Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Without those who standup and push for change, we wouldn’t be able to move forward as a society. Education is one of the most crucial catalysts for that change—it is the very thing that lifts communities, defines the future of technology and writes history.
Longtime Spring Creek Towers’ (SCT) resident, Marina Meshman brought that change to her community by advocating for a local Touro College site 20 years ago. She decided to push for this idea after moving to SCT in 1992 from Moscow, Russia. As she situated herself within the community, she noticed that there were many immigrants residing in the area, like her, trying to start new lives in America. Assimilating to a new culture is difficult, and even more so when one does not understand the language. Meshman did not suffer from this problem because she taught English as a Second Language (ESL) in both Russia, and at another Touro College campus. “ESL plays an integral role in helping immigrants adjust to a new way of life,” Meshman said. She believed that SCT residents would benefit greatly from English and other college courses. She hoped that it would incite immigrants to become more involved in their community, bringing all of the residents closer together.
After receiving positive feedback and support from Devorah Fong, the Director of Community Relations, and Public Affairs, and Community Relations Specialist, Margaret Novack, Meshman’s dream soon became a reality. In a previous article written by the Spring Creek Sun on March 15, 1996, Novack stated, “If it wasn’t for Meshman coming to us, we would not have recognized the need to have English classes in [Spring Creek Towers] so soon.”
In addition to presenting her request to Community Relations, Meshman met with her colleague and friend Inessa Latypov, Touro’s site coordinator, to relay the idea to Touro college officials. The wheels were set in motion thanks to the initiative of both Meshman and Latypov. “We wanted to provide easy access to education within the SCT community,” Latypov said the Director of SCT’s Touro College site. “I felt so happy when we opened our first semester in March of 1996. We have helped so many people receive their degrees, pursue various professions, and pass the English portion of the citizenship test.”
According to Touro College’s website, their goal is to provide students, “The best possible education, to find a promising professional career, and to do so in an environment that respects and supports their backgrounds and beliefs.” The institution, established in 1970, offers Associated, Bachelors, Masters, Doctoral degrees in liberal arts, health sciences, technology and business, teaching over 18,000 students across 29 schools in four countries. On March 14, 1996, SCT welcomed the college into their community, offering classes in the community center (the lower level of the Brooklyn Sports Club) and within the local schools (I.S. 364 and P.S. 346). “Over the years, the curriculum greatly expanded, and my colleagues and I were greatly impressed by the wide diversity of students from our community that Touro had attracted,” said Meshman, who has taught well over 500 students within the SCT campus.
These women, Meshman, Latypov, Fong, and Novack (among many others) are the pillars of change within SCT. At a time when SCT was still a community developing its roots, they helped sow the seeds of change. Now located in the Spring Creek Shopping Center, Touro celebrated its 20th anniversary on March 14. With continued determination one person can make a difference in a community—a lesson Meshman would like others to learn from her story.
Photo courtesy of Marina Meshman