17th Annual Peter Jennings Scholarship-Laurel Award Ceremony | CUNY TV Special Presentation

17th Annual Peter Jennings Scholarship-Laurel Award Ceremony | CUNY TV Special Presentation


>>PETER JENNINGS, WHO DIED IN 2005 AT THE AGE OF 67, COMMANDED A STEADY RISE TO A SUCCESS AS A JOURNALIST, COVERING BREAKING NEWS STORIES LOCALLY AND AROUND THE WORLD. THE LIST OF AWARDS AND ACCOLADES BESTOWED UPON HIM IS LONG BUT WHAT PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW IS THAT HE WAS A DROPOUT OF HIGH SCHOOL. THIS AFFECTED HIM GREATLY AS HE OFTEN SPOKE ABOUT THE VALUE OF EDUCATION AND TOOK GREAT PLEASURE IN PARTICIPATING IN THIS ANNUAL AWARDS CEREMONY. HIS EXTRAORDINARY ACHIEVEMENTS, PROFESSIONALISM AND INTEGRITY ARE A LASTING INSPIRATION. WE ARE ESPECIALLY GRATEFUL TO HIS WIFE, KAYCE FREED JENNINGS FOR CONTINUING HIS LEGACY BY HER PRESENCE AT THE CEREMONY AND HER CONTRIBUTION AND SUPPORT OF THE SCHOLARSHIP FUND. WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK DR. LESLEE FOR DECADES LEADING THE GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF PROGRAMS AT CUNY UNTIL HER RETIREMENT THIS PAST FALL. WE’RE DELIGHTED YOU CAN JOIN US TODAY. OUR FIRST SPEAKER, DONNA LINDERMAN. [APPLAUSE]>>THANK YOU. THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME HERE. I AM SO PLEASED TO BE HERE TO CELEBRATE THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THESE SPECIAL 11 STUDENTS WHO EARNED THEIR DIPLOMAS THROUGH OUR PROGRAMS AND WHO ARE ALREADY OR SOON WILL BE IN COLLEGE AT CUNY. KAYCE FREED JENNINGS, WE ARE SO GRATEFUL FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT, KAYCE AND TO THE PETER JENNINGS FOUNDATION FOR YOUR COMMITMENT TO OUR EXCEPTIONAL STUDENTS. I WOULD LIKE TO THANK OUR EXECUTIVE VICE CHANCELLOR FOR ACADEMIC AFFAIRS, VITA RABINOWITZ, FOR JOINING US TODAY. VITA HAS BEEN A SUPPORTER OF ALL OF THE PROGRAMS ACROSS CUNY, THAT ARE COMMITTED TO HELPING STUDENTS REALIZE THEIR ACADEMIC GOALS AND TO MOVE TOWARD DEGREES, TRAINING PROGRAMS, ENTRY INTO THE WORKFORCE, WHEREVER YOU WANT TO GO. IN PREPARATION FOR THE CEREMONY, AS WE DO EVERY YEAR, WE FOLLOWED UP ON WHAT HAPPENED TO PREVIOUS PETER JENNINGS LAUREL SCHOLARS. THE RESULTS ARE IMPRESSIVE. SINCE 2003, WE HAVE HAD 167 WINNERS. 162 OF THEM HAVE SUBSEQUENTLY ENTERED CUNY, 96.4% RATE OF MATRICULATION. REALLY IMPRESSIVE. VAST MAJORITY, NEARLY 70% OF AWARD WINNERS, OVER THE AGE OF 25 WHEN THEY MATRICULATED AND SIX BEGAN THEIR COLLEGE JOURNEY AT THE AGE OF 55 OR OLDER. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE. [APPLAUSE] 76 STUDENTS HAVE EARNED AT LEAST ONE COLLEGE DEGREE ALREADY. 4 HAVE COMPLETED MASTER’S DEGREES AT CUNY. 50 ARE STILL ENROLLED. THEY HOLD AVERAGE GPA OF 3.24. IMPRESSIVE BUNCH. YOU HAVE BIG SHOES TO FILL, WHICH WE HAVE NO DOUBT YOU WILL. IT IS WONDERFUL TO HAVE SEVERAL FORMER LAUREL WINNERS HERE TODAY TO JOIN AND SUPPORT THE CURRENT WINNERS. MAY I ASK YOU TO STAND? WE ARE JOINED BY ELAUDIS MENDEZ FROM 2014, AND DEXTER ROBERTS FROM 2012. I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE A SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND THANKS TO OUR STAFF IN THE ADULT LITERACY PROGRAMS. OUR CAMPUS PROGRAM MANAGERS, COUNSELORS, AMAZING TEACHERS. THEY ARE AN EXCEPTIONAL, GIFTED GROUP OF EDUCATORS WITH DECADES OF EXPERIENCE AND EXPERTISE IN SUPPORTING STUDENT SUCCESS. OUR CENTRAL OFFICE TEAM, WHO SUPPORTS THE WORK OF CAMPUSES, SPECIAL DEVELOPMENT SPECIALISTS, ERIC APPLETON, ELLEN BAXT, KATE BRANDT, MOIRA TAYLOR, MARK TRUSHKOWSKY, AND OUR PROGRAM STAFF — THEY HAVE DONE SUCH A GREAT JOB SUPPORTING THE WORK OF THE PROGRAMS HERE AT CUNY AND HAVE BECOME LEADERS ACROSS THE STATE OF NEW YORK. SPECIAL THANKS TO RAMON, OUR MANAGER OF THE PETER JENNINGS SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM AND THE CEREMONY AND HILLARY, WHOSE WONDERFUL EXPERTISE YOU WILL HEAR IN JUST A FEW MOMENTS WHEN STUDENTS BIOGRAPHIES ARE READ. WE REALLY APPRECIATE ALL THE WORK THEY DO EVERY YEAR TO MAKE THIS SUCH A SPECIAL CEREMONY. MOST IMPORTANTLY, I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE STUDENTS, WHO WE ARE HERE FOR. WE ARE PROUD TO BE HERE TO HONOR YOU. QUICK THANK YOU BEFORE WE GET GOING. CUNY TV, FOR HOSTING US AS YOU DO EVERY YEAR. IT IS NOT EASY TO PULL THIS OFF. WE ARE GRATEFUL. SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS. A COUPLE OF WORDS. WE KNOW THAT YOUR SUCCESS HAS NOT BEEN EASY. WE KNOW HOW HARD YOU HAVE FOUGHT TO ACHIEVE YOUR HSE, TO JUGGLE JOBS AND FAMILY RESPONSIBILITIES AND WORK AND THAT HAS NOT BEEN EASY. ANYONE WHO HAS HAD A LOOK AT THE PREPARATION MATERIALS AND THE CURRICULUM YOU WORKED THROUGH WOULD KNOW — THIS IS SERIOUS MATH, COMPOSITION, HISTORY. [LAUGHTER] THERE YOU GO. THAT SAYS IT ALL. TO THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE STARTED YOUR COLLEGE PATH, WE KNOW THAT IS NOT EASY. WE CONGRATULATE YOU. WE WISH YOU EVERY SUCCESS. DO NOT STOP UNTIL YOU HAVE EARNED THAT DEGREE. YOU HAVE PROVEN YOU HAVE TENACITY AND GRIT TO COME THIS FAR. WE WOULD LIKE TO BE THERE TO CELEBRATE YOU COMING UP ON STAGE TO GET YOUR COLLEGE DEGREE IN A COUPLE OF YEARS. WE LOOK FORWARD TO THAT. ALSO, WELCOMING YOU BACK TO FUTURE AWARDS EVENTS WHERE YOU CAN SERVE AS ROLE MODELS AND INSPIRATIONS TO THE CLASS BEHIND YOU. CONGRATULATIONS AND THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE. [APPLAUSE]>>IT IS MY PLEASURE TO INTRODUCE OUR NEXT SPEAKER, EXECUTIVE VICE CHANCELLOR AND UNIVERSITY PROVOST DR. VITA RABINOVITZ.>>GOOD MORNING, COLLEAGUES. IT IS A PLEASURE TO WELCOME YOU TO EVERYONE’S FAVORITE ANNUAL EVENT. IT IS BECAUSE IT IS SO SPECIAL. IT CRYSTALLIZES CUNY’S MISSION AND IT IS SMALL AND INTIMATE ENOUGH TO FEEL A CONNECTION. THIS IS OUR OPPORTUNITY TO HONOR 11 OUTSTANDING WINNERS AS THEY EMBARK ON THE NEXT PHASE OF THEIR ACADEMIC PATH. IT IS A CHANCE TO REDEDICATE OURSELVES TO CUNY’S UNIQUE MISSION TO EDUCATE IN THE WORDS OF OUR FOUNDER, THE CHILDREN OF THE WHOLE PEOPLE. I WANT TO THANK EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THE PLANNING AND ORGANIZING OF TODAY’S EVENT, PARTICULARLY RAMON, IN THE LANGUAGE AND LITERACY PROGRAMS WHO WORKED TIRELESSLY TO PULL THIS TOGETHER IN THE PAST FEW WEEKS, THE CENTRAL OFFICE STAFF AND THE ADULT LITERACY PROGRAM WHO SUPPORT THE 14 CAMPUS-BASED HSE PROGRAMS ACROSS CUNY. OUR DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, INCLUDING COLLEGE STAFF, I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO SIT AT BREAKFAST WITH SIX PEOPLE FROM THE COLLEGE OF STATEN ISLAND WHO WERE SO PROUD OF THEIR WINNERS, INCLUDING VICE PRESIDENTS. PLEASE KNOW HOW PROUD WE ARE OF THIS PROGRAM ON OUR CAMPUSES. I WANT TO THANK EVERYONE FOR ONGOING SUPPORT AND ENTHUSIASM FOR CUNY’S HIGH SCHOOL EQUIVALENCY PROGRAM. I WANT TO THANK OUR TEACHERS IN THE AUDIENCE. YOUR STUDENTS’ SUCCESS OWES NO SMALL AMOUNT TO YOU. THESE EDUCATORS DESERVE OUR THANKS FOR THEIR PASSION AND ALL THEY DO TO HELP STUDENTS. WE ARE CELEBRATING A REMARKABLE GROUP OF MEN AND WOMEN WITH AMBITIONS OF FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF OTHER AWARD WINNERS BEFORE THEM BY ACHIEVING A COLLEGE DEGREE. THE STUDENTS CAME TO THE PROGRAMS WITH MANY DIFFERENT IDEAS, I AM SURE, ABOUT HOW IT MIGHT SHAPE THEIR FUTURES. STUDENTS, YOU HAIL FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. THIS YEAR’S CLASS FROM INDIA, BANGLADESH, GHANA, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, EL SALVADOR, AND SOME RIGHT HERE IN BROOKLYN, STATEN ISLAND AND THE BRONX. YOUR ACADEMIC INTERESTS ARE EQUALLY WIDE-RANGING FROM NURSING, VETERINARY MEDICINE, CRIMINAL JUSTICE, BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION AND ENGINEERING. SEVERAL OF YOU HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF OTHER CUNY PROGRAMS SUCH AS CUNY START, ASAP AND SEEK TO KEEP UP YOUR MOMENTUM AND PREPARE FOR THE NEXT STEP. ONE STUDENT HAS ALREADY EXCELLED AND IS PART OF AN HONOR SCHOLARS PROGRAM BUT ALL OF YOU TOOK ON THE CHALLENGE OF ATTAINING HIGH SCHOOL EQUIVALENCY WITH DETERMINATION AND A SENSE OF PURPOSE THAT IS EXCEPTIONAL. YOU HAVE ALREADY PROVEN YOURSELF TO BE EXCEPTIONAL. DESPITE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITIES, ECONOMIC HARDSHIP, LANGUAGE BARRIERS, OTHER CHALLENGES, YOU FOUND A WAY OF PRIORITIZING YOUR EDUCATION. YOUR SUCCESS WITH THE HIGH SCHOOL EQUIVALENCY, WHICH IS NO EASY FEAT, AND YOUR DECISION TO MATRICULATE AS CUNY STUDENTS IS ONE THAT WILL NOT ONLY CHANGE THE COURSE OF YOUR LIVES, IT WILL CHANGE THE COURSE OF YOUR FAMILY’S TRAJECTORIES. IT IS A DECISION THAT WILL SHAPE WHO YOU ARE AS A STUDENT, EMPLOYEE, MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY AND COMMUNITY. IT WILL CHANGE YOU AS A WHOLE. THERE IS GREAT WISDOM IN PRIORITIZING YOUR EDUCATION AND DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU OTHERWISE. DO NOT DOUBT THIS. IT IS THE SUREST PATH TO INCREASING EARNING POTENTIAL AND JOB PROSPECTS BUT IN FINDING OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW AND CHANGE AS A HUMAN BEING. KNOWING THAT IS TRUE, DECIDING TO MAKE IT HAPPEN AND MAKING IT HAPPEN ARE DIFFERENT THINGS. WE ALL KNOW THAT. I HAVE SEEN UP CLOSE THE CHALLENGE OF PURSUING HSE DEGREE AND THE VALUE OF ATTAINING IT. MY OLDEST FRIEND FROM HIGH SCHOOL, WE ARE GOING BACK MORE THAN 50 YEARS, LEFT HIGH SCHOOL, CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL WHEN WE WERE 16. SHE WANTED TO START A FAMILY. I STAYED ON A LINEAR EDUCATIONAL PATH. SHE BECAME A STAY-AT-HOME MOM WITH YOUNG CHILDREN AS A TEENAGER. WE REMAINED CLOSE AS THE YEARS PASSED AND SHE IS MY CLOSEST FRIEND TO THIS DAY. SHE WAS MY MATRON OF HONOR AND THE LAST PERSON I SAW BEFORE MY LAST VACATION. IN HER MID-20s, SHE MADE A HARD DECISION TO GET HER GED, AS THE TEST WAS KNOWN AT THE TIME. IT WAS NOT EASY. SHE WAS FULL OF SELF-DOUBT AND EMBARRASSED. SHE WAS FAR BEHIND HER PEERS, EVERYONE ELSE HAD GONE TO COLLEGE. SHE WONDERED IF SHE SHOULD EVEN START THE JOURNEY AND RISK SETTING HERSELF UP FOR WHAT SHE SAW AS MORE FAILURE. START, SHE DID. LIKE YOU, SHE EXCELLED IN HER STUDIES. SHE REIGNITED THE PASSION FOR LEARNING SHE ALWAYS HAD. SHE EARNED THAT DEGREE WITH DISTINCTION. THAT TURNED OUT TO BE THE MOST CONSEQUENTIAL EDUCATIONAL DECISION SHE EVER MADE. AFTER THAT SHE HAD HER PATH. SHE GOT OTHER DEGREES. THE HARDEST ONE WAS THIS ONE. THE CONFIDENCE SHE GAINED, LAUNCHING HER SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN HEALTH, PRACTITIONERS INTERESTED IN NEW TECHNOLOGIES CONSTANTLY CHANGING TECHNIQUES AND PROCESSES AND COMMITMENT TO PATIENT CARE. SHE NOW IS IN CHARGE OF A MEDICAL UNIT IN A MAJOR HOSPITAL. WHEN SHE TALKS ABOUT HER PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY, THE MILESTONE THAT STANDS OUT IS GETTING THE GED DEGREE. IN RETROSPECT, MY PATH WAS FAR EASIER THAN HERS. I AM FULL OF ADMIRATION FOR THE PERSON SHE IS TODAY AND HOW IT CHANGED THE LIVES OF HER CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN. PETER JENNINGS KNEW FIRSTHAND HOW EDUCATION CHANGES THE TRAJECTORY OF LIVES. THAT’S WHY HE SOUGHT TO SUPPORT STUDENTS LIKE YOU AT THIS MOMENT IN YOUR LIVES. SERVING NEW YORKERS LIKE YOU LIES AT THE HEART OF WHY CUNY EXISTS. IT IS THE REASON THIS UNIVERSITY HAS OFFERED TRANSITIONAL PATHS TO COLLEGES FOR DECADES. STUDENTS LIKE YOU DESERVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO PURSUE A DEGREE WHENEVER AND HOWEVER IT IS YOU COME TO US, THERE IS SIMPLY NO GREATER INVESTMENT YOU CAN MAKE IN YOURSELF, YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR FUTURE. I WANT TO THANK KAYCE JENNINGS FOR HER COMMITMENT TO THIS PROGRAM, SPENDS EVERY YEAR HERE TO SUPPORT THE PROGRAM, TO FURTHER THE PROGRAM. I WANT TO THANK EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR BRINGING THIS TO LIFE. I WANT TO THANK YOU STUDENTS FOR YOUR COMMITMENT TO YOUR EDUCATION. I URGE YOU, AS DONNA DID, PLEASE STAY WITH YOUR STUDIES. YOU WILL HAVE MUCH TEMPTATION TO GET OFF THE PATH. STAY WITH IT. YOU WILL NEVER REGRET IT. GET THAT NEXT DEGREE. WITH GREAT ADMIRATION FOR WHAT HAS BROUGHT YOU HERE AND GREAT OPTIMISM FROM WHERE YOU ARE, I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST AT CUNY. THANK YOU. [APPLAUSE]>>WE ARE JOINED TODAY BY ALUMNI. [APPLAUSE]>>AS A CHILD, ACADEMICS CAME EASY TO ELAUDIS AND SHE GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC BY THE AGE OF 17. SHE ENROLLED IN THE GED PROGRAM A MONTH AFTER SHE ARRIVED IN THE U.S. AND EARNED HER GED. AFTER ENROLLING IN THE CUNY CLIP PROGRAM, SHE GRADUATED IN 2017 WITH AN ASSOCIATES DEGREE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. SHE IS CURRENTLY PURSUING A BACHELOR’S IN PSYCHOLOGY. SHE RECEIVED HER JENNINGS AWARD IN 2014.>>BEING HERE TODAY FOR ME IS A GREAT HONOR. WHEN I RECEIVED THE EMAIL, I WAS LIKE, I CANNOT BELIEVE I WILL BE SPEAKING HERE AT THE VERY EVENT WHERE I WAS WINNER AT IN 2014. I WANT TO CONGRATULATE YOU ALL FOR OBTAINING YOUR EQUIVALENCY DIPLOMA. GETTING EDUCATION IS POSSIBLE BUT SOMETIMES DIFFICULT. I EARNED MY GED IN 2013. IT WAS NOT EASY. I STRUGGLED. I FELT DEFEATED. I WAS SCARED. I WAS ALWAYS TIRED. I HAD TO WORK THEN I HAD TO GO TO SCHOOL AND SOMETIMES I DID NOT HAVE MONEY. I HAD TO TAKE LONG WALKS. I HAD TO GO TO CLASS WITH AN EMPTY STOMACH AND STAY THERE AND LEARN AND THEN GO HOME AND DO MY HOMEWORK. BUT I DID IT. FOR SOME PEOPLE, HIGH SCHOOL EQUIVALENCY AND DIPLOMA MAY NOT SEEM LIKE SOMETHING BIG. BUT FOR US, IT IS THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING GREATER. DO YOU KNOW WHY OBTAINING YOUR HIGH SCHOOL EQUIVALENCY DIPLOMA IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF GREAT THINGS IN YOUR LIFE? IT IS BECAUSE ALL THE STRUGGLES YOU OVERCAME. WHILE GOING TO CLASS DAY BY DAY, YOU WILL FACE ANYTHING IN THE FUTURE THAT COMES YOUR WAY WITH MORE OPTIMISM, KNOWING THAT IF YOU DID IT ONCE, YOU CAN DO IT AGAIN. WHEN I ENROLLED IN THE GED CLASSES, I DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT. IT WAS INTENSE. A SUBSTANTIAL SUMMARY OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SUBJECTS GOING TO PROVIDE A FOUNDATION FOR TRANSITION TO COLLEGE. WE ALL KNOW, THAT IS A LOT OF INFORMATION. WHILE I WAS GETTING MY GED, I WAS ALSO ADAPTING TO MY NEW LIFE IN NEW YORK CITY. I JUST CAME FROM DR, ONE MONTH BEFORE, AND WAS REALLY HARD. MANY NIGHTS, I CRIED. I WAS REALLY SAD BECAUSE OF THE TRANSITION AND I WAS AWAY FROM MY FAMILY. I DON’T KNOW YOUR STORIES, PERSONALLY. ONE THING I KNOW, IT IS THAT IF YOU ARE HERE RECEIVING THIS AWARD, YOU ARE ONE STEP CLOSER TO YOUR DREAMS AND HOPES. I MUST TELL YOU GOING TO COLLEGE IS GOING TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOREVER. IT IS CHALLENGING, JUST LIKE EVERYTHING IN LIFE WORTH HAVING. IT IS A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE THAT WILL TEACH YOU THE NECESSARY SKILLS FOR SUCCEEDING IN YOUR CAREER AND IT WILL SHOW YOU HOW MANY AMAZING THINGS YOU CAN DO INDIVIDUALLY AND COLLECTIVELY FOR THE COMMUNITY YOU ARE PART OF. COLLEGE IS, WITHOUT ANY DOUBT A REWARD, AND A REWARDING EXPERIENCE. DETERMINATION HAS BEEN THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN ALL THINGS I HAVE ACHIEVED IN MY LIFE. I STARTED MY GED CLASSES IN 2012. ONE MONTH AFTER I CAME FROM THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, AS I MENTIONED. IT WAS REALLY HARD. IT WAS A CHALLENGE. MOVING FORWARD, I ALWAYS KNEW GOD WAS PROVIDING FOR ME, SO I COULD MAKE IT. ONCE I GOT ACCEPTED TO COLLEGE IN 2014, TO HOSTOS COMMUNITY COLLEGE TO PURSUE MY EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION DEGREE, I HAD TO MOVE OUT OF THE HOUSE I WAS LIVING IN. I WAS NOT LIVING WITH MY CLOSE FAMILY. I MOVED FOUR TIMES BEFORE I GRADUATED IN 2017. I WENT THROUGH ANXIETY, I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL, I WAS GOING THROUGH IT. BUT I MADE IT. WHEN I STARTED TO PURSUE MY BACHELOR’S DEGREE AT LEHMAN COLLEGE IN 2018 — I HAD TO TAKE A BREAK FROM 2017 TO 2018. I BECAME HOMELESS. IT WAS ANOTHER CHALLENGE. THERE IS NO CHALLENGE, I TOLD MYSELF, THERE IS NO CHALLENGE I CANNOT OVERCOME. I WANTED TO LEAVE SCHOOL. I REALLY WANTED TO. MY HUSBAND WAS LIKE — I WILL LEAVE MY CAREER FOR A YEAR, UNTIL WE GET SETTLED. IT WAS A VERY HARD TIME. I MADE IT. I WAS DETERMINED TO MAKE IT THROUGH MY FIRST SEMESTER. I DID. IT WAS A LOT. IT WAS A LOT. I WENT THROUGH DIFFICULT TIMES AND I WAS LIKE, YES, I CAN MAKE THIS WORK FOR ME. AND I MADE IT. I HAVEN’T FINISHED MY BACHELOR’S. I WILL FINISH NEXT SUMMER, GOD WILLING. I FEEL I HAVE GONE FAR AND ACCOMPLISHED A LOT. YOU WILL OVERCOME ANYTHING THAT COMES IN YOUR PATH. I CAN TELL YOU THAT. ONCE MALCOLM X SAID, EDUCATION IS THE PASSPORT TO THE FUTURE, FOR TOMORROW BELONGS TO THOSE WHO PREPARE FOR TODAY. THANK YOU. [APPLAUSE]>>THANK YOU. OUR NEXT SPEAKER HAS A SPECIAL CONNECTION TO THE CEREMONY. KAYCE FREED JENNINGS IS SENIOR PRODUCER AT GIRL RISING AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE DOCUMENTARY GROUP. SHE WAS A PRODUCER FOR ABC NEWS, BASED IN LONDON, ATLANTA, AND NEW YORK. SHE COVERED INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL NEWS EVENTS AND WORKED WITH ALL MAJOR ANCHORS, INCLUDING PETER JENNINGS, TED KOPPEL, DIANE SAWYER, CHARLES GIBSON AND BARBARA WALTERS. SHE SERVED AS CO-CHAIR OF THE BOARD OF WIN, AN AGENCY THAT SERVES HOMELESS FAMILIES AND SITS ON MANY ADVISORY BOARDS. AS PART OF THE GIRL RISING LEADERSHIP TEAM, SHE DIRECTS THE EDUCATOR PROGRAM, WORKING CLOSELY WITH TANYA LEE STONE, OVERSEEING SUPPORT FOR THE GIRLS IN THE FILM. SHE IS A GREAT FRIEND TO OUR HIGH SCHOOL EQUIVALENCY PROGRAMS AND WE ARE DELIGHTED TO HAVE HER WITH US EVERY YEAR FOR THE CEREMONY. PLEASE WELCOME KAYCE FREED JENNINGS. [APPLAUSE]>>IT IS SO GREAT TO BE HERE TODAY, AS IT IS EVERY YEAR. IT IS THE BEST MORNING OF THE YEAR, I PROMISE YOU THAT. THANK YOU JEANETTE AND VITA AND DONNA AND LESLIE AND RAMON. THERE IS NO WAY ANY OF US WOULD BE HERE WITHOUT YOU. [APPLAUSE] ELAUDIS, WELCOME BACK. THAT WAS SO MOVING. I AM IN AWE OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING. THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE. TODAY IS SPECIAL FOR THOSE OF YOU IN THE FRONT ROW, I WANT YOU TO KNOW HOW SPECIAL IT IS FOR ME AND I SUSPECT ALL THE OTHERS HERE AND THOSE OF YOU IN THE ROOM WITH US, YOUR TEACHERS, MENTORS, YOUR FAMILY. THE REASON, THAT THIS EVENT IS SO SPECIAL, IS HOPE. AND PROMISE. IT IS ABOUT WHAT CAN BE. THAT IS WHAT YOU REPRESENT, ALL OF YOU, YOU REPRESENT WHAT CAN BE. A YOUNG FRIEND, AN ORPHAN, WHO GREW UP IN A GARBAGE DUMP IN CAMBODIA TEXTED ME LAST WEEK. “IT IS HARD BUT I CAN DO THE IMPOSSIBLE THINGS.” THIS CHILD AND MOTHER HAS JUST GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE IN CHICAGO. SHE DID THE IMPOSSIBLE THING. TODAY REMINDS ME OF HOW THE IMPOSSIBLE BECOMES POSSIBLE AND IT IS HAPPENING IN THIS ROOM TODAY. BECAUSE OF THAT, I KNOW, I WILL LEAVE THIS BUILDING TODAY FEELING BETTER ABOUT THE WORLD, BETTER ABOUT HUMANITY, MORE HOPEFUL ABOUT MY COUNTRY AND MORE DETERMINED THAN EVER TO MAKE THE MOST OF MY GOOD FORTUNE. I DON’T THINK, I KNOW IN FACT THAT I COULD DO WHAT YOU GUYS HAVE DONE. I MEAN THAT. WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS REALLY, REALLY HARD. YOU KNOW THAT BETTER THAN WE DO. MANY OF YOU, MOST OF YOU ARE DOING IT WITH LIMITED SUPPORT. I HAD SUPPORT. I HAD OPPORTUNITY. FOR ME, A COLLEGE EDUCATION WAS NEVER A QUESTION. IT WAS ASSUMPTION. I WAS LUCKY. YOU, ON THE OTHER HAND ARE STRONG. YOU HAVE ALL HAD TO GRAPPLE WITH DAUNTING COMPLEXITIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR LIFE. YOU HAVE LOOKED BEYOND THAT AND HAVE MADE WHAT I THINK ARE REALLY, REALLY TRULY DIFFICULT DECISIONS, THAT IS TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL AND EMBRACE THE CHALLENGE AND STRIVE FOR A DIFFERENT FUTURE. I AM AWED BY YOUR COURAGE. MANY OF YOU NEVER SAW MY HUSBAND AT WORK. MANY OF YOU MAY NEVER HAVE HEARD OF HIM BEFORE YOU WERE NOMINATED FOR THIS HONOR. HE WAS AN OUTSTANDING JOURNALIST, A GOOD MAN AND AN AVID LEARNER WHO SOAKED UP KNOWLEDGE. HE WAS A HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU HAS GONE FURTHER IN SCHOOL THAN HE EVER DID. IF HE WERE HERE TODAY, HE WOULD BE HUMBLED, AS I AM, AND MOVED BY YOUR FIERCE AND ADMIRABLE DETERMINATION. BY THE DRIVE THAT’S PROPELLED YOU PAST ADVERSITY, BY YOUR CONVICTION THAT DREAMS ARE ATTAINABLE, IF YOU WORK HARD ENOUGH. IT REALLY IS A PRIVILEGE OF READING THE NOMINATION PACKET. ONE THING I FIND STRIKING IS THE LANGUAGE NOMINATORS USED TO DESCRIBE YOU ALL. YOU HAVE HEARD A LOT OF THAT TODAY. THERE IS A WONDERFUL CONSISTENCY. SOME OF THE TERMS IN IT. FIGHTER. DILIGENT. DRIVEN. ALWAYS WILLING TO HELP OTHERS. INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED. DOGGED PERSISTENCE. MOTIVATING. FOCUSED. DETERMINED. I COULD GO ON AND ON AND I WILL BECAUSE I CAN. THERE IS SO MUCH MORE I WANT FOLKS IN THIS ROOM TO KNOW ABOUT YOU. WHEN WE PRESENT THE SCHOLARSHIPS IN A COUPLE OF MINUTES, OUR AUDIENCE WILL LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR STORIES. I WANT TO HIGHLIGHT SOMETHING ABOUT EACH OF YOU THAT GOT MY ATTENTION AND CAPTURED MY IMAGINATION. AZIZA, YOUR NOMINATOR CALLS YOU BRILLIANT AND A SHINY GEM AND WRITES THAT YOUR TENACIOUS SPIRIT IS MUCH NEEDED IN THE WORLD. IT TOOK YOU A LOT TO GET HERE. YOU HAVE. YOUR NOMINATOR CONCLUDED WITH STEELY DETERMINATION, AZIZA IS DESTINED FOR GREAT THINGS. YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT HER FAMILY. HER SISTERS AND HER MOTHER, WHO HOMESCHOOLED HER. PRETTY REMARKABLE FAMILY. TAMISHA, YOU WROTE THAT YOU DROPPED OUT AFTER 11TH GRADE BECAUSE GETTING AN EDUCATION DID NOT SEEM IMPORTANT. YOU SAID YOUR PERCEPTION CHANGED AFTER YOUR SON WAS BORN AND YOU REALIZED YOU WANTED A BETTER LIFE FOR BOTH OF YOU. YOU PUSHED YOURSELF, STUDIED HARD AND WELL AND HERE YOU ARE. IT IS GREAT BEING VALUED AND RESPECTED, YOU WROTE. TENZIN, DID I PRONOUNCE THAT RIGHT? WHEN I READ YOUR STORY, I WAS REMINDED OF SOMETHING A POET WROTE. “NO ONE LEAVES HOME UNLESS HOME IS THE MOUTH OF A SHARK.” I DON’T THINK MOST OF US REALLY COMPREHEND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A REFUGEE, TO BE FORCED FROM YOUR HOMELAND BY VIOLENCE AND PERSECUTION AND MANY OF US WOULD BE PARALYZED BY THAT. I WAS STRUCK BY YOUR RESPONSE. “YES, I ENCOUNTERED HARDSHIP. ALL I DID WAS DUSTED OFF AND FIND A WAY TO STAY POSITIVE AND CONTINUE WITH MY GOAL.” — COOPER, HE INSPIRES OTHER STUDENTS TO ACHIEVE MORE AND NOT BE AFRAID OF FAILURE. DECADES OF TENACITY, LASER FOCUS AND REFUSAL TO GIVE UP EVEN WHEN EVERYTHING SEEMS TO GO WRONG. I HAVE NO DOUBT THOSE SAME TRAITS WILL GET YOU THE ENGINEERING DEGREE YOU ARE AIMING FOR. REGINA. SHE COMPLETED HER FIRST SEMESTER AT LAGUARDIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE WITH A 4.0 GPA. [APPLAUSE] REGINA HAS THREE CHILDREN AND THREE GRANDCHILDREN, LEFT SCHOOL MORE THAN 30 YEARS AGO AND SAYS COLLEGE WAS NEVER IN HER FUTURE. [APPLAUSE] UNTIL NOW. 4.0. IN COLLEGE. NOT TO TALK ABOUT MYSELF AGAIN BUT I COULD ONLY DREAM OF EVER HAVING 4.0. [LAUGHTER] JENNIFER, THE POTENTIAL SHE POSSESSES TO BE EXCEPTIONAL. THAT IS WHAT YOUR NOMINATOR SAID AND I’M NOT SURE THERE’S MORE TO ADD TO THAT BUT I WILL BECAUSE IN ADDITION TO THAT, YOUR TEACHER CALLED YOU THE ALL-STAR OF THE CLASS, THE HEROIN AND GLUE, HOLDING EVERYONE TOGETHER. YOU SEEM TO ME TO BE THE — OF HOPE AND RESILIENCE. SUE ANN, “I KNOW BECOMING AN EXCELLENT STUDENT REQUIRES EFFORT AND I WILL HAVE MANY SLEEPLESS NIGHTS AHEAD.” TWO THINGS ABOUT THAT STATEMENT I LOVE, ACTUALLY THREE THINGS. ONE, YOU CHOSE THE WORD EXCELLENT. NOT GOOD OR DECENT BUT EXCELLENT. SECOND, YOU ARE NOT DISCOURAGED BY SLEEPLESS NIGHTS. THIRD, YOU USE THE WORD, AHEAD. IT SHOWS COMMITMENT, AMBITION AND A POWERFUL SENSE OF PURPOSE. I HAVE NO DOUBT YOU WILL FACE THE CHALLENGES AND PERSEVERE. TAPAN — MY BENGALI IS NOT VERY GOOD. MY HUSBAND ALWAYS SAID THE COLORS IN BANGLADESH ARE LIKE NO PLACE ELSE IN THE WORLD. I HAVE NEVER BEEN THERE BUT I GOOGLED YOUR VILLAGE. IT IS GLORIOUSLY BEAUTIFUL. GREEN, LUSH MOUNTAINS AND REALLY REMOTE. A DIFFICULT PLACE TO BECOME EDUCATED. YOU WROTE THAT THE HIGH SCHOOL IS 15 KILOMETERS AWAY FROM THE VILLAGE BUT THAT MOST YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE TO LEAVE SCHOOL EARLY IN ANY CASE, IN YOUR CASE EIGHTH-GRADE, TO HELP SUPPORT THE FAMILY. LET’S JUMP AHEAD A DECADE. YOU HAVE A DIPLOMA AND LOOKING AT A POSTGRADUATE DEGREE. THAT IS A LONG JOURNEY. CONGRATULATIONS. TERESA, 47, NEWLY WIDOWED UNEMPLOYED, MAYBE UNEMPLOYABLE. THAT IS HOW IT SEEMED. WHEN YOU STARTED THAT JOURNEY, IT WAS NOT ABOUT PERSONAL FULFILLMENT. IT WAS ABOUT SURVIVAL. COLLEGE FELT LIKE A FANTASY. REMEMBER MAKING THE POSSIBLE? YOU HAVE MADE YOUR FANTASY REAL. YOU’RE ON YOUR WAY TO A NEW BEGINNING. YOUR NOMINATOR CALLED YOU ONE OF THE MOST INSPIRING STUDENTS SHE HAD EVER ENCOUNTERED. KARLA, YOUR NOMINATOR SPEAKS OF YOUR WILL, LEADERSHIP AND STRONG SENSE OF EMPATHY, ALSO THE FOCUS IT ALLOWED YOU TO EARN YOUR DIPLOMA IN ONLY TWO SEMESTERS, WHILE BEING A WIFE, A MOTHER OF FOUR, AND HEAD OF THE PTA. NOT SURPRISING GIVEN THAT YOU BECAME FLUENT IN ENGLISH AFTER YOU ARRIVED FROM EL SALVADOR, SPEAKING, READING AND WRITING WHILE WORKING FULL-TIME AS A HOUSEKEEPER. YOU WROTE THAT IN EL SALVADOR, “I CRIED SO MUCH BECAUSE I DREAMED OF THE DAY I WOULD GRADUATE AND PICTURED MYSELF WEARING THE CAP AND GOWN.” CONGRATULATIONS. YOU ARE ALL EXTRAORDINARY. AND THOSE OF YOU WHO CHOSE TO MAKE THIS COUNTRY YOUR HOME, THANK YOU. THANK YOU FOR COMING, THANK YOU FOR CONTRIBUTING, THANK YOU, ALONG WITH ALL THE HONOREES HERE TODAY, THANK YOU FOR HELPING OUR COUNTRY TO BE A BETTER, MORE INTERESTING PLACE, A MORE AMERICAN PLACE. I HAVE A SMALL GIFT I WILL LEAVE YOU HERE WITH ALONG WITH YOUR AWARD. IT IS A COPY OF THE ORAL BIOGRAPHY OF MY HUSBAND. I THINK WHEN YOU READ IT, YOU WILL SEE A LITTLE OF YOURSELF IN HIM. HE WOULD CERTAINLY HOPE TO SEE HIMSELF IN YOU. AT THE BEGINNING I QUOTED SOCA, THE CHILD OF THE DUMP, SOCA IS ONE OF THE GIRLS WHOSE STORY IS TOLD IN THE FILM, GIRL RISING, PART OF A GLOBAL CAMPAIGN FOR GIRLS EDUCATION THAT I HELP RUN. I WANT TO LEAVE YOU WITH A THOUGHT OF ANOTHER GIRL. A GIRL FROM NEPAL, BASICALLY A SLAVE FROM SIX YEARS OLD UNTIL SHE WAS 12 YEARS OLD, UNTIL SHE WAS LIBERATED AND WAS ABLE TO GO TO SCHOOL. “EDUCATION MADE ME FEEL AS IF I HAVE POWER. I FEEL LIKE I CAN DO ANYTHING. I HAVE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO.” AS YOU STRIVE FORWARD INTO THIS NEW WORLD YOU HAVE CREATED FOR YOURSELVES, AND THIS NEW WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY YOU HAVE CREATED FOR YOURSELF, KNOW THAT YOU TOO HAVE POWER, YOU TOO CAN DO ANYTHING AND THAT YOU HAVE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO. THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING ME TO BE A PART OF YOUR DAY TODAY. IT IS A SPECIAL DAY FOR ME, AS I HOPE IT IS FOR YOU. THANK YOU. [APPLAUSE]>>NOW WE COME TO THE HEART OF THE CEREMONY. THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE AWARD WINNERS. WHEN I CALL YOUR NAME, PLEASE COME UP TO THE PODIUM WHILE I READ YOUR BIOGRAPHY. GROWING UP IN BROOKLYN, TAMISHA DID NOT THINK THAT EDUCATION WAS AS IMPORTANT AS WORKING AND MAKING MONEY. HER PERCEPTION CHANGED WHEN SHE GAVE BIRTH TO HER SON. SHE ENROLLED IN PROGRAM AT THE ADULT LEARNING CENTER WHERE HER TEACHER WAS IMPRESSED WITH HER INTEREST IN SOCIAL STUDIES AND ENGLISH AND HER KINDNESS TOWARD HER CLASSMATES. “EVEN WHEN THE GOING GOT TOUGH, ALGEBRA AND SCIENCE SHE CAME TO CLASS AND SPENT HOURS OUTSIDE OF CLASS STUDYING.” I DIDN’T EASE UP ON MYSELF, TAMISHA SAYS. SHE ENROLLED IN MEDGAR EVERS COLLEGE. ATTENDING COLLEGE SHOWS ME THE IMPORTANCE OF MY CULTURE AND THE PEOPLE WHO PAVED THE WAY FOR STUDENTS OF COLOR TO OBTAIN A COLLEGE DEGREE. BEING IN COLLEGE HAS OPENED MY EYES TO MANY THINGS I DID NOT TAKE NOTE OF. SHE IS MAJORING IN SCIENCE AND HOPES TO BECOME A NEONATAL NURSE. [APPLAUSE] TENZIN WAS BORN IN A TIBETAN COMMUNITY IN SOUTHERN INDIA. HIS FAMILY FLED FROM THE CHINESE. HE SPENT SEVERAL YEARS IN AN INDIAN REFUGEE CAMP. HIS FAMILY WAS REUNITED IN NEW YORK WHEN HE WAS 12, JUST IN TIME FOR HIM TO BECOME AN AMERICAN TEENAGER. ENROLLED AT LAGUARDIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, HIS TEACHER WAS PLEASED WITH HIS EXCELLENT ATTENDANCE, OPENNESS TO ANY CHALLENGE AND LEADERSHIP SKILLS. HE PASSED ALL BUT THE READING SECTION OF THE TEST. UNDETERRED, HE KEPT STUDYING FOR THE READING SECTION AS WELL AS CUNY THE SKILLS TEST AND SOON PASSED ALL THREE. HE IS NOW A COMPUTER SCIENCE MAJOR AT LAGUARDIA WHERE HE EARNED 3.89 GPA IN HIS FIRST SEMESTER. HE HAS PARTICIPATED IN SEVERAL PANELS AND STOPS BY THE ADULT BASIC SKILLS PROGRAM TO TALK WITH STUDENTS. [APPLAUSE] PICTURE, PICTURE, PICTURE. [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] KWASI COOPER GREW UP IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO. AT 23 HE CAME TO THE U.S. HE WORKED LONG HOURS AS A BARBER WHILE WAITING FOR LEGAL STATUS. WHEN HE DISCOVERED THE PROGRAM AT NEW YORK CITY TECHNICAL COLLEGE, HE WAS IN DISBELIEF IT WAS FREE. AT FIRST, HE FELT EMBARRASSED TO BE OLDER THAN MANY STUDENTS BUT SOON BECAME A ROLE MODEL WHO INSPIRED OTHER STUDENTS. HE ENROLLED IN CITY TECH. ONE STEP AT A TIME, I AM TAKING ON THE CHALLENGES IN FRONT OF ME AND UTILIZING EDUCATION I HAVE ACCESS TO, HE SAYS. HE HAS MAINTAINED A GPA OF 4.0 AND HAS JOINED THE HONORS SCHOLARS PROGRAM. [APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE] REGINA HAD BEEN WORKING AT A SUPERMARKET FOR 22 YEARS WHEN SHE RECEIVED A LETTER INFORMING HER THE STORE WAS CLOSING. “I WAS IN TEARS,” SHE WROTE IN HER APPLICATION ESSAY. SHE DECIDED TO GET HER HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA. WHEN SHE STARTED AT LAGUARDIA, SHE FELT LOST AND EMBARRASSED. MATH ESPECIALLY WAS LIKE LEARNING ANOTHER LANGUAGE. SHE HAD COME TO LAGUARDIA TO GET HER DIPLOMA. SHE WAS NOT GOING TO LEAVE WITHOUT IT. AFTER THREE TRIES, SHE PASSED. SHE IS STUDYING BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION AT LAGUARDIA WITH A 4.0 GPA. [APPLAUSE]>>JENNIFER GREW UP IN GHANA, HER FAMILY EMIGRATED TO THE U.S. WHEN SHE WAS 19. SHE WORKED LONG HOURS AND DREAMED OF BECOMING A NURSE. “I FELT A DEEP YEARNING AND THOUGHT, IF ONLY I CAN GO TO COLLEGE TO STUDY NURSING, I COULD HELP A LOT OF PEOPLE.” SHE ENROLLED AT THE HSE PROGRAM OF COLLEGE OF STATEN ISLAND WHERE SHE IMPRESSED HER TEACHER AND CLASSMATES WITH HER DETERMINATION AND COMMUNITY SPIRIT. SHE HAD TO LEAVE THE PROGRAM FOR MEDICAL REASONS BEFORE SHE HAD PASSED THE MATH SECTION OF THE TEST, SHE RETURNED THE FOLLOWING SEMESTER AND PASSED. SHE IS NOW ENROLLED AT THE ST. GEORGE CAMPUS AT THE COLLEGE OF STATEN ISLAND AND PLANS TO STUDY MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY AND BECOME AN ULTRASOUND TECHNICIAN. [APPLAUSE] JENNIFER NAVARRO IS NOT HERE WITH US TODAY BUT SOMEONE FROM BRONX COMMUNITY COLLEGE, WILL BE ACCEPTING THE AWARD ON HER BEHALF. I WOULD LIKE TO READ HER BIO. JENNIFER GREW UP IN THE BRONX AND ATTENDED SCHOOLS WHERE SHE FOUND LITTLE ENCOURAGEMENT. SHE SAYS THAT SHE FELT ECONOMICALLY AND RACIALLY DISADVANTAGED. AT 19 SHE BECAME A MOTHER AND WANTED TO GIVE HER DAUGHTER A BETTER LIFE. WHEN SHE ENROLLED, SHE FACED THE FEAR SHE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO LEARN. WITH THE SUPPORT OF TEACHERS AND CLASSMATES, HER CONFIDENCE GREW AND SHE FOUND HERSELF ACCOMPLISHING THINGS SHE HAD FAILED AT PREVIOUSLY. JENNIFER ATTENDED CLASSES WHEN HER FULL-TIME JOB AND PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES MADE IT VERY HALLENGING. WHEN SHE PASSED THE TEST, SHE ENROLLED IN BRONX COMMUNITY COLLEGE IN THE ASAP PROGRAM. SHE PLANS TO MAJOR IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BECOME A FORENSIC ANALYST. “I WANT TO BE ABLE TO HAVE A STABLE, PURPOSEFUL JOB THAT WILL HELP PEOPLE FIND INJUSTICE AND MAKE MY DAUGHTER PROUD.” [APPLAUSE] SUE ANN WAS BORN IN JAMAICA. WHEN SHE WAS FIVE, HER MOTHER WENT TO WORK AS A NURSE IN THE U.S. SHE JOINED HER AT 11. IN HIGH SCHOOL SHE BECAME PREGNANT, LEFT SCHOOL AND ENROLLED IN THE ADULT LEARNING CENTER WHERE SHE FOUND A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT AND AN UNDERSTANDING TEACHER. SHE PASSED ALL SECTIONS EXCEPT MATH AND SOCIAL STUDIES ON HER FIRST TRY. THE NEXT DAY, HER BABY WAS BORN AND IT WAS 12 YEARS BEFORE SHE RETURNED TO FINISH WHAT SHE HAD STARTED. SHE IS MANAGING TO STAY FOCUSED AND ADVOCATE FOR HER CHILDREN. SHE ENROLLED IN YORK COLLEGE AND WAS ACCEPTED INTO THE SEEK PROGRAM. SHE PLANS TO FOLLOW HER MOTHER’S FOOTSTEPS AND STUDY NURSING. “I MUST DISPLAY TO MY CHILDREN THAT THROUGH MY ACTIONS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS, I CAN ACHIEVE IT ALL.” [APPLAUSE] TAPAN GREW UP IN A SMALL AGRICULTURAL VILLAGE IN BANGLADESH. LIKE OTHER CHILDREN IN HIS VILLAGE, HE LEFT SCHOOL TO HELP HIS PARENTS HARVEST CROPS. HE CAME TO THE U.S. IN 2015 WITH THE HELP OF A PROGRAM THAT SUPPORTS INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN THAT REGION OF BANGLADESH. AFTER ARRIVING IN NEW YORK, HE LEARNED ABOUT THE ADULT LEARNING CENTER AT NEW YORK CITY TECH, WHERE HE ENROLLED. HE DEDICATED SO MUCH TIME TO IMPROVING HIS ENGLISH AND STUDYING OUTSIDE OF CLASS THAT HIS TEACHER SAID IT WOULD BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT TO SAY THAT HE IS A GOOD STUDENT AND WILL SUCCEED IN COLLEGE. HE PASSED THE TEST AFTER FIVE MONTHS. HE PLANS TO MAJOR IN CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT. [APPLAUSE] TERESA WAS A STAY-AT-HOME MOM IN STATEN ISLAND WHEN SHE WAS WIDOWED AT THE AGE OF 47. THE NEED TO SUPPORT HER FAMILY DROVE HER TO MAKE THE TRIP TO THE BOROUGH OF MANHATTAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND ENROLL IN HSE CLASS. SHE DESCRIBES HERSELF THAT DAY AS A NERVOUS WRECK. “I DID NOT EVEN KNOW WHICH WAY THE METROCARD WENT.” HER MATH TEACHER REMEMBERS HER POWERPOINT PRESENTATION ON CLIMATE CHANGE WHICH SHOWED GRAPHS AND DATA TO SHOW RISING SEA TEMPERATURE POSE A GLOBAL THREAT. HER FAMILY HAD BEEN HARD-HIT BY SANDY IN 2012. SHE IS NOW STUDYING MATH IN THE CUNY START PROGRAM WHERE SHE ALWAYS ARRIVES EARLY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE TUTORING. SHE WOULD LIKE TO BECOME A NURSE AND HELP YOUNG MOTHERS AND THEIR CHILDREN. “I WANT TO GIVE BACK WHAT I HAVE LEARNED AND HELP THEM FEEL EMPOWERED.” [APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE] KARLA GREW UP IN EL SALVADOR, DREAMED OF GRADUATING HIGH SCHOOL AND ATTENDING COLLEGE BUT HER PARENTS COULD NOT AFFORD TO KEEP HER IN SCHOOL. SHE IMMIGRATED TO THE US WHEN SHE WAS 19 AND WORKED AS A HOUSEKEEPER AND ATTENDED ENGLISH CLASSES IN THE EVENING. SHE ENROLLED IN HSE PROGRAM. SHE FEELS LUCKY TO HAVE HAD A TEACHER WHO UNDERSTOOD HER CHALLENGES AND APPRECIATED HER COMMITMENT. WHEN SHE PASSED THE TEST SHE LEARNED ABOUT CUNY START WHERE SHE SPENT TWO INTENSE SEMESTERS BEFORE ENROLLING IN CREDIT CLASSES AT BMCC. “MY ACADEMIC GOAL IS TO BE AS PROFICIENT IN THE SCIENCES AS I CAN, AS I PURSUE A DEGREE IN NURSING. I WANT TO SET A GOOD EXAMPLE OF WORKING HARD AND TO ALWAYS DREAM BIG EVEN WHEN THINGS FEEL AND LOOK IMPOSSIBLE.” [APPLAUSE] FINALLY, AZIZA, GREW UP IN BROOKLYN WHERE SHE AND HER SIBLINGS — [APPLAUSE] THEY WERE HOMESCHOOLED BY THEIR MOTHER. WHEN SHE LEARNED THAT HSE DIPLOMA WAS A PATH TO COLLEGE, SHE ENROLLED. “I REMEMBER HOW KIND AND HELPFUL EVERYBODY WAS. THERE WAS A SENSE OF CAMARADERIE. THE POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT HAD AN ENORMOUS IMPACT ON MY BELIEFS.” SHE VOLUNTEERED AT AN ANIMAL SHELTER WHERE SHE SAW DOGS TRANSFORMED FROM FEEBLE TO HEALTHY UNDER THE CARE. SHE WAS ACCEPTED TO BROOKLYN COLLEGE WHERE SHE EXCELLED WITH A GPA OF 3.8 AT THE END OF HER FIRST YEAR. SHE IS MAJORING IN BIOLOGY. SHE PLANS TO STUDY VETERINARY MEDICINE AND HOPES TO ONE DAY START AN ANIMAL SANCTUARY AND EDUCATE PEOPLE ABOUT ANIMAL WELFARE. [APPLAUSE] SHE WILL COME BACK AND SHARE A FEW WORDS AS A STUDENT RESPONSE ON BEHALF OF THIS YEAR’S AWARD WINNERS. [APPLAUSE]>>GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE. WELCOME TO THE 17TH ANNUAL PETER JENNINGS SCHOLARSHIP LAUREL AWARDS CEREMONY. IT IS AN HONOR TO BE HERE, CONTINUING PETER JENNING’S LEGACY AND REPRESENTING CUNY ADULT LITERACY STUDENTS. I WOULD LIKE TO BEGIN BY THANKING MY FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT TEACHER, MY MOTHER, FOR PROVIDING ME NOT ONLY WITH SCHOLASTIC EDUCATION AND INSTILLING IN ME THE VALUES THAT CONSTANTLY ENCOURAGE ME TO SEEK KNOWLEDGE. YOU ARE MY BIGGEST INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION. I WOULD NOT BE UP HERE WITHOUT YOU, MOM. THANK YOU. [APPLAUSE] I WOULD LIKE TO THANK MY SISTERS FOR THEIR CONSTANT SUPPORT THROUGHOUT MY SCHOLASTIC JOURNEY AND THEIR UNWAVERING SUPPORT. FINALLY, I WOULD LIKE TO THANK MS. KAYCE FREED JENNINGS AND THE COMMITTEE. RECIPIENTS OF THE SCHOLARSHIP RANGE FROM THE START PROGRAM TO MAJORS IN SOCIAL AND BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE, COMPUTER SCIENCE, ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGY, BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, CRIMINAL JUSTICE, CONSTRUCTION AND LIBERAL ARTS. I UNDERSTAND THE AMOUNT OF DEDICATION IT TAKES TO STUDY FOR A TEST THAT CONDENSES FOUR YEARS OF HIGH SCHOOL INTO A SINGLE EXAM AND THE CONFLICTS THAT CAN ARISE AS YOU ATTEMPT TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL. YOU HAVE OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES, PASS THE EXAM AND CONTINUE ON TO PURSUE A HIGHER EDUCATION, IT IS TRULY AN INCREDIBLE FEAT. A LITTLE OVER A YEAR AGO, I REGISTERED FOR CLASSES AT BROOKLYN COLLEGE. BECAUSE I HAD BEEN HOMESCHOOLED MY ENTIRE LIFE, DURING MY FINAL YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL, I WAS PRESENTED WITH THREE OPTIONS TO PROVE I WAS PREPARED TO ATTEND COLLEGE. TAKE THE SATs, THE ACTs OR THE TASK EXAM TO RECEIVE MY HIGH SCHOOL EQUIVALENCY DIPLOMA. BECAUSE THE DIPLOMA WOULD ALLOW ME TO APPLY FOR JOBS AND A COLLEGE, I DECIDED TO TAKE THE TASC EXAM. DURING MY TIME IN THE AGENCY PREPARATION CLASSES I REALIZED THE IMPACT OF THE TEACHERS HAD ON STUDENTS. I WITNESSED MY INSTRUCTOR BEGIN EACH CLASS WITH INFECTIOUS ENTHUSIASM REGARDING THE SUBJECT SHE WAS TEACHING AND CONSTANTLY ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO KEEP A POSITIVE MINDSET AND BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES. WITH HER GUIDANCE, I WATCHED STUDENTS EXCEL ON THE EXAM AND BECOME SO INSPIRED, MANY WENT ON TO ATTEND COLLEGE. AFTER I PASSED, I ENROLLED IN BROOKLYN COLLEGE THROUGH THE BC BROWN PROGRAM WHICH OPENED MANY DOORS FOR ME. DURING MY FIRST YEAR COLLEGE, I STUDIED ABROAD IN CHINA FOR WINTER, BECAME A MENTOR IN THE AGENCY PREPARATION CLASSES, IN WHICH I WAS ONCE A STUDENT AND ENROLLED IN A SEMINAR WHERE I LEARNED VALUABLE INFO ABOUT CONDUCTING RESEARCH IN STEM. THROUGHOUT MY FIRST YEAR OF COLLEGE, I REALIZED HOW IMPACTFUL EDUCATION IS, A CONCEPT MR. JENNINGS ADMIRED AND CELEBRATED DURING HIS LIFE. ALTHOUGH HE BECAME A SUCCESSFUL NEWSCASTER DESPITE LACK OF FORMAL EDUCATION, HE UNDERSTOOD THE ADVANTAGE OF IT AND SOUGHT TO ASSIST ADULT LEARNERS. IN CLOSING, I WOULD LIKE TO SINCERELY THANK THE UNDERWRITERS OF THE SCHOLARSHIP FOR INVESTING IN THE EDUCATION OF ADULT LEARNERS. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. THAT HAS NEVER BEEN TRUER. WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF THE SCHOLARSHIP, I AM SURE THE RECIPIENTS WILL GO ON TO MAKE AMAZING CONTRIBUTIONS TO SOCIETY, MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. THANK YOU. [APPLAUSE]>>DEXTER ROBERTS IS A NATIVE OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO. HE RECEIVED THE AWARD IN 2012. HE IS CURRENTLY A STUDENT LIFE AND DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR AT MEDGAR EVERS COLLEGE. DURING COLLEGE HE WAS PRESIDENT OF MEDGAR’S STUDENT GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION AND VICE CHAIR FOR DISABILITY AFFAIRS IN THE UNIVERSITY STUDENT SENATE. IN 2014, HE EARNED HIS ASSOCIATES DEGREE IN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION AND IN 2016, A BACHELOR’S OF SCIENCE IN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION. HE IS CURRENTLY ENROLLED IN A MASTER’S PROGRAM IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION WITH A CONCENTRATION IN DEVELOPMENT AND URBAN SUSTAINABILITY. ULTIMATELY, HE PLANS TO RUN FOR PUBLIC OFFICE AND BECOME A CHANGE AGENT IN HIS COMMUNITY. DEXTER. [APPLAUSE]>>GOOD MORNING. TO THE COMMITTEE, MS. KAYCE FREED JENNINGS WHO HAS KEPT THE TORCH OF HER HUSBAND’S LEGACY BURNING, DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, FRIENDS, FAMILY AND MOST IMPORTANT, YOU, 2019 SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS, PERMIT ME ONE MINUTE. I WANT TO SAY, GOOD MORNING TO MY MEDGAR EVERS FAMILY. GOOD MORNING. DR. CASTRO AND RUSSELL, WHEN I ENROLLED IN COLLEGE, MY REMEDIAL CLASSES, I WROTE A PAPER, AND DR. RUSSELL WROTE SO MUCH RED ON THAT PAPER. [LAUGHTER] I SWEAR IT WAS, IT HAD MORE RED THAN THE BLOOD OF CALVARY. [LAUGHTER] THAT PAPER ENCOURAGED AND STRENGTHENED ME TO SIT AND WRITE BETTER. I LOVE YOU, DR. RUSSELL. [APPLAUSE] THIS MORNING IS A MORNING TO BE THANKFUL, TO BE THANKFUL BECAUSE WE HAVE MADE IT THIS FAR. WE HAVE OVERCOME SO MANY HURDLES, SO MANY OBSTACLES, AND VERY SOON YOU WILL HAVE A DEGREE BEHIND YOUR NAME, MY FELLOW SCHOLARS. I AM HERE TO SHARE WITH YOU MY MANY CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS. AS YOU HEARD, I WAS BORN ON THE BEAUTIFUL TWIN ISLANDS — LIKE MANY OF YOU THIS MORNING, LIKE MR. JENNINGS, WE DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL, AND THERE WAS NO HOPE. WHAT IS SO IRONIC IS THAT WE COULD HAVE SAT DOWN AND DONE NOTHING. WE CHOSE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. GET GEDs AND HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS TO GET OURSELVES BETTER. NELSON MANDELA SAID THAT, “EDUCATION IS THE HONEST WEAPON THAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD.” NOT ONLY DOES IT CHANGE THE WORLD BUT IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. 2011, I EMBARKED ON A JOURNEY AFTER AT A JOB FIVE YEARS, A GOOD JOB WITH PLENTY MONEY. I HAD NO HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA. THE CHALLENGE WAS ADVANCEMENT. I LOST THAT JOB. I ENROLLED AT THE NEW YORK COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY, ADULT PROGRAM. I RECALL WHEN I WAS NOMINATED FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP, MISS JENNINGS WAS READING MY BIO. I SAID I HAD A FEAR TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL. THAT FEAR SHOOK ME LIKE LEAVES FALLING OFF A TREE. I WAS SCARED. I THOUGHT I WOULD NOT EXCEL. I THOUGHT I COULD NOT DO MATH. I COULD NOT DO ENGLISH. I PROVED THEM WRONG. SURPRISINGLY, I GOT A SCORE OF 24, EVEN THOUGH, WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING ON THIS DAY, IF YOU DID NOT SUCCEED NOW, DO NOT GIVE UP. KEEP GOING. KEEP GOING. KEEP GOING LIKE THE ENERGIZER BUNNY. YOU WILL SUCCEED. AFTER MY GED, I WAS NOMINATED LIKE ALL OF YOU, TO GET THE PETER JENNINGS SCHOLARSHIP AWARD. HOWEVER, I HAD TO ENROLL IN A CUNY SCHOOL. I DECIDED TO GO TO THE SUNY EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY CENTER, DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN, TO GET MYSELF PREPPED FOR COLLEGE. AGAIN, A CHALLENGE. I PASSED EVERYTHING BUT FAILED BY ONE POINT. WHAT DO I DO? I REMEMBER CALLING THE ADVISOR AND ASKED IF I COULD SIT IN THE CLASS. HE SAID NO. I FELT HOPELESS. I FELT THAT MY LIFE IS AGAIN GOING BACK DOWN BECAUSE THERE IS NO HOPE. I DIDN’T STOP AFTER LOSING BY ONE POINT. I KEPT ON GOING. I ENROLLED AND QUICKLY BECAME PRESIDENT. I DID EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO MAKE ME SUCCEED. I WAS DOING WELL. I WANT TO LEAVE YOU WITH A MESSAGE THIS MORNING. THE MESSAGE I WANT TO LEAVE YOU WITH THIS MORNING IS YOU CREATE YOUR OWN SPACE. YOU, LIKE, LAST WEEK I HEARD REVEREND AL SHARPTON SAID, I WILL MAKE THEM CALL MY NAME. I CHALLENGE YOU THIS MORNING TO MAKE THEM CALL YOUR NAME. TO MAKE THEM CALL YOUR NAME SUE ANN WITH A PHD AND TERESA WITH A PHD, MAKE THEM CALL YOUR NAME. I CHALLENGE YOU THIS MORNING, IN SPITE OF WHATEVER THE DIFFICULT SITUATION, I ASK YOU TO KEEP HOPE ALIVE. I HAVE A SONG I SUNG. IT WAS A SONG THAT SAID, I COULD MAKE IT IF I TRY. GIVE ONE MORE TRY. PUSH A LITTLE HARDER. I KEEP PUSHING AND PUSHING AND EXCEL, JUST AS PETER JENNINGS, EVEN WHEN HE DIDN’T HAVE A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA, HE COULD HAVE SAT DOWN AND SAID, MANY TIMES, WE LIKE TO SIT DOWN AND PLAY THE PITY PARTY AND SAY WE DID NOT HAVE HELP OR SUPPORT. NOBODY WILL HAND YOU A SILVER PLATTER. WE HAVE TO WORK HARD FOR WHAT WE WANT. I THANK YOU THIS MORNING, I THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR GIVING ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS YOU AND SPEAK TO YOU THIS MORNING. ENCOURAGE YOURSELF. AS YOU JOURNEY ALONG YOUR COLLEGE LIFE, ENSURE THAT — SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE POSITIVE. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP HIGH AND I PROMISE YOU YOU WILL SUCCEED. THANK YOU SO MUCH. [APPLAUSE]>>SO OUR PROGRAM COMES TO AN END THIS YEAR. YOU HAVE ALL WORKED VERY HARD TO EARN YOUR DIPLOMA AND WE KNOW YOU ARE UP TO THE CHALLENGE OF WORKING EVEN HARDER IN COLLEGE, COMPLETING THE COURSEWORK FOR YOUR CAREER AND GRADUATING. THANK YOU FOR COMING. HAVE A NICE DAY. [APPLAUSE]

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