Bronx Community College senior Kojo Wallace was awarded today (April 7, 2008) with one of the highest honors bestowed on a community college student.
He was named a 2008 All-USA First Academic Team Member by the International Honor Society of Two-Year Colleges (Phi Theta Kappa) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The award was announced in Philadelphia at the national conventions of the two organizations.
Each of the 20 students selected to the First Team received a stipend of $2,500 and their colleges receive extensive national recognition through coverage in USA TODAY (April 7, 2008 – Section D).
According to Wallace, the trip to Philadelphia for the awards ceremony expanded his vision of the world beyond graduation. “The conference provided me with a huge motivation for my next step in education. I was honored to receive recognition of this magnitude,” he says.
“I met talented and high-achieving students and learned about Phi Theta Kappa activities on other college campuses.”
“I was exposed to ‘tangible’ success, not just the abstract concept. That’s encouraging. There were opportunities to network with successful people who are willing to give tips on how to succeed,” he adds.
Wallace, a liberal arts/sciences major from Ghana, West Africa, is president of BCC’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter. “I am the third of five children,” shares Wallace. “My older brother is in the United States Navy stationed in Japan, my older sister is studying to be a nurse in Ohio and my younger brother is studying biochemistry at SUNY Buffalo. Except for my youngest sibling in Ghana who is only 4-years-old, we are all in college.”
With aspirations of one day becoming a neurosurgeon, Wallace, who graduates in June, has applied to CUNY, Harvard, Cornell, University of Rochester, Amherst and SUNY Binghamton.
He loves to talk most about biology research in protecting land and water from pollution. “I am studying the use of rice (oryza sativa) cultivars to remove toxic-heavy metals from contaminated bodies of water and plots of land; this process is scientifically referred to as phytoremediation,” explains Wallace.
“Such research is very vital,” he adds, “because as the number of mining activities and rubbish dumps increase, more of our water and land gets contaminated; especially with heavy metals such as arsenic, a deadly carcinogen.
“I ave personally witnessed how catastrophic these heavy metals can be in Ghana’ western region where I was reared. There are a lot of mining activities. In some of the mining areas, there are generational health problems that are often reported. This is true for other mining and non-ining areas around the world where soil and water have been contaminated with heavy metals,” he adds.
Wallace maintains his 4.0 grade point average by studying consistently four to eight hours a day. “Usually, before coming to BCC’s Campus,” he says, “I study for four hours beginning at 3 a.m. On campus, I use the library for another two to four hours.”
To keep himself focused productively Wallace explains, “I create a time table that allows me to better manage my time. Also, by studying from before dawn, I can dedicate some of my time during the day for other activities such as tutoring or volunteer work.”
When Wallace, who speaks English and two Ghanaian dialects, is not studying, he listens to music, practices his acoustic guitar or plays soccer.
He arrived in the U.S. in February 2006 and enrolled in BCC in May that year, paying out-of-pocket tuition costs with the help of his father who is a taxi driver. This year he received full financial aid.
“My circumstances at that time made BCC the logical choice. For most of my first year, I worked from 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. as a security guard. I did not want to spend most of the day commuting. BCC was the closest college to where I live — 20 minutes by foot. He walks back and forth to campus 99 percent of the time because it’s good exercise. He takes the bus only when the weather is bad.
“When I came here, I had to learn to work, be a full-time student and earn excellent grades. I was no longer just a student back in Ghana earning excellent grades,” shares Wallace.
Despite his focus on his academics, Wallace makes time to participate in campus life. He is a college assistant/tutor in the Biology Department and is a member of the BCC Ambassadors program, which is an affiliate of the Student Government Association. Last semester, he helped coordinate a student canned food drive for the community.
Wallace says that he owes much of what he has achieved to Bronx Community College. “BCC has been family to me. I have been exposed to people from different backgrounds and I have been given academic opportunities that will no doubt affect my academic progress. The eagerness of professors to be involved with students has encouraged me in my research work and in leadership skills,” he says.
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Bronx Community College (BCC) of The City University of New York enters its 51st anniversary of service to students in New York City in 2007. Over the past five years, enrollment has increased 20 per cent to 9,000 students, reflecting the reliance of the surrounding communities on it as a pathway to a better life. BCC President Carolyn G. Williams is in her 11th year of leadership service to the College, which is located on a 44-acre campus at West 181st Street & University Avenue, formerly New York University’s uptown campus until 1973.
BCC students from over 109 nations receive an excellent preparation to go on to four-year colleges or to advance into successful vocational careers. Programs offered at BCC include Digital Arts, Computer Information Systems, Education Associate, Nursing, Nuclear Medicine Technology, RadiologicTechnology, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technology, Electronic Engineering Technology, Liberal Arts, Marketing, Accounting, Human Services, Media Technology and Paralegal Studies.
The College is home to initiatives not commonly associated with two-year institutions, such as the Center for Sustainable Energy, which promotes the use of renewable and efficient energy technologies in urban communities. The National Center for Educational Alliances (NCEA) is currently collaborating with South African Further Education and Training Colleges and universities to create linkages between these institutions. NCEA also coordinates the College’s international initiatives and the annual International Education Week.
The Center has also facilitated a campus wide effort to create BCC’s Center for Tolerance and Understanding. The Center for Teaching Excellence offers faculty development to promote student achievement and to stimulate discussions to keep the teaching and learning process vital and dynamic.
Take a look at BCC’s website at www.bcc.cuny.edu