BUSHWICK — When New York City Mayor Eric Adams paid a special visit to St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy on Friday, Feb. 4, sixth-grader Jariel Rosa was ready with a list of questions.
He was among a group of students representing grades kindergarten to eighth grade selected to meet privately with the mayor before his address to the entire school. When he was introduced, Jariel approached the mayor and gave him an affable, “Hello.”
“Hey, what’s happening?” the mayor asked.
“Oh, not much,” Jariel said, drawing hearty laughter from Adams, his entourage, and the school’s faculty and staff.
“Well,” Mayor Adams told Jariel, “it’s good to see you.”
For Adams, it had been a long week. On Wednesday he eulogized a police officer killed in the line of duty. On Thursday he had a meeting with President Joe Biden and Governor Kathy Hochul to discuss federal support in the fight against an outbreak of gun violence in the city.
But on Friday, as he took the stage in St. Brigid’s auditorium to speak to the academy’s student body, the mayor’s mood was decidedly upbeat.
“It lifted my spirits being here,” he told his youthful audience. “I was born not too far from here (Brownsville) and I remember watching the borough and the city and hoping one day I could do something that would make my mother proud of me.
“I eventually became a police officer, a state senator, borough president, and now I am the mayor of the city of New York. What that says is, it all starts here, in school.”
Mayor Adams had reached out to the Diocese of Brooklyn to ask if he could visit a campus on the last day of Catholic Schools Week 2022. St. Brigid’s got the honor.
Father Carlos Velásquez, St. Brigid’s pastor, later told the assembled students that the appearance was the first time in many years that a New York City mayor visited a Catholic school in the diocese.
To Mayor Adams, he said, “For over 130 years — that’s a long time — our beloved school of St. Brigid’s and St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy has educated and informed generations of children in Ridgewood and Bushwick, providing a safe and nurturing community to grow and to learn.
“Our goal here is to nurture our children spiritually, academically and socially, so that they can become authentic Christian disciples and model citizens.”
Mayor Adams had words of encouragement for all the academy’s students.
“What you are learning is the power of prayer,” he said. “When you pray you start to believe in what’s possible and not allow anything to prevent you from reaching your full potential or dreams.
“I still pray every day and every night. And that grounds me in my faith and in my belief and it encourages me to treat people the way I want to be treated.”
Mayor Adams said he noticed the students represent numerous cultures, and commented that their diversity should be celebrated and shared with each other.
“What I want you to do,” he said, “is help your classmates learn your culture, learn your language, learn something about you.”
The mayor also told the students that “Catholic school education has always been a great foundation for inner-city young people to have a real opportunity.”
After the assembly Jariel said the meeting with Mayor Adams went by too fast for him to engage the city’s chief executive the way he had planned.
“I had six scenarios in my head,” the sixth-grader said of the meeting. “But as soon as I saw him — blank!”
Still, he said, Mayor Adams was a gentleman to him and the other students. He thought he would be, because his father, a police officer, told him that the mayor had an easygoing personality.
“And, when I saw him, I saw he was a cool guy,” Jariel said.
Nathaly Moreno represented her fifth-grade class at the special meeting. She said her family, too, had prepared her for the meeting with the mayor.
“They said it’s OK to be nervous, but just think about him like he is any other guy,” Nathaly said. “And then, when it was all done, I thought he was a confident guy who followed his dreams.
“It was a big moment that I will remember all of my life.”