Share This

CCNY President Awards Scholarships to Nine Local Students

CCNY President's Community Scholars with City College President Lisa S. Coico. From left: Emelyn Carpio, Aimee Tavarez, Robert Cotto, Sean-Luc Prince, Dr. Coico, Rodley Ferguson, Luanna Polanco and Olivia Willis.
Diana Burgos, 17, from Washington Heights, is a 2011 CCNY President’s Scholar.

One wants to be an astronaut.  Another aspires to be a surgical oncologist.  A third City College of New York freshman, who spoke no English when she arrived from the Dominican Republic four years ago, is planning a medical career.

These students, all high achievers, are among nine recipients of the 2011 City College President’s Community Scholarships.  Awarded strictly on academic merit, the scholarships provide $5,000 support renewable for up to five years.  Scholars are required to perform community service and maintain good academic standing as a condition for renewal.

“There’re so many outstanding young people in the community around City College that represent its greatest resource and we’re proud to support them,” said CCNY President Dr. Lisa S. Coico, who launched the scholarship program last year.  “It remains a priority of ours to strengthen ties with our neighbors and to thank the community and this is one way of doing both.”   

This year’s recipients – and the communities they represent – are freshmen: Diana Burgos, Washington Heights; Emelyn Carpio, Bronx; Robert Cotto, Bronx; Kevin Lopez, Washington Heights; Luanna Polanco, Harlem; Sean-Luc Prince, Bronx; Aimee Tavarez, Harlem, and Olivia Willis, Harlem.  

In addition, Rodley Ferguson of Harlem, who earned a bachelor’s degree from CCNY in 2004, is the first graduate recipient of the scholarship. He is pursuing a master’s in information systems.

Ms. Polanco, who was on the honor roll at Frederick Douglass Academy where she graduated last June, will major in mathematics but is shooting for the stars.  “I want to be an astronaut, and the scholarship is a blessing as it will enable me to focus on my studies without concerns about financial aid,” said the 18-year-old daughter of Dominican immigrant.

Ms. Tavarez, 17, also a 2011 Frederick Douglass Academy alumna, said she was greatly indebted to President Coico and the invaluable opportunity the scholarship has given her to study biomedical engineering.  “This scholarship has changed my life completely, and I’m grateful to CCNY for that,” said the Harlem resident, who plans to attend medical school and become a surgical oncologist.

For two of the President’s Scholars, Emelyn Carpio and Kevin Lopez, the scholarships cap a remarkable four years that began when they arrived in New York, from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, respectively, without any knowledge of English.  They both attended Gregorio Luperon High School, a bilingual institution in Washington Heights, and graduated in June.

Said Ms. Carpio, a Bronx resident who wants to study medicine: “Without this scholarship it would have be extremely hard to attend college.  Now it will help fulfill my dream of a college education that could lead to medical school. I’m thankful.”

Mr. Lopez, a math and science enthusiast who is yet to declare his major, echoed Ms. Carpio’s sentiments.  “This will inspire me to work hard and maintain the scholarship,” remarked the Washington Heights resident.

The President’s Community Scholars Program is made possible by generous support from the following: Maurice and Lilian Barbash, Hugh F. Butts and family, Bernell K. Grier, Arthur J. Levin, Shade K. Little, Edward Mapp, Martin Schwartz, Ivan E. Stux, the Estate of Else S. Rohmer, the Estate of Esther C. Wheeler and the Sy and Ginny Levy Family Fund.

Brief bios of the nine President’s Community Scholars follow:
Diana Burgos:
Ms. Burgos, 17, is a graduate of George Washington High School, where she made the National Honor Society.  Her favorite subjects were math and earth science.  She attained scholar-athlete status by playing on the school softball team and served on the student government yearbook committee.   Ms. Burgos’ other distinction was posting perfect attendance at George Washington for two years. The Washington Heights resident said of the CCNY President’s Scholarship: “It is definitely a privilege as it would have been a challenge for me to attend college without it.” She’s undecided on her major but is leaning towards theatre.

Emelyn Carpio:
Born in Santo Domingo, Ms. Carpio moved to New York at age 14 in 2007 speaking no English. She enrolled in Gregorio Luperon High School in Washington Heights and began an intensive four-year program at the bilingual institution. Upon graduation in June 2011, Ms. Carpio had not only attained fluency in English but also excelled academically. “The fact that I came to the United States without my mother made me stronger and encouraged me to succeed so that I can bring her over,” said the freshman, who lives with her father in the Bronx.  Ms. Carpio, who plans a medical career, now hopes that the scholarship will help reunite her with her mother.  

Robert Cotto:
A graduate of A. Philip Randolph High School, which is located on the CCNY campus, Mr. Cotto, 18, will be on familiar ground during his college education. He made the A. Philip Randolph Honor Society and tallied more than 130 hours of community work, including time credited for helping his caregiver mother work with young children.  That, in part, inspired his interest to pursue pre-medical studies at CCNY with the goal of becoming a pediatrician.  Like his fellow President’s Scholars, Mr. Cotto said the scholarship was hugely important to his further education. “I’m really honored and hope to live up to expectation. It would have been hard to attend college without it.”  

Rodley Ferguson:
The Jamaican-born Mr. Ferguson returns to City College as a President’s Scholar after graduating magna cum laude in 2004.  He earned a BS in applied mathematics and economics and is the first graduate recipient of the CCNY President’s Scholarship.  Mr. Ferguson earned numerous honors as an undergraduate.  Highlights include the Carl Dunat Scholarship for Excellence in Economics (2004); the Verizon Scholarship for Excellence in Finance (2003); the City College Mentoring Award for Outstanding Participation with Faculty (2003) and the Mark and Estelle Clements Scholarship for Economics and Statistics (2002).  He also participated in the American Economic Association Summer Program at Colorado University - Denver in 2003.  Mr. Ferguson said the President’s Scholarship would allow him to focus entirely on his research as he pursues a master’s degree in information systems.

Kevin Lopez:
Mr. Lopez’ path to CCNY is similar to Ms. Carpio’s.  He also enrolled at Gregorio Luperon High School in Washington Heights in 2007, unable to speak, read or write English, after leaving his native Puerto Rico.  What ensued was an intense educational program, the first two years in Spanish and basic English; exclusively in English in the junior and senior years.  Along the way, Mr. Lopez, 19, developed a strong interest in math and science. The Washington Heights resident brings these interests to City College where, although undecided on what to major in, he said, “it will be something related to math.” The second in his family to attend college, he said the scholarship was a great honor.     

Luanna Polanco:
Being a member of the Frederick Douglass Academy robotics team reinforced an interest in engineering and math that could take Ms. Polanco into space.  She will major in math at CCNY and wants to become the first Harlem native in space. “I love space and I think that there’s so much out there that I want to learn about,” she said, sharing her dream to become an astronaut for NASA.  Inspired by a family that places emphasis on education, Ms. Polanco was on the honor roll at Frederick Douglass throughout high school, receiving honors in engineering and Spanish.  She was also a recipient of the Comptroller’s Award for Academic Achievement.

Sean-Luc Prince:
As a 12-year-old, Mr. Prince read a book on cryptology that heightened his   interest in computers.  He is at CCNY now majoring in computer science and is grateful to President Coico for the scholarship program she started in 2010.  “If not for this scholarship I’d probably be in the Army.  I don’t like owing money or putting a financial burden on my family,” said the 17-year-old, who came to New York from Jamaica at age three.  Mr. Prince graduated from Mott Hall High School, where he excelled in technology, science, math and English. He received certificates of achievement in these subjects and was on the honor roll.  The Bronx resident also played saxophone in the school band and served as a mentor to young children.      

Aimee Tavarez:
Before she returned permanently to the city of her birth in 2010, Ms. Tavarez was just a frequent visitor to New York from the Dominican Republic, where she’d lived since a baby.  She transferred seamlessly from O&M Hostos High School in the Dominican Republic to Fredrick Douglass Academy for her senior year.  As part of the robotics team at Frederick Douglass, Ms. Tavarez received the Hayden Foundation Scholarship. That experience inspired her to study biomedical engineering at CCNY.  Her ultimate goal is medical school and a career as a surgical oncologist.  She also volunteered with “Two Together,” a tutoring program for first and second graders.  Ms. Tavarez, who lives with her grandparents in Harlem, said the scholarship had opened the door to a wonderful education for her.

Olivia Willis:
Ms. Willis is also making the short hop from A. Philip Randolph to CCNY after being named a President’s Scholar. The 18-year-old made the National Honor Society in high school and worked as a mentor for the Harlem Children’s Zone.  Ms. Willis, who lives in the Bronx, will major in psychology at City. With a mother who is also in college, Ms. Willis said the scholarship is invaluable. “It helps a tremendous amount.  Otherwise finances would be extremely hard for me.”    



Jay Mwamba
p: 212.650.7580