Four Outstanding Students Named 2021 Kaplan Scholars

BMCC Campus Plaza

December 8, 2021

Four Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students— Economics major Bryan Garcia, Psychology major Raquel Hernandez, Childhood Education major Quiana James and Science major Nana Wiafe Addae Owusu—have been named this year’s Kaplan Leadership Scholars.

This is the fifteenth year BMCC has been working with the Kaplan Educational Foundation to help underserved students transfer from associate degree programs to exceptional four-year colleges. Kaplan Scholars receive a comprehensive array of financial and academic support, transfer admissions advising and leadership skills development.

“The Kaplan Leadership program is one of the best opportunities for our students,” said Sussie Gyamfi, BMCC Scholarship and Specialty Services coordinator. “The award begins while students work towards their associate’s degree at BMCC and the financial assistance and other support continue after they transfer to a four-year college or university to pursue a bachelor’s degree.”

A 2020 BMCC Kaplan Scholar Alumni, Johann Smith, was recently profiled at Stanford University where he transferred from BMCC. He said his BMCC professors prepared him for his next step at Stanford by constantly pushing him to do his best work.

Difficulties growing up inspires career goal to help adolescents and young adults

Raquel Hernandez
Raquel Hernandez

Psychology major Raquel Hernandez was born and raised in Brooklyn and plans to someday work with adolescents and young adults.

“I had a difficult time growing up in an unhealthy household which left me feeling alone much of the time,” said Hernandez. “That experience inspired me to build a better future for myself. I want adolescents who are going through what I lived through, to be able to look up to me. That’s why I chose to major in Psychology at BMCC.”

Hernandez’s journey at BMCC has been inspirational, rewarding and unforgettable, she said. A transfer student, BMCC was her second chance. She needed to improve her academic standing. BMCC offered numerous support services, activities and opportunities to accomplish that. Hernandez has been an active member of the BMCC Learning Academy (BLA) and the Psychology club, where she serves as treasurer. She said her academic advisor as well as many of her professors had been especially supportive during her time at the college.

“I have raised my GPA to a 4.0, which has made me eligible for many scholarships,” said Hernandez. “My favorite classes have included The Short Story, Psychology of Personality, Social Psychology and Gender and Women’s studies.”

Hernandez is keeping her transfer options open and has already been accepted to St. Francis College and City College of New York (CUNY).

“In five to ten years, I see myself a graduate with a Master degree, a proud Kaplan scholar and alumni with a successful career helping adolescents and young adults,” said Hernandez. “I plan to contribute to my community’s wellbeing by providing help to those individuals who struggle internally.”

Participation in BMCC success programs empowers self-discovery and growth

Quiana James
Quiana James

Childhood Education major Quiana James moved to New York City from the Carol City community in Miami around eight years ago. She was nervous, because she wasn’t certain New York City would be a friendly city for an individual who is visually impaired.

“To my surprise this city has been beyond inclusive!” said James who three years into her time in New York City, started a magazine for people with albinism. “The magazine was good, but needed refining, so I decided it was time to go to college.”

James connected with the New York State Commission for the Blind and they connected her to the college readiness program for the blind and visually impaired at The Lighthouse Guild.” While at Lighthouse Guild, she also began to research CUNY and BMCC stood out for a number of reasons, so she decided to apply.

“My experience as a student at BMCC has been a time of self-discovery and growth,” said James. “As a first-generation college student, programs like Panther Partners and the BMCC Learning Academy have helped me navigate the college process. Now I am on the executive board for BMCCs National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) chapter, the president a BBAD club, and a member of Phi Thetta Kappa Honor Society.”

James, a Childhood Education major, said her professors had pushed her and helped her build skills and define what type of educator she someday hopes to be. In Spring 2022, she will be transferring to New York University (NYU) Steinhardt to double major in Childhood and Special Education.

“In 10 years, I see myself as a curriculum writer with a masters degree, and maybe even a Ph.d.,” said James.

Resources, professors and diversity at BMCC helps launch journey to become cardiologist

Nana Wiafe Addae Owusu
Nana Wiafe Addae Owusu

Nana Wiafe Addae Owusu was born in Ghana, a country West Africa, where he was named valedictorian of his high school class. In 2018, he moved to the United States to eventually pursue his dream of becoming a cardiologist.

“I wanted to pursue cardiology after a friend collapsed during a football match,” said Owusu. “The nearest hospital was many miles away. He died before they could make it to the emergency room.”

Now in his third semester, Owusu says he chose BMCC because of its resources, professors and the rich diversity. He says the school’s slogan, “Start Here, Go Anywhere,” is based in truth. Both the students as well as the professors are very interactive and supportive which makes learning even more interesting and engaging, he said.

“Biology and calculus remain my favorite subjects,” said Owusu, who is also part of CUNYStart, NSLS, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the as well as the Coca Cola Leaders of Promise. Owusu also serves as President of the Student Government Association.

Owusu plans to transfer to either City College of New York (CUNY), University of Texas Austin, Stanford University or Cornell University.

“In 10 years, I see myself changing lives through my work as a cardiologist and the charitable care I provide for people who are either uninsured or don’t have access to quality healthcare,” said Owusu. “Also, I want to play a role in the civil rights movement to help make the United States a better place to live.”

He dedicates his success at BMCC to his mother, Veronica Nana Afriyie and all the people encouraging him to do more.

Will work to bring change and opportunity to people who may feel they’ve been forgotten

Economics major Bryan Garcia was born in Reno but was raised in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico and he lived there until he graduated from high school.  He was ready for a new challenge, so he decided to move to New York City and eventually decided to go to college.

“I chose Economics as my major because I love studying and understanding the processes of money and how that impacts society, politics, housing and other issues,” said Garcia.

He said his time at BMCC had been rewarding on many levels.  Among Garcia’s favorite classes are Critical Thinking and Marketing 101.  He has also participated in the Conexiones, the Economics, Equality and Environment club, and his favorite, the Finance and Banking Club.

“Academic Literacy and Linguistics Professor Ann Yancey has been the most supportive professor I’ve ever had,” said Garcia.

Harvard University, University of California Berkeley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Yale or Georgetown University are among the institutions he plans to transfer to after BMCC.  Eventually, he sees himself working in politics, bringing positive change and opportunity to all people.

“Growing up in Mexico has shown me how much people suffer and coming to the United States has further shown me that despite this being the wealthiest nation on earth, not everyone has the same opportunities,” said Garcia.  “I will do my best to bring change and opportunity to those people who may feel they’ve been forgotten.

The Kaplan scholars program relates to BMCC’s Strategic Plan, including but not limited to Strategic goal 4: Improving completion and transfer rates through integrated support services.

  • Kaplan scholars receive comprehensive array of support and academic advisement
  • BMCC has had 15-year relationship with Kaplan Educational Foundation
  • Scholars share how BMCC has supported their academic journey

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