Thinking About College?
It’s Never Too Early, Never Too Late
At The City University of New York

From their schoolhouse window, the Jovine sisters, Ashley, 7, and Crystal, 6, can see century-old oak and maple trees, and the genius of architect Stanford White: neoclassical tan-bricked creations and a copper-domed treasure inspired by the Pantheon of the ancients. These uplifting surroundings are unique to the “Family College,” an innovative program on the campus of Bronx Community College where parents can pursue college degrees while their children attend classes from preschool through the second grade.

A short subway ride away, John Romo, 71, is preparing for an advanced degree in mechanical engineering at City College in Manhattan. A native of Chile, Romo worked in architectural design in New York City before pursuing his high school equivalency degree, then going on to Borough of Manhattan Community College and City College where he received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering last June. “I'm grateful to The City University of New York for helping me to achieve my dreams,” he said.

Ashley, Crystal and John Romo are just three of the thousands of students—some very young, some retirees and some somewhere in between—who are participating in the lifetime of learning opportunities at The City University of New York. They are proof positive that when it comes to CUNY, it’s never too early and never too late to begin thinking about a college education.

“The City University of New York provides opportunities for advancement through higher education for tens of thousands of familiesæfrom young children to recent high school graduates to parents and grandparents,” said Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. “Our students appreciate the importance of a quality education in the marketplace of ideas and careers.”

The educational offerings are innovative, comprehensive and available in all five boroughs. Child care centers serve 2,500 young children of students at all 19 CUNY campuses. Nearly one in four CUNY students are parents. In cooperation with the Board of Education, more than 300 students from pre-kindergarten through second grade attend Family Colleges at three community college campuses where their parents pursue associate degrees.

For the enterprising high school student, CUNY’s College Now offers enriched courses for college credit and skills development at 200 schools in all five boroughs. Almost 30,000 students take advantage of this opportunity. In addition fifteen public high schools that are affiliated with CUNY, including three new special entrance schools, make their homes on CUNY campuses in Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. Over 8,000 students are enrolled this fall. CUNY Honors College, now in its second year, is a sought-after challenging program for academically high achieving students. Twenty-five hundred students applied for 334 seats in the 2002-2003 Honors College freshman class.

Special programs are geared to older students, including Queens College’s Adult Collegiate Education (ACE), open to students over 25, and Kingsborough Community College’s “My Turn” for seniors, even those who do not yet have a high school diploma. The CUNY BA program is another offering popular with older students that allows them to take classes at multiple colleges. For the working student, eight colleges offer degrees that can be earned entirely on the weekend. Senior citizens pursue a college degree tuition-free at six community colleges. At the four-year colleges senior citizens may audit classes, on a space available basis, for $70 per semester.

And each year more than 200,000 New Yorkers of all ages enroll in degree credit courses and more than 205,000 in a myriad of adult and continuing education programs offered each year at all CUNY colleges.

It’s a wealth of opportunities. Ashley Jovine and John Romo are just two of the success stories that span the generations. Others include:

Arnold Lakind, 75 years old, and a grandfather of ten, who graduated from Lehman College in June with a Master’s Degree in Special Education is planning to continue there for another graduate degree in speech, language and hearing, with an eye on becoming a speech pathologist. In the meantime he is considering offers to teach the disabled full-time. He has a particular interest in the field because his son, now an accountant and a lawyer, has suffered from Tourette’s syndrome. He chose special education because, after retiring as an enrollment management consultant at SUNY Maritime College, he decided it was “time to make a career change.” It is one of several careers he has enjoyed. During World War II he was a pilot and supply officer with the rank of lieutenant j.g. in the Navy Aeronautical Division. After the war he graduated from Baruch College in 1954 with a degree in marketing management and went on to a rewarding career in the aeronautical industry, first helping to build several of the engines that fly military aircraft, and later in human resources.

Mr. Lakind is now thinking about adding theater arts or Russian to his curriculum, as well. “As long as you learn, you live,” he says.

Luka Levi, three and a half years old, whose parents speak Serbo-Croatian at home, has learned English this year in the Children’s Learning Center at Hunter College. His mother is a graduate chemistry student there.

Grafton Miller, 75, who was born in Barbados, spent 28 years in the plastic fabrication industry, first in England, and then in the United States after being sent here by his employer in 1982 to supervise one of its contracts. When he retired in 1994, he decided he wanted to do something entirely different. He worked at the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation, first as a volunteer and then as a customer services representative. A graduate of a technical college in England, with a passion for knowledge and strong encouragement from his large family, which includes 16 children and 16 grandchildren, and former colleagues, he enrolled in Kingsborough Community College, where he earned an AAS degree in community health in 1998. Continuing his education at York College, he earned a B.S. degree in Health Sciences last June. Recruited by a former supervisor at HHC after graduation, he is currently a customer services outreach representative there.

Benjamin Zweiter, 84, put college on hold to help support his parents and siblings during the Great Depression. Then he joined the Army during World War II and next came the responsibilities of raising a family. Sixty-five years passed before Zweiter, a Riverdale resident, returned to the books after his first few semesters in the 1930s. In January, he accepted a political science degree from Hunter College, culminating an undergraduate career that was suspended to live through events his fellow students only read about in their history books. He began his collegiate career at City College, but the Depression cut his studies short. As the oldest child, he was responsible for helping his immigrant parents put food on the table of their Lower East Side apartment. He decided to focus on work and wound up owning his own grocery store in Bensonhurst. He got married and served in World War II where he was an Army radio specialist. He was responsible for stringing communication wires along the French coast ahead of the allied troop landings. After the war, he went to work in the clothing industry and helped to raise three children. He retired at age 74. Six years later, his wife and children convinced him to go back to school. With his undergraduate studies behind him, Zweiter has no intention of taking a break. He would like to get a master's degree in either Jewish studies or political science.

Chrysanthy Constantinou, 76, earned an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts with honors in June from Kingsborough Community College. A great-grandmother, her children have baccalaureate degrees and her grandchildren have master’s degrees. After retiring from the telephone company in 1988, where she worked as a business representative, she decided it was her turn. The “My Turn” program for seniors offered her the way. Mrs. Constantinou liked it so much, she has volunteered in the office. Now she is thinking about continuing her studies at Brooklyn College.

Timothy Yoo, five and a half years old, has learned that a good sense of humor helps make friends with other children in the Child Development Center at Queens College where his mother is a student.

Santiago Gutierrez, four years old, is starting his second semester at LaGuardia Community College’s Early Childhood Learning Center. His mother is studying English as a Second Language at LaGuardia.

Mildred Guillermo began her college education at Borough of Manhattan College in 1997 with her one year old daughter Karina Fernandez in tow. Karina, now 6, has entered first grade, having completed her stay at the BMCC Early Childhood Development Center. Her mom is a graduate of BMCC and is studying for her bachelor's degree at CUNY's City College Center for Worker Education in Tribeca.

When Violet Jolly, 76, graduated from Medgar Evers College in June with a B.A. in Psychology, it was with a great sense of satisfaction. She had fulfilled a decades-old promise she made to her father that she would finish her education when she left her homeland of Barbados. After attaining her GED, Mrs. Jolly took a long time off from school to raise her family and to work in home care. Everyone else in her family completed their education. When the time came to go back to college, Medgar Evers appealed to her because it offered night classes and because the student body reflected her cultural background. All the while she was enrolled, she continued working and taking care of grandchildren. She likes to think she is setting an example for future generations as some of her professors were her own role models. “Keeping your mind active keeps you young,” she said.

Talia Taheri, three years old, and her twin sister Tania, have been enrolled since May in the Child Care Center at Queensborough Community College where their mother, Farzaneh Taheri is a nursing student. Fellow students are another set of twins, four-year-old Tasnia Nokib and her sister Thasin, who are doing their own learning while their mother Afroza Kharom is a computer information systems student.

And then there’s Pat Panzarino, who last June graduated from the College of Staten Island at the age of 81. He started college 51 years after high school and took 12 years to complete a B.A. in Anthropology. “I gave myself plenty of time and did a lot of research,” he said.

A radioman first class in the Navy during World War II, he worked for 40 years as a technical supervisor in the overseas control room of RCA Global Communications. During that time he worked on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs as part of the ground support team. His momentos include a medallion he was awarded made of metal from the spacecraft Eagle that landed on the moon and the space craft Columbia that orbited the moon.

Spurred on by his family’s college history—his late wife graduated from Hunter College and all four of his children also received college degrees æ he enrolled at CSI. Like many other senior students he said, “I brought my knowledge and experience from my lifetime to the college.”

Panzarino’s not done yet. He’ll continue taking art and music classes. He wants to pursue a Master’s Degree in Anthropology. “Goals are important in life at any age,” he said.

The City University of New York, the nation’s leading urban public university, comprises 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, a graduate school, a law school and a medical school. More than 207,000 degree-credit students and more than 205,000 continuing and professional education students are enrolled throughout the five boroughs of the City of New York. For more information visit www.cuny.edu.

Timothy Yoo
 
Violet Jolly
 
John Romo
 
Luka Levi
 
Grafton Miller
 
Santiago Gutierrez
 
Chrysanthy Constantinou
 
Arnold Lakind