The Importance and History of Albanian Roots Club at St. Francis College New York

Arkelino Hila, Megi Rama, Alkida Koleci, Herta Hada, Albion Veliu (Photo by Chelsea Michaela, courtesy of ARC SFC)

Founded in 2017, The Albanian Roots Club (ARC) is a student club of St. Francis College Brooklyn (SFC). The current board members are: Herta Hada (President), Alkida Koleci (Vice President), Megi Rama (Secretary), Albion Veliu (Treasurer), and Emiljano Bodini (Sacor Representative).

Alkida Koleci, an IT student and Vice President of ARC stated that the club has bridged the Albanian-American community through the artistic, cultural and academic events the club has organized. Arkelino Hila, former President of ARC, and current Associate MBS Evaluator at S&P Global highlighted the importance of the ARC club, considering its members as cultural ambassadors. In the following exclusive NY Elite Magazine Interview the board members of ARC discuss the club’s history, its achievements and future goals.

Exclusive Interview with the ARC Board at St. Francis College

NY Elite: When was the ARC club founded?

Herta Hada: The Albanian Roots Club was originally founded in March, 2017 as an incentive of Marko Kepi with the aim of solidifying and celebrating the Albanian community amongst New York’s colleges. The elected president of the club at St. Francis at the time was Kledi Roda.

NY Elite: What is the mission and vision of ARC at SFC?

Alkida Koleci: Our club aspires to embrace the unique and authentic Albanian values and traditions, as well as teach people of different nationalities about us through various inclusive activities. 

NY Elite: Who are the original founders and who is currently serving on the board?

Albion Veliu: The original founder of the Albanian Roots Club at SFC is Kledi Roda. While the current members on the board are: Herta Hada as the President, Alkida Koleci as the Vice President, Megi Rama the as Secretary, Albion Veliu as the Treasurer, and Emiljano Bodini as the SACOR Representative.

Arkelino Hila: Preserving tradition and promoting the values ​​and virtues of the nation in the country with the greatest diversity in the world is a success story for today’s generation.  I am very happy for the progress and continuous improvement of the Albanian Roots Club at SFC, with a cooperative group of students which I consider the true ambassadors of our nation.  Such successes come as a result of sacrifices, discipline, and ambition.

NY Elite: Can you highlight some of the activities that took place last year?

Megi Rama:  A lot of events happened last year, such as visiting Alba Life School, having an Albanian folk dance class, celebrating March 7th, visiting the Kosovo Embassy, and many others, but the most important event was the “Road to 5” Gala Night, where we highlighted the contributions of Albanian athletes at St Francis College and where I was also given the opportunity to have my first art exhibition. During this event, I was also given the Spirit Award.

NY Elite: What is the vision of ARC for this year? 

Alkida Koleci: This year, just like any other, we aimed to ideate, organize, and execute quality activities that would enable the inclusion of not only our fellow Albanians but also people from various nationalities. 

Arkelino Hila, Alkida Koleci, Herta Hada, Albion Veliu (Photo by Olsi Beci)
Unlimited Edition Lecture Series with Special Music Guest Kastro Zizo. In the photo Alkida Koleci, Artist of the Year Kastro Zizo, and Megi Rama (Olsi Beci Photography)

NY Elite: The lecture series “Kastro Zizo: Unlimited Edition” was quite successful. What do you hope the audience took away from the event?

Alkida Koleci: It is important that the Albanian-American community is recognized and celebrated. As members of the Albanian community here in New York City we were thrilled to have a multidimensional artist such as Kastro Zizo, join us as we celebrate him and the effort he made to bridge the two communities. When you are a student you are in constant search for motivation and Kastro collectively inspired us last night.

Herta Hada: Kastro is a famous personality we all grew up watching, and I personally have always admired him for being so authentic and original. He’s fun but ambitious, young but with an old soul, and charismatic but also serious. Such an interesting individual! I hope the audience left our auditorium with the same takeaway. In regards to ARC, I hope that faculty truly regarded the potential of the Albanian community at St Francis College. They saw how much of a success this event turned out to be, and this only gives me hope that we will not lose this momentum. 

And to my dearest fellow Albanian students, I hope that this event proved them that the sky is the limit and they can pull off any challenge.

NY Elite: What do you enjoy the most about the student culture and campus life at SFC?

Albion Veliu: I enjoy the diversity of the SFC because it makes is so much easier to explore different interests/career opportunities. I’m in a place where I don’t only represent my culture with ARC, but I am also immersed into other clubs and cultures which further sharpen my social and professional skills. Being a small college, networking makes friendships and partnerships solidified and a good foundation for future success.

Adjola Rrashi, Jessika Hasankolli, Henri Hada, Herta Hada, Albion Veliu, Alkida Koleci, Arkelino Hila, Kristjana Gurraj, Megi Rama, Yunes Nabhan, Meriton Veliu at St. Francis College (Olsi Beci Photography)

NY Elite: What do you consider your achievements?

Herta Hada: Establishing my life in the United States at a very young age is an achievement I pride in. I had to pave this way of mine myself, and although throughout the years it felt tormenting, I am grateful because each obstacle shaped me into the invisible person I am today. I came from nothing so I consider an achievement the coffee I buy every morning, the classes I attend, the tables I have conversations with my friends on, the IPhone I hold in my hands, the pillow I lay my head at night. My biggest achievement is that I fought for the life I have now, and therefore I cherish every moment of it.

Albion Veliu: I am currently studying both Accounting and IT. I am very passionate about my career but very undecided, which is why I have two majors to begin with. I have had a couple of IT internships which I enjoyed a lot and am currenting doing an internship in accounting. To be honest, I like both industries and my experience with them has been very pleasant, but I can’t move forward with doing them separately so, eventually, I plan to combine both of Accounting and IT and end up with a career in Financial Technology.

Megi Rama: I consider my accomplishments in various ways, beginning with my and my family’s decision to immigrate to America to pursue educational opportunities and a better future. I work as a Dental Assistant, a Chemistry Peer Tutor at school, and a STEM Ambassador. I am also pursuing one of my passions, clinical research in various genes. Other accomplishments include winning awards at various research conferences and being inducted into various Honors Societies, including Chemistry, Psychology, and Economics.

I am most proud of that I am successfully walking on the path of knowledge, just like my ancestors and family. As I stand out and walk steadfastly on this path, I am trying to promote the name of Albania and the Albanian community in America through the opportunities made available to me as a result of hard work and of course, my family’s support. So, why not use this ability, education, and intellectual and professional training to contribute to the further development of myself and the Albanian community’s achievements?

Alkida Koleci: I consider the fact that I made the scary yet exciting decision to pursue my studies on the other side of the world at the age of 18, quite an accomplishment. Ever since, I have succeeded in adjusting myself to a completely different culture and lifestyle while excelling in my studies.

NY Elite: What are you currently studying at SFC and what do you hope to become in the future? 

Herta Hada: I am a Political Science major with a minor in Human Rights and another one in Project Management. My next step is Law School where I plan to study International Law or Humanitarian one. In the future I hope I dedicate my legal career to those in need, and become an ambassador of my community overseas. Last but not least, I hope I remain Herta.

Albion Veliu: My achievements are being a member and Vice President of the Duns Scotus Honor Society, which is the most prestigious honor society at SFC; interning as IT Intern at Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation; Interning as a Network Engineer at Tele-automation; currently Interning as Staff Auditor at Skody Scot and Co; and making the impossible to make ARC the best cultural club at SFC. All of this while being a full-time student-athlete, swimming for the SFC’s swimming team.

Megi Rama: I am a junior at St. Francis College studying pre-dental to become a dentist. It’s a long journey, but it doesn’t seem long when you’re passionate about something.

Alkida Koleci: I am pursuing Information Technology and currently working on my Honors thesis focusing on cyber risk assessments in complex network infrastructure systems.

Albion Veliu, Maliek Sterrett, Alkida Koleci, Herta Hada (Olsi Beci Photography)
Megi Rama, St. Francis College New York (Olsi Beci Photography)
Klea Rama and Adjola Rrashi (Olsi Beci Photography)
Megi Rama and Alkida Koleci (Photo by Olsi Beci)
Marko Kepi, Kastro Zizo, Arkelino Hila, and Alkida Koleci (Photo by Olsi Beci)

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