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A 'Hardship'

When Mrs. Pudeliewicz shared the family's Immigration problems with Academy staffer Annette Fevola, she was referred to Mr.Nicelli, whose daughter, Natalie, is a senior. In order for Mrs. Pudelkiewicz to win the case, Nicelli explained, he had to prove to Immigration Authorities that it would be "an extreme and unusual hardship" for Samantha, a U.S. citizen, to have her mother removed from the United States, or to have to interrupt her education to relocate to Poland with her parents. According to Nicelli, this type of case is very difficult to prove. He asked if Samantha's teachers at the Academy could write letters describing what the impact of her mother's removal would have on the teen. Faculty members responded swiftly and sincerely on Samantha's behalf. When Head of School Diane Hulse sent an e-mail to faculty explaining the situation and asking for letters on Samantha's behalf, 13 of her teachers stepped forward immediately. Mrs. Hulse also wrote on Samantha's behalf. "I just thought it was an injustice for a child to lose the opportunity to continue her education. Adolescence is a very fragile time, and to be separated from her friends and surroundings, and have her education disrupted, would be devastating on so many levels," Mrs. Hulse said.  "Samantha's a wonderful student, and her parents are good people," Mrs. Hulse added. Chemistry teacher and science department chair Dr. Rachael Ward, also wrote on Samantha's behalf, as did her American history teacher and history department chair Caren Platis. "Samantha is a highly intelligent young woman, who is discovering that she has talents in so many areas including History, Math, Science and Art. Please do not deprive her of the school and friends who have helped her develop the ability to speak her opinions and the freedom and support needed to continue to discover her talents," Dr. Ward wrote. Mrs. Platis concurred: "Currently, Samantha is at a critical juncture in her educational experience. If Samantha were suddenly removed from her supportive and nurturing academic environment and placed in an unfamiliar school in a foreign country, I believe Samantha would withdraw academically and retreat to anonymity, feeling powerless and apprehensive. The consequences of such a move would be unimaginable to Samantha's confidence and to her future," she wrote. The faculty letters were forwarded to Judge Sarah M. Burr, Assistant Chief Immigration Judge for the New York District, who heard the case. Nicelli described the judge as tough but fair. "Judge Burr is a very nice lady, but due to her seniority, she doesn't give anything away," he observed. Ultimately, Nicelli said that the faculty input "was instrumental in convincing Judge Burr that Samantha's life and life's goals would be demolished had her parents been ordered removed." "The family's victory was well deserved," Nicelli said. The Pudelkeiwiczs said they are elated at the outcome and grateful to Nicelli, Staten Island Academy, and to Judge Burr. "I believe, with all my heart, in America and in its justice system, Mrs. Pudelkeiwicz said. "There is no country in the world like the United States, and this is really the best New Year's gift I can ever receive."

Published: Thur., Jan.06, 2011, 12:56 PM Updated: Thur., Jan.06, 2011, 1:02 PM  By: Diane Lore. Staten Island East Shore/Weekly East Shore Print Edition

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