‘I’ll See Everybody on the Top!’ Success and the College Discovery Program

On the afternoon of November 9, 45 BMCC students were honored for academic excellence – 45 students who all wondered at some point whether they were college material at all. Most of them began their college careers in remedial courses, many of them are not native English speakers, but all of them have now completed at least 12 regular credits and earned a GPA of 3.3 or better. They are the success stories of the College Discovery program.

College Discovery and its sister program SEEK take 100-800 students from each CUNY campus and provide them with financial aid, counseling, tutoring and the support they need to be successful college students. Each student selected to participate in the program is identified as having some need that the program can meet, and since there are more CUNY students who could benefit from this program than the funding will allow, the students are selected at random from the pool of those who are eligible. The expectations for the students are high once they are admitted to the program, but Wednesday’s ceremony demonstrated that it is worth the work.

College Discovery Director Orville Hill welcomed the crowd and spoke of the diversity of the BMCC community, and how that diversity reflected New York City. “As we reach out to you,” he challenged, “reach out to others.”

President Antonio Perez congratulated the Dean’s List students on their great accomplishment. “BMCC has higher standards than most community colleges,” he reminded the students. “We are holding you to the same standard as the four year colleges. You will go on to succeed.”

Vice President Michael Haynes explained the simple formula for success. “Success equals opportunity plus preparedness.” Dean Michael Gillespie stated with conviction, “nothing can be taught that you cannot learn.”

SGA President Jason Negron leapt to the stage and hollered, “HOW YOU DOING?” The students roared back. “After we discover knowledge, we will discover dollars, gwap, cheese, however you say it! I see in the crowd the next Oprah or Russell Simmons or Bill Gates!” The students continued to respond to his enthusiasm. “I’LL SEE EVERYBODY ON THE TOP!” he exclaimed as he exited.

The ceremony’s keynote speaker was Gregory Hunt, an attorney in the NYC Controller’s Office. Mr. Hunt graduated from BMCC in 1996, from City College in 1998, and from Albany Law’s joint JD/MBA program in 2001. Mr. Hunt was a College Discovery student during his time at BMCC. He spoke to the students candidly about sliding through high school, about dropping out and getting his GED, and about his mixed motives as a college student. “BMCC was my fourth try at college. Giuliani was doing his ‘welfare to workforce’ program, and I was on welfare, and I didn’t want to pick up trash in the park. So I went to college. I was hiding in college.” Ultimately, he met a professor who believed in his dream of becoming an attorney. “I did not graduate from Law School in spite of my GED and my AA from BMCC. I graduated from Law School because of them.”

For more information about College Discovery, see Frank Sinigaglia in S361 or call him at 212-220-8173.