How to Win a Scholarship: Love of Learning and Faculty/Staff Support

August 29, 2023

Computer Science major Florian Charles is the first Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) student to receive a $10,000 scholarship from Garden of Dreams Inspire, a fund managed by Unigo, a division of Education Dynamics.

Writing and Literature major Kaya Fader and Computer Science major Amanda Loeung each received $1,000 as this year’s Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholars, an opportunity made available by their membership in Phi Theta Kappa, BMCC’s Alpha Kappa Chapter.

All three students attribute faculty and staff support, and their own passion for learning for their awards.

Charles learned about the Garden of Dreams Inspire scholarship by working with staff and exploring opportunities online, through resources like the Unigo scholarship website.

Fader and Loeung were considered for the Coca-Cola scholarships through their honor society affiliation, and are among 200 winners from nearly 1,100 applications across the country.

“We try to guide students toward scholarships that other BMCC students have been awarded over the years, but we also try to give students the tools to be proactive about finding scholarships themselves, that speak to their talent and goals,” said BMCC Scholarship Coordinator Sussie Gyamfi.

The Unigo website, one of these tools, organizes awards by state, by academic major and many other categories. Some are based on merit, others on financial need. There are scholarships for women, for students who are military veterans or on active duty, for outstanding athlete scholars, for students supported by the American Indian College Fund, the National Black Nurses Association and many other organizations and funders.

“Every student is unique in some way,” says Gyamfi. “During my meetings with them, I provide advice on how to enhance their chances of securing a scholarship. When you combine the student’s outstanding academic skills with their strong sense of identity, this can make them eligible for scholarships they never even knew existed.”

Computer Science major Florian Charles
Computer Science major Florian Charles

Florian Charles gained a sense of belonging, through the BMCC Impact Peer Mentoring program.

Scholarship winner Florian Charles migrated from Haiti two years ago, and is on track to graduate from BMCC in 2024.

An aspiring machine learning engineering, his goal is to transfer to MIT. “There, I plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science,” he says, “accompanied by a minor in Statistics and Data Science.”

The $10,000 Garden of Dreams Inspire award “has ignited an immense sense of excitement within me,” he says. “This financial assistance not only relieves a significant portion of my monetary concerns but also empowers me to dedicate myself to my academic pursuits.”

He considers himself fortunate to have worked closely with staff and faculty at BMCC who offered “unwavering support,” and extends a special acknowledgment to the BMCC Impact Peer Mentoring Program led by Denise Delaporta and Fatouma Keita, as well as Alice Brousilová, who was his mentor.

“This program has played a crucial role in helping me establish a strong academic foundation during my first semester, providing me with a profound sense of belonging,” says Charles. “Through this program, I have connected with individuals who genuinely care, who have provided encouragement and propelled me toward becoming the best version of myself.”

Additionally, he says, being part of Impact Peer Mentoring “has granted me the privilege to give back to new students as a gesture of gratitude for the invaluable support the Impact Peer Mentoring staff has generously given me.”

Aspiring journalist Kaya Fader entered college after nine years in the workforce.

Writing and Literature major and Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise scholar Kaya Fader plans to graduate from BMCC in Spring 2024, and is applying to Columbia University, NYU and other universities.

Writing and Literature major Kaya Fader
Writing and Literature major Kaya Fader

Born in Maine and having grown up in Asheville, North Carolina, she moved to New York and chose BMCC “for its reputation as a leader among community colleges,” she says. “I was also impressed by the potential for BMCC graduates to transfer to leading four-year schools, and the fact that it offers a Writing and Literature program.”

Fader says her lifelong passion for learning, writing and storytelling fueled her goal of entering the field of journalism.

“I believe this path will allow me to leverage my boundless curiosity about the world and my unconditional love for the written word to tell stories that make a difference, that spark others’ curiosity and give readers a better understanding of the world around them and its people,” she says. “I strongly believe that a better, more empathetic world begins with learning and understanding.”

BMCC English Professor Geoffrey Klock is one faculty member who stands out for Fader.

“His courses have opened my eyes to many complex aspects of art and literature,” she says. “He really cares about his students. I appreciate that he challenges us to generate our own ideas, think and research independently, use our brains and craft essays that we truly care about writing.”

Her experience in Klock’s classes “have greatly advanced my research and composition skills,” she says, “as well as my confidence in myself as a writer.”

Though she had wanted to pursue a career in writing since she was a child, Fader entered the workforce as a high school student, and transitioned to full-time work as soon as she earned her diploma.

She continued working for almost ten years before entering BMCC. Most recently, she held quality assurance and training positions at a call center.

“I excelled at my job, received several promotions, and it made ends meet. However, I knew I wasn’t doing what I truly loved,” she says. “I wasn’t growing as a person, nor was I using my skills to their full potential. It occurred to me that in order to improve my life I had to take the initiative to make learning my first priority. This led me to enroll in college once I was able to do so.”

Supportive professors helped Amanda Loeung make a fresh start at BMCC.

Computer Science major and Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise scholar Amanda Loeung plans to graduate from BMCC in Spring 2024. While she’s still considering her career path, she knows that her next step is to earn a bachelor’s degree, possibly at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY.

“I enjoy coding, thanks to Professor Louise Yan who taught my CSC 111 Intro to Programming course,” Loeung says.

Having grown up in a small town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, she moved to Lower Manhattan after the pandemic.

“I found out about BMCC because I often pass by the lower Manhattan campus when walking my dog,” she says. Once enrolled, she worked with several professors who inspired her journey.

“It’s hard for me to choose just one faculty member who supports me at BMCC,” she says. “The faculty member who wrote my letter of recommendation was my public speaking professor, Mark Janis. His class helped me become a better leader, one that encourages other classmates, and of course, he helped me to become a better public speaker. If you’re nervous about public speaking, definitely take his class.”

Professor Kathryn Bockino, she adds, “was super supportive of me during my first semester here, returning to school after a five-year gap. She’s a great person to talk to and if it wasn’t for going to her office hours, I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten through my first semester.”

Leoung had originally started college in Connecticut in 2012. “I was on and off  as a college student, due to personal reasons,” she says. “Back then and I guess even now I’m unsure about what I want to do career-wise, but BMCC gave me a fresh start.”


Students who want to learn how to explore and apply to scholarships can contact Sussie Gyamfi, BMCC Scholarship Coordinator,

Encouraging students to apply for scholarships supports BMCC’s strategic goals including Strategic Goal #5: Strengthen our culture of care for students, faculty and staff.


  • Computer Science major Florian Charles is the first BMCC student to receive a $10,000 scholarship from Garden of Dreams Inspire
  • Writing and Literature major Kaya Fader and Computer Science major Amanda Loeung have been named 2023 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholars and each received a $1,000 scholarship
  • All three awardees say that supportive faculty and staff, as well as a sense of belonging and love of learning, inspired them to apply for scholarships

share this story »