up the entire room. Mr. Foxman came up and gave a wonderful speech and introduced the Archbishop. Both seemed like old friends and it was wonderful to see how warmly they embraced each other.

The Archbishop told us that he was very proud to see us and greeted us with, “Call me Timothy.” We were asked to present our gifts and Mr. Ballenas explained about our window project and asked the Archbishop to forgive us for giving him a gift made from left over scrap but you have to admit in this time of recycling and reusing it was a perfect gift. He marveled at the window and thanked the students for his special gift. Than Mr.Ballenas told Mr. Foxman that we had just a little bit more scrap left over and presented him with the other stained glass window. He gave us a wide smile and was very pleased. The Solomon Schecter presented the Archbishop with a beautiful handmade goblet which he held up with great pride.

The ICS Honor choir sang two songs and we even notice the Archbishop joined in and sang along. The Solomon Schecter students gave a very moving presentation about the Holocaust. This was followed by the serving of food. There was egg salad, tuna salad, lox with capers, cream cheese balls and of course a lot of matzo bread.

The students from both schools chatted and got along very well and many

exchanged emails and promised to keep in touch. The arrival of reporter Art

McFarland of ABC News caused a stir and he interviewed a number of students. The event went by so quickly that it was very sad when we were told that we had to get ready to leave. Father Jed was asked to say the closing prayer and chanted instead of just reading it and it made sound very special. There were many last minute hugs and good-byes as we headed to our buses hopeful that next year we would meet again and celebrate with our new found friends.  That evening many of us were delighted to see that the Seder was broadcast over ABC News.

The Aquinas Honor Society has also produced two brochures detailing information on the Stained Glass windows of our parish church, another brochure on the history of the Passionist saints, and one on the Early History of the Jamaica Estates.