Student Anival “Ajae” Gonzalez comes right out and admits it.
“I’m a scholarship junkie,” he says. “I’m always looking up scholarship information and stopping by BMCC’s scholarship office.”
Being a so-called “scholarship junkie” paid off for the BMCC Video Arts and Technology major who graduates this semester with a 3.8 GPA.
Gonzalez, who has been attending NYU concurrently with his BMCC classes, received more than five scholarships over the years.
Seeking an education
Gonzalez received his GED and worked as a waiter and bartender at venues such as Bubba Gump Shrimp and Deko Lounge before enrolling at BMCC in 2009.
“BMCC was the second chance I needed at that point in my life,” he explains. “I wasn’t ready for college until I worked for a few years, which taught me how to be a people-person. But I wanted a formal education.”
During his time at BMCC, Gonzalez received academic scholarships from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Telemundo (which also included a laptop), STOCS (which he used to study digital photography abroad), and a Performance-Based Scholarship. (PBS)
He’s also active in New York Needs You, a career mentorship program for college students, and is an ASAP student leader.
“Through ASAP and the New York Needs You, I’ve met many students in GED programs. I tell them I remember what it was like to feel so lost, and how I can’t get back the years I lost before BMCC,” he explains, adding that, “BMCC set me up to succeed. When BMCC professors and staffers see a standout student, they validate and push them. This made me work even harder.”
Behind the scenes
Gonzalez calls Video Arts and Technology (VAT) Professor Sandra Poster one of his mentors.
“I did well in her classes,” says the aspiring filmmaker and music video director. “She wrote, ‘great job’ on many on my papers and called me a promising student. She also wrote one of my NYU recommendations.”
Over the years, Gonzalez has worked as a freelance videographer and photographer, recording weddings, music videos, documentaries and montages around Manhattan and for BMCC students.
“I worked with people from the VAT program at BMCC to create my debut horror film,” he says. “It’s called The Unexpected, and has been submitted to film festivals.”
His next steps
After he graduates from NYU with a media communications degree, Gonzalez hopes to make a documentary film about a Latino family.
“I feel like I lead with my Latino culture. I love to highlight my ethnicity; our story isn’t told as much,” says Gonzalez, who is first-generation Puerto Rican.
When he’s not making movies, looking up scholarships or admiring the cinematic talent of his favorite filmmaker James Cameron, Gonzalez buoys the spirits of his friends and peers.
“My advice to adults who are hesitant to go back to school is don’t get stuck on things you can’t change. Instead, change how you react to things,” says Gonzalez, who recently spoke at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus event with BMCC President Antonio Pérez.
“Jump at opportunities; don’t always stay in your comfort zone.”