Christopher Long was not emotionally or physically able to finish high school after his brother was murdered. A few months into his senior year, Chris Long quit school.
Although the Staten Island native was able to make a living with jobs in graphic design, the regret surrounding his not finishing high school haunted him for years.
“It paralyzed my every professional move. All I ever saw at every turn were closing doors,” Long wrote in an essay this year.
The big day
That all changed when he enrolled at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) Center for Continuing Education and Workforce Development and earned his GED.
Long’s hard work paid off and now he’s about to take the next step of his academic journey.
He was also one of 11 recipients of the Peter Jennings Scholarship Laurel Award who were recognized at a ceremony at the CUNY Graduate Center television studios on June 17, 2015.
The Peter Jennings Scholarship Program provides scholarships to adults who have achieved their high school equivalency diplomas, or a GED through CUNY adult education programs and are enrolling at a CUNY College as a matriculating student.
During the ceremony marked by emotion, advice and achievement, Kaycee Freed Jennings, President of the Peter Jennings Foundation, shared bits and pieces from each awardee’s essay application before presenting them with their certificate.
Jennings reminded the awardees they had already gone further in school than her late husband, former ABC World News Tonight reporter and anchor Peter Jennings. Peter, who never finished high school, lost his battle with lung cancer in 2005.
New York City Deputy Mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli delivered the day’s keynote address. She told the audience that everyone makes bad choices in life, but it is how one recovers from those choices that matters most.
“You know already not to give up,” she said. “You’ve come back. You’re going to do better and greater things. Trust yourself. Trust the people around you. Please go forth and set the world on fire because it needs it.”
Three Laurel Award Winners Choose BMCC
Among the 11 scholarship awardees, three, including Long, have chosen BMCC as the college of choice to continue their education. That is more than any other CUNY school.
In addition to Long, award recipients Zalia Adamou as well as Josefin Willmott will both attend BMCC.
Long will major in Video Arts Technology, part of the BMCC Multimedia Arts Program. Long said he hopes to change the world through documentary filmmaking about cultural issues, including the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
But getting to this point in his life was not an easy journey, he said.
“It was very difficult to go back to school as an adult returning student,” Long said.
When he first enrolled at the BMCC Adult Education Training Program, Long says he felt “lost.” But a pep talk here and a positive comment there from BMCC instructors all arrived at the very moments he needed to hear them most.
Long credits BMCC Adult Education math instructor Mark Lance with helping him overcome a serious case of math phobia.
“Mark didn’t let the idea of math phobia ground itself with me,” Long said.
He also credits his partner who supported his struggles at home as he completed assignments and attempted to solve frustrating math problems.
“He was my rock,” Long said of his partner.
Propelled onto a new chapter
Eventually, Long got over his fear of calculations and while he was enrolled in the BMCC CUNY Start Program, he passed the CUNY Math skills test with scores so high they propelled him out of remediation.
Long, who now lives in the Bronx, said getting his GED and an eventual college education is something he has to do.
“I had to do it for myself,” he said. “I had to do it for my brother. He never had the chance to achieve something like this and that all makes this very important to me.”