On October 22, BMCC President Antonio Pérez; Provost and Senior Vice President Karrin Wilks; Vice President of Student Affairs Marva Craig; Academic Dean Erwin Wong and Vice President for College Development Doris Holz recognized students who were recently inducted into the college’s Out in Two scholarship program.
The induction ceremony and reception was held in Richard Harris Terrace on the college’s main campus. Stephen J. Meringoff of the Meringoff Family Foundation and Jay Lieberman, Trustee of The Derfner Foundation were both recognized for their continued support of the Out-in-Two program, and their combined donations of $750,000 over a three-year period.
President Antonio Pérez, who founded Out in Two in 1999 in response to New York City Mayor Giuliani’s criticism of community college graduation rates, told of Stephen Meringoff’s challenge to him, when they discussed funding for the program.
“He was willing to support Out in Two on one condition,” said the president, “and that was, that we find a match. A month later I met with Jay Lieberman, of the Derfner Foundation, who said, ‘If Steven Meringoff will do it, I’ll do it’, and the match was made, for a total gift over three years of $750,000.”
Leveraging resources and inspiration
As Steven Meringoff took the stage, he told the new Out in Two scholars that one of his own children, as well as a stepson had attended BMCC “and I can personally attest to the success of that education.”
Meringoff talked about his career background: “I was lucky enough to come to this place where I can be philanthropic, through real estate. Real estate is a game of leverage, and when we decided to give money over three years to Out in Two, we tried to use leverage. I told President Pérez, ‘Get me another donor and we’ll do it’, and now I’m looking at 44 extraordinary faces. I request that you allow me to further leverage our money and our grant by using your inspiration to help students who are not in the Out in Two program to work harder to get out in two years or three or whatever they can do, within their family situation.”
Distinguished guests and student speakers
Mary Quezada, Out in Two coordinator, welcomed the scholars and distinguished guests who, in addition to Stephen Meringoff, included Stuart Post, Director of the Meringoff Family Foundation, and BMCC Foundation Board founding member Raymond O’Keefe, Jr.
Guest speaker Dana Smith is an Out in Two alumna who earned an associate degree in computer network technology at BMCC, went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Lehman College, and is now working at Goldman Sachs.
“Out in Two not only helped me pay my tuition but gave me a chance to volunteer,” she said. “I was amazed when I heard that there were 44 new Out in Two students, because there were only seven when I started the program.”
Shernelle Thomas, a Business Management major and Vice President of the Out in Two Club, shared that being in the program has improved her academic ability, time management and public speaking skills.
“As Out in Two scholars we spend a lot of time character building, as well,” she said. “You can get involved with Meals on Wheels and other volunteering opportunities.” She also thanked the Meringoff Family Foundation and Derfner Foundation for their support.
President Pérez presented each Out in Two scholar with a plaque, and Steven Meringoff presented their scholarship checks. Afterwards, Out in Two student Ngawang Tsultim on acoustic guitar accompanied Out in Two member Kimberly Barrios, who sang “The Climb,” by Miley Cyrus.
President Perez said in his closing remarks, “That song, that performance touched me because life is all about the climb. We all take a different path, to get to the top. I’m inspired because your challenges reflect my own and those of many of the people in here. I commend all of you because in addition to the struggle, you are succeeding. You didn’t get here by yourself, and others need your help. Reach back and help others. Take this opportunity to impact not only your own life but those of others.”
The new Out in Two scholars are Jason Aguirre, Md Alamgir, Mayra Alban, Aemiro Allison, Deddye Alvarez, Daniel Appiah, Emma Assheton-Blair, Yamilex Aveiga, Roy Azoulay, Mia Batten, Mariam Bokuchava, Martin Brochot, Naiyiri-Blu Brooker, Javier Cardenas, Babara Castro, Valerie Collins, Tesfamichael Demeke, Jack English, Brandon Forrest, Anisah Ganee, Mirella Gerer, Ana Gonzalez, Janice Mahan, Paola Maldonado, Jasmin McClellan, Courton Messam, Kenneth Negron, Nekirah Nicholls, Sara Obermajerova, Shimona Oliver, Stephany Ortiz, Jose Pagan, Shaker Qaeyd, Ersilja Reci, Raja Riasat, Gabrielle Richards, Louis Ange Sakala, Sunita Sewsankar, Mian AbdulRaheem Shabbir, Tenjing Sherpa, Alexis Souquet, Jamaya Williams, Lanlan Zhang and Yinyin Zhang.