May 13, 2021
Two Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students—Abdoul-hanane Gbadamassi and Altrim Mamuti—are among three CUNY students and 72 community college students nationwide to be awarded the prestigious Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
The scholarship provides up to $40,000 per year for each winner to attend a four-year accredited undergraduate school and complete the final two to three years necessary to achieve their bachelor’s degree.
Over 1,300 students from 370 community colleges applied for the 2021 Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. This highly competitive scholarship enables the nation’s most promising students who have financial need, to transfer from a community college to one of America’s best four-year schools.
The Foundation evaluated each submission based on students’ academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence and leadership.
“We know how much exponentially harder this past year has been on students. It’s an honor to award this group of individuals as they have achieved so much both in the classroom and in their daily lives,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “We are proud to welcome this new class of Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars to our community and are excited to support them as they transition to four-year institutions.”
“The best scholars in the country can be found at BMCC. We are deeply proud of Abdoul-hanane Gbadamassi and Altrim Mamuti, whose academic journeys have earned them the national honor of being selected as Jack Kent Cooke scholars,” said Erwin Wong, BMCC Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “They will now be able to pursue bachelor’s degrees at the prestigious colleges of their choice and make their mark in important ways, to the fields they enter.”
Abdoul-hanane Gbadamassi goes from neighborhood device-troubleshooter in Togo to cybersecurity researcher in NYC
Raised in Togo, a country between Benin and Ghana in West Africa, Computer Science major Abdoul-hanane Gbadamassi earned a 4.0 GPA, and was a member of BMCC’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter and the Achievers Program. He was also an Out in Two Scholar, a member of the Impact Peer Mentoring and Panther Partners programs at BMCC, a Kaplan Educational Foundation scholar and a member of the BMCC Urban Male Leadership Academy.
Having applied to Pomona College, Yale University, Tufts University and Amherst College, Gbadamassi plans to complete his bachelor’s degree and become a data scientist, “providing solutions to small businesses in impoverished countries,” he says.
“I sold nylon bags at the age of eight,” Gbadamassi says. “After school and work, I rushed home to help with chores. With bills to pay, my family focused on day-to-day survival.”
In Summer 2018, Gbadamassi moved to New York with the goal of pursuing a degree in computer science, and lived with his uncle while he focused on learning English and worked in restaurant.
“Eventually, everything fell in place,” he says. “My years in Togo prepared me to be resourceful. In Togo, I was the local device-troubleshooter. By configuring the Internet or fixing calls and SMS issues, I enabled people to continue their daily activities.”
Once Gbadamassi’s uncle gave him a computer, he began to explore it as an inventory tool and for data storage, and felt ready to tackle college, enrolling at BMCC.
“With computer science, I can work across education, business and medicine, creating software to improve outcomes,” says Gbadamassi, who took part in an independent cybersecurity research project led by Computer Information Systems Professor Mohammad Azhar.
His goal now is to become a machine learning engineer.
“Machine learning focuses on using human-like data to train artificial intelligence machines,” Whether to decelerate climate change, use PCR for viral testing, or manage traffic flow for self-driving cars, AI machines can help solve many of the problems facing humanity.”
Altrim Mamuti commits to environmental justice as he witnesses pollution in post-war Kosovo
Biotechnology major Altrim Mamuti grew up in Tetovo, North Macedonia and moved to New York in 2019.
“My Albanian family was challenged to the brim with economic disparities,” he says. “We faced many socio-economic challenges after the Kosovo War and our society was divided. My father served food to American troops that helped maintain peace in Kosovo and Macedonia from 1999 to 2006. Embracing the struggles of the needy stayed in me.”
His parents’ strongest desire, Mamuti says, was for their three children to go to college, while Mamuti’s goal was to fight environmental threats.
“Learning English through TV and foreign visitors, I remember watching Animal Planet and David Attenborough documentaries about wildlife and biology before I went to school. The reality of my city was far different from the wonders on TV — the streets were stripped of trees and greenery, and the air was polluted with fumes and smoldering fires. The majority of our population was malnourished and sick, while others produced excessive food wastage and environmental pollution.”
Observing the polluted world around him, “I gained a new concept of war,” says Mamuti, “one that involved fighting against the disaster of plastic production and destruction of the earth.”
He participated in a few non-profit initiatives to promote sustainability and realized, “I must equip myself with biological expertise and find solutions to eliminate plastics and find alternatives to protect people and the planet. I want to be an advocate, provide solutions find alternatives to protect the environment and human health.”
At BMCC, Mamuti was a member of the Climate Change Club, the BMCC Phi Theta Kappa chapter, and Student Government Association. He helped other students academically through the BMCC Impact Peer Mentoring Program and was a student researcher with the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) and the BMCC Foundation Fund for Undergraduate Research. Among other options, he is considering an offer from Columbia University’s School of General Studies for the fall.
- Computer Science major Abdoul-hanane Gbadamassi and Biotechnology major Altrim Mamuti are among three CUNY students and 72 community college students nationwide to be awarded the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
- Scholarship provides up to $40,000 per year for each winner to complete the final two to three years toward their bachelor’s degree
- Gbadamassi, from Togo, and Mamuti, from Albania, gained important life lessons in their home countries that inform their research and career goals