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New York City: Blending cultures in the gospel at institute

Published: Thursday, Aug. 26 2010 3:00 a.m. MDT

This week Mormon Times focuses on smaller institutes across the country, each with its own unique flair, in a series of profiles.


NEW YORK — The Brooklyn and Staten Island Institute of Religion is a world of its own.

"This is New York — and Brooklyn and Staten Island have people from every country across the globe … we are a world melting pot," said John Stephenson, institute director.

Students from places such as Ecuador, China, Peru, Mexico, Trinidad, Africa, Europe and around the United States come together and are united through the gospel.

"Sometimes it's rough for (us) to interact with people from another culture in the workplace or school," said Elizabeth Kotrina, a institute student from Peru. "But in institute, knowing that we share the same gospel and that we share the same standards of life keeps our testimony strong — and that makes good relationships."

Nearly all the students are bilingual.

"In terms of enrolled students there are 50 each semester who speak Spanish, 15 speaking Chinese and the rest speak English," Stephenson said.

To get to institute activities, these students live up to the "on-the-go" New Yorker stereotype. If you're a student coming from Staten Island to Brooklyn, it definitely can't be done in a New York minute.

"Those students have to take a bus to the ferry station on Stanton Island, take the ferry to Manhattan, then take the subway down to Brooklyn. It can take them as much as two hours to get to the activity … but they are dedicated," said Sister Sharon Edwards, a CES missionary serving the institute.

"We just love the students here. To live in this atmosphere, to have to travel so far and to have so few of them to support each other — they are dedicated and committed."

e-mail: hloftus@desnews.com

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