Bronx Activist Urges BCC Freshmen At Convocation “To Be Who You Are Supposed To Be!”

Bronx, NY – Keynote speaker Alexie M. Torres-Fleming told 1,000 students, the highest number on record to attend a Bronx Community College freshmen convocation, “As you start your college career aspire to be who you are supposed to be!

“Let your light shine! Don’t let people negatively typecast you because you are from the South Bronx or for the color of your skin. And certainly don’t let people tell you that you can only lead a better life by leaving your Bronx neighborhood to go somewhere else. Too often we believe those myths which others spread.”

Torres-Fleming, founder of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ) in the South Bronx, who grew up in the Bronx River Houses, said she thought she became a success when she left her neighborhood, stepped into corporate job America, and was living in an apartment on West 34th Street.

“It wasn’t who I was. I had succumbed to the system’s opinions of what I should be, but I found that role was not what I wanted,” stated Torres-Fleming.

In a turnabout in 1992, she came back to the South Bronx from Manhattan to work with parishioners from her church to resist drug dealers who had taken over a couple of crack houses in her neighborhood. The drug dealers retaliated by attempting to burn down her parish church.

This attack, far from discouraging Torres-Fleming, emboldened her to become even more involved in her old neighborhood. She founded YMPJ, a faith-based community development organization that aims to empower local youth. Using education and community organizing, YMPJ has helped a generation of Bronx young people discover that through advocacy, community organizing, journalism, environmentalism, and the arts, they can play an active role in shaping and improving their neighborhood.

The successful effort to rid the neighborhood of the crack menace influenced her to take a new career path. She changed her life to be more connected to the environment.

Her message followed that of Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs George Sanchez’s message: “There is no place you can plan to go in life where a college education will not be needed.” He also counseled that “the journey you are taking will require persistence, sweat, tears and a willingness to never give up. If you stop and think about it, success at Bronx Community College is commonsensical. Please remember that.”

Sanchez’s message was also followed by Dr. Jennifer E. Misick, acting associate dean for Student Support Services. She said: “If there is any one secret to success, it is in the ability to benefit from another person’s point of view and see things from his or her angle.”

She then encouraged students to pay close attention to Orientation and Career Development information provided by their coaches. This information, she explained, would help students understand the culture of being in college. It is important for students to learn what behaviors will lead to their staying in college and graduating.

During the one-hour event, Music Professor Tom Cipullo led the BCC Singers in a rendition of a song from the movie Fame. Professor Sue Moss directed a performance by the BCC Dance Workshop to the theme song from the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

The successful freshmen convocation was planned and managed by the Office of Student Life.

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Bronx Community College (BCC) of The City University of New York is in its 51st anniversary year of service to students in New York City in 2008. Over the past seven years, enrollment has increased 30 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 12th year of leadership service to the College, which is located on a 43-acre campus at 2155 University Avenue at West 181st Street , 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