When Steven Roberts enrolled at BMCC in 2009, he couldn’t say for sure what a PhD was. “I knew I wanted to become a psychologist, but I had no idea how that would happen,” he says. “I figured I’d go to school, major in Liberal Arts, and the cards would fall into place.”
Fall they did. Roberts graduated in 2010 and went on to NYU, where he earned a Bachelors degree, majoring in applied psychology and minoring in urban education. This fall he’ll begin working on a PhD in developmental psychology at the University of Michigan.
Roberts is one of two recent BMCC alumni in this year’s crop of CCTOP students, the other is Leslie-Ann Reid-Bacchus.
The Community College Transfer Opportunity Program—enables qualified BMCC students to transfer at least 60 college credits to a related program of study at the NYU Steinhardt School of Education, Culture and Human Development.
The program, which carries up to $22,500 in scholarship aid, is one of several intercollege partnerships overseen by Allana Hankey-Thomas, senior academic advisor in BMCC’s academic advisement and transfer center. “We work closely with the CUNY senior colleges as well as many private institutions,” she says.
Looking beyond graduation
“My number-one passion is to work with students to help them achieve their academic dreams, whatever that takes,” Hankey-Thomas says. “Often, they’re not consciously aware of where they want to go beyond knowing which courses and how many credits they need to graduate.”
In discussing course requirements and other mundane matters with students, Hankey-Thomas will often elicit memories of forgotten but viable dreams—to continue their education, to become doctors, writers, computer scientists.
A big part of her mission is to match senior-college-bound BMCC graduates with the right college—and, more important, to help them achieve the confidence to succeed.
“Often, I’ll accompany students on college tours. In all cases, we try to match the student’s personality with the college,” she says. “The last thing we want is for a student to wind up at a place where he or she isn’t happy.”
Leslie-Ann Reid-Bacchus arrived at BMCC in 2007 with the hope of earning an Associates Degree and no clear picture of where she wanted to go from there.
She applied and received an “out in two” scholarship, and met Hankey-Thomas in the process. “Until then, I was just sailing along with no particular goal in mind,” says Reid-Bacchus.
“Allana and I connected immediately. She talked about college and told me about BMCC’s partnerships with various schools. I visited a few and fell in love with Mount Holyoke. But I wasn’t sure what I would do there.”
Still uncertain about her future, she declared a double major—education and psychology. Then she attended a CCTOP forum and began looking at what NYU had to offer.
“A memory from my childhood in Trinidad came back to me.” she says. “There was girl with serious speech problems. It seemed a heavy burden to live with and I always wondered if there was a way I help people in that situation.
When I learned about NYU’s speech pathology program, I immediately new that this was what I wanted to do with my life.”
Tears of happiness
Reid-Bacchus was valedictorian of her BMCC graduating class and, like Roberts, went on to NYU, where she received her Bachelors degree this spring. She’ll begin graduate studies at Brooklyn College and eventually hopes to work with children with autistic children.
For Hankey-Thomas, the graduation of CCTOP students is always an emotional experience, and never more so than this past May. “I always attend graduation and I always cry,” she says. “It’s hard to express the feelings I had when I saw Leslie and Steven walk across the stage. I was so proud of them.”
The emotion—and emotional ties—run both ways. “I remember seeing Ms. Hankey-Thomas the day before the NYU deadline,” Roberts says. “I still hadn’t yet applied to the program, and she yelled at me. She said I’d better hurry up and get my application in.” Roberts left her office in tears.
“I’d never been in an academic environment where any one had expressed such caring for me and my future,” he says.
Five years ago, before even applying to BMCC, Reid-Bacchus was working as a full-time nanny not far from the NYU campus. “I’d see students in Washington Square Park and never dreamed that one day that could me,” she says.
“Today I’m light years ahead of where ever thought I could be. But I also know I have much further to go, and so much more I want to do.”
While her success is hers to savor, she attributes her achievements in large measure to Hankey-Thomas.
“When I came to BMCC, I was like unformed clay,” Reid-Bacchus says. “Allana was my sculptor.”