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UMLA Alumni Spotlight

Damian Smikle

Damian Smikle was raised in the East Flatbush area of Brooklyn, New York. During his senior year of high school, Damian recalls being uncertain on whether or not he would attend college. “It was not a topic that was prioritized by my family” says Damian. This resulted in Damian working various odd jobs starting with a position as a baker at a confectionary shop and then working in construction for several years. Seeking a change, he enrolled in classes at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC).

It was during his education at BMCC where Damian discovered his passion for mathematics and was introduced to the world of investing in the financial markets. Damian’s vision for his future was further honed through the support of faculty mentors at BMCC and his involvement with the Urban Male Leadership Academy. “UMLA’s network was a tremendous help to me” says Damian. “It was the connections I made through UMLA and CUNY BMI that helped me reach my potential.”

At BMCC, Damian held various leadership roles such as Vice President of Accounting Club, Treasurer of the College Discovery Club and as a tutor for College Discovery. After graduating from BMCC in July 2012, Damian decided that he wanted to continue his education by pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Mathematics at the Ohio State University (OSU).

Damian’s extraordinary work ethic and commitment to excellence allowed him to obtain his first internship in the summer of 2012 at Barclays Capital in their Global Markets Summer Intern program. In this program, Damian rotated through three desks: Securitized Products, Client Capital Management, and International Equities. He returned to OSU in the fall of 2013 where he became a member of the prestigious fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated. After overcoming many life altering obstacles such as the loss of family members and financial troubles, Damian graduated from OSU in fall 2014 with a BSBA degree in Finance.

Damian is hoping to continue developing his knowledge of the financial markets through his new role at The Moody’s Corporation as an Associate Analyst on the High Yield team in Corporate Finance Group. He is also keen on pursuing a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential in the near future. As Damian continues to adjust to life after university, he wants to begin giving back to his community by working with the CUNY BMI and other programs that serve marginalized communities throughout the five boroughs. In the future, Damian is considering graduate school where he will potentially study mathematics.

Zenas Gallion

While working to complete his A.A. degree at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Zenas Gallion was introduced to the Urban Male Leadership Academy (UMLA). After participating in several UMLA workshops and making use of the program’s support services, Zenas went on to become one of the program’s most active and engaged participants. “UMLA provides a ton of resources” says Zenas. “Because of UMLA, I was able to obtain a scholarship from the college that helped me to cover some of my personal expenses.” In addition to demonstrating exemplary student leadership through UMLA, Zenas worked to develop his creative side, becoming a finalist in the 2013 BMCC Poetry Contest.

After graduating from BMCC in spring 2013, Zenas transferred to Hunter College and became a part of the Brothers for Excellence (BFE) during fall 2013 through his BMI affiliation. “I became a team leader during the fall of 2014 because my BFE coordinator saw my potential” says Zenas. “My participation in BMI has elevated my time management, and leadership skills, as well as my ability to address a large audience.”

Zenas is currently majoring in Psychology and English with a concentration in creative writing at Hunter College. He will graduate from Hunter in the spring 2015 semester and plans on working as a guidance counselor for high school students. Zenas is also working on a collection of poems that he hopes to get published in the near future. Zenas’ long term goal is to open a youth center that exposes under-privileged young adults to colleges, different forms of art, and international travel.

Gregory Rodriguez

Gregory Rodriguez grew up in Spanish Harlem, New York City and now lives in Brooklyn.  After enrolling at BMCC he wavered between liberal arts, business and math as his major.

“Finally I stuck with math, because that’s what I’m the best at.  Even as a child, it was my thing,” says Rodriguez, who was recognized by the New York State Mathematics Association for Two-Year Colleges (NYSMATYC) in April 2014.

After graduating from BMCC in 2014, he was accepted into NYU on a full scholarship for mathematics through the BMCC Pipeline Opportunities for Intercollege STEM Education (POISE) program.  There, he’s taken math courses such as Ordinary Differential Equations, Theory of Probability, and Real Analysis.  He loves the challenge and is poised to continue getting deeper into the study of mathematics. 

Gregory Rodriguez will be in Michigan State University during the summer of 2015 and will be conducting research there in mathematics with an assigned mentor.  He also hopes to attend Michigan State University for graduate school in the fall of 2016 after graduating from NYU with is Bachelor’s degree in mathematics.

Gregory is enjoying his time at NYU and uses his electives to take computer science courses and has even taken classes in Hebrew to learn a new language.  He is excited about where he is going, but never forgets where he came from.  He attributes much of his success to great programs at BMCC. Urban Male Leadership Academy programs such as the Each One Reach One Peer Mentoring Program with Professor James Blake, and the Blue Chip Program with Ashtian Holmes gave him the support that he needed to graduate.  He was nurtured at BMCC and is certain that wherever he goes, he will take CUNY with him so that others may know that at BMCC you can truly “Start Here, and Go Anywhere.”

Urban Male Leadership Academy

199 Chambers Street, Room S430E
New York, NY 10007

Phone: (212) 220-8000 ext 7276

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