At the start of her junior year at Scholars Academy, Lastra walked into our Rockaway Outreach Center to see what it was all about. From the moment she walked in the door, our staff could see her passion for helping the community. When Lastra was asked if she was interested in volunteering, Lastra took a moment to think about what she could meaningfully contribute to the Center. She ultimately decided that she could offer tutoring services, as she had been tutoring her peers for years. A week later, she had the tutoring program up and running with multiple youth coming in daily for homework help. 

Lastra volunteered in the Center for two months before being offered a position as a Young Adult Leader. Now, over two and a half years later, the tutoring program is thriving and continues to support many children in the community.  

Since I have known her, Lastra has had an interest in the education field.  Her specialty has been homework help, and her enthusiasm in helping the youth is obvious.  Every student involved in the Outreach program can feel Lastra’s presence.  Regardless of age level or subject matter, she wants to know what area they are struggling to be of help.” -Brandon Jeffries, Director of Youth Programs

Lastra is a leader among her peers and a role model for the younger children she serves. She carries herself with grace, and always acts with purpose. Lastra is currently studying Applied Mathematics at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and continues to run our tutoring program despite her busy schedule. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to the way students learn and engage in school. Virtual cues and course instruction are aspects that even the most experienced teacher has struggled to embrace. Still, Lastra accepts the challenge.  After having participated in a training with United Community Schools, Lastra has been eager to find productive ways to help, utilizing research tools, worksheets, and new communication techniques. 

When asked what she is most proud of in her work at Queens Defenders, Lastra said, “What inspired me to volunteer at Queens Defenders was my need to always give back to my community in any way possible, the best way I can. What inspires me to continue to come to work every day is my community and the many people that I know need our help. I’m most proud of the tutoring program and all the outreach that I have had the opportunity to do as a result of working at Queens Defenders because it introduced me to multiple different youths and community members. I appreciate the culture at Queens Defenders and love how my coworkers always try every day to find new ways to help the community and give back.

We are proud to have Lastra on our team. At a time when community work has its challenges, Lastra makes it look easy.