May 22, 2023
In 2014, when Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) alumnus Lamine Kaba (Economics, 18’) first arrived in New York City from Karfamoria, a village in the West African country Guinea, he knew he wanted to earn a college degree.
Kaba eventually followed the advice of family and friends and made his way to BMCC which helped him overcome a language barrier and set him on the academic pathway to the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at City College of New York (CUNY), where he not only earned his Bachelor’s degree, but also a Master’s degree in Economics.
Today, Kaba lives in Seattle Washington, where he works as a performance analyst for the financial services firm Verus.
“When you start at BMCC, you really can go anywhere—that’s a fact,” said Kaba. “The support system is extensive and the professors are dedicated. They really care about students.”
Kaba grew up in a village where poverty was not seen as a threat, but instead, a component of daily life, he says. Many families including those of close friends experienced days, weeks or months where they worried about whether or not they would have enough to eat.
“Even though my family didn’t face those challenges first-hand, we witnessed them all around us, and that’s why today, I don’t take anything for granted,” said Kaba.
Moving to New York City was a dream come true, he says. Culturally, he felt at home in the city. He was able to land a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant located on the 35th floor of One Wall Street where he worked the busy 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift. And he eventually applied and was accepted at BMCC. But a seemingly titanic obstacle stood in the way of his enrolling in credit-bearing courses. Kaba, whose first language is Malinke, did not pass the CUNY reading or writing placement tests because he didn’t speak very much English.
He learned about BMCC’s CUNY Start program, which helps students prepare for college-level coursework and meet CUNY’s proficiency milestones prior to starting credit-bearing courses.
He also began taking intensive English classes through the CUNY Language Immersion Program or CLIP at BMCC, located at the Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center on 125th Street in Harlem.
“It amazes me that I was able to overcome the language barrier,” said Kaba. “I really couldn’t speak or write in English. The CLIP classes were very immersive. For example, one of the teaching techniques was to repeat every word after the instructor.”
By 2016, he had passed the CUNY proficiency exams and enrolled in credit-bearing courses at BMCC, declaring himself an Economics major. There were moments where Kaba had trouble understanding course materials or what a professor might have said during a lecture, but he would always follow up after class, or spend time with the college’s tutoring services until he fully understood.
His perseverance paid off with a GPA that hovered at around 3.9 throughout his time at BMCC.
Kaba says he dove into his Economics course work and learned about many basic socio-economic principles including how cost benefit analysis helps make social decisions more rational.
“Most economics classes were challenging, and rightfully so,” said Kaba. “While at BMCC, I learned about a number of concepts and subjects that were later part of my master’s program. I still apply some of the concepts I learned in my current role as a performance analyst.”
He said BMCC professors such as Economics Professor Christine Farias motivated him while he was at BMCC and still do, even today.
“Professor Farias always teaches with purpose and goals,” said Kaba. “That’s why I took more than four classes with her. Her teaching techniques were solid for the subjects we discussed in class.”
Kaba also became part of the BMCC Economics Club which often hosted guest speakers who held leadership positions in the world of business, finance or other fields related to the local and global economy.
He also joined the Urban Male Leadership Academy (UMLA) which, Kaba says, helped him develop his leadership development skills. During his time in UMLA, he says he met people and became less solitary. Kaba said being part of UMLA encouraged him to remain resilient and pursue all his academic goals.
“Through UMLA, I had opportunities to mentor and tutor students while I was taking classes,” said Kaba. “This inspired to be an outstanding student myself, and further my education so that I could impact my community.”
When it came time to think about the next chapter of his academic journey, Kaba began exploring options for continuing his studies in Economics. He had the option to attend a number of colleges including New York University.
Upon graduating from BMCC in 2018, he decided the best choice would be City College where he graduated in 2021 with both a bachelor’s as well as master’s degree. Not long after that, he landed his current position as a performance analyst and moved to the Seattle.
“The staff and faculty at BMCC are very friendly and supportive. They are there for you. BMCC offers a low-cost education with the highest quality,” said Kaba. “I would absolutely recommend BMCC to anyone looking to start their academic journey,”
- Economics alumnus Lamine Kaba graduated BMCC then completed both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at City College, CUNY
- Kaba moved to NYC from Guinea and took a job as a dishwasher at a Wall Street restaurant
- Kaba overcame language barrier with help of CUNY CLIP program