Jeffrey Chan, who graduated BMCC in the fall semester with a degree in Science, was selected as a winner of a 2009 Coca-Cola Gold Scholarship, which is sponsored by the soft-drink company and administered by Phi Theta Kappa, the international community college honors society.
As a Gold Scholar, the highest achievement by a community college student, Chan will receive a stipend of $1,500, a certificate, and a gold medallion. He will also be listed in a special section of the national newspaper, USA Today, which will be published today.
Chan intends to join Doctors Without Borders
Chan is now on scholarship at New York University (NYU), majoring in Biology and intends to be a medical doctor. But, as he says, he just doesn’t want to be any doctor, but rather one who serves with Doctors Without Borders, an international organization of doctors and nurses who volunteer to provide urgent medical care to victims of war and disaster regardless of race, religion, or politics.
He says, “I want to help those around the world who need medical attention. I believe that medical health is a basic human right.”
Giving back by volunteering at the Chinese-American Planning Council
Chan was born in the United States and his family immigrated to Hong Kong, only to return several years ago. While Chan is young enough to take advantage of American society, he saw how his grandmother had insurmountable difficulties with simple things such as buying groceries, taking a bus, or reading street signs---because she lacked English language skills.
Besides his high grade point average (GPA), Chan was also selected for his community outreach, which had much to do with his grandmother’s challenges in America and those of other Chinese immigrants.
In his essay to the Coca-Cola Foundation, which is a major criterion for winning the award, Chan wrote, “I always wanted to help immigrants like my grandmother to overcome the hardships they were facing. Like most immigrants, I came to the United States knowing neither the language nor the culture of my new country. I learned to speak and write in English while taking English as a Second Language at Borough of Manhattan Community College…”
“The skills and knowledge I acquired while attending college put me in a position to provide new immigrants in my community with advice and guidelines to help them succeed. I contacted AmeriCorps, a non-profit organization that provides social assistance to new immigrants in the process of integrating into American society. AmeriCorps assigned me to the Chinese-American Planning Council, an organization that worked to make a positive change in my community by fighting illiteracy.
The program provides immigrants with ESL courses and career-training workshops. My responsibility was to help new immigrants to learn English and acquire computer skills. As a teaching assistant, I helped students better understand the material that the teacher taught, participate in class activities and get involved in communication in English. I also acted as a mentor, sharing with students my personal experiences of adjusting to a new country and culture and helping them overcome hardships.”
Education here and in Hong Kong
Chan enjoys his education at BMCC because he says it relies more on interactive conversation rather than memorization, which is dominant in Hong Kong. “Students here,” he says, “are open to have their own opinion on certain subjects. Even the contents of textbooks are constantly challenged by students. That would never happen in Hong Kong.”
He adds that while he is now shaped by the American higher education system, he also says that memorization serves him well in some instances. “I once memorized an entire book in one night and it helps me in some subjects, like biology or organic chemistry.”
Crediting BMCC for academic excellence
Chan says that BMCC helped shape his academic foundation. He received personal attention from his professors and felt that faculty members were always available to discuss his papers and projects. He says this kind of student–teacher relationship can’t be found in other colleges. He backs that statement up by saying that he’s taken courses at other college and hasn’t seen that relationship blossom.
He adds, all his professors supported him and spoke to him as a colleague. He credits those relationships as building blocks for a growing self-confidence, and because of that, he gave back to BMCC by tutoring other students. He especially mentioned both professors Zonana and Yablokova of the English Department for their assistance in writing his scholarship essay.
But most poignantly, Chan says that his selection as Coca Cola Gold Scholar is not an honor for himself, but also a symbol of the academic excellence at BMCC. The award, he concludes, is also recognition of the quality education that can be had at community colleges across the country.