BCC Graduate and Michael Steuerman Scholarship Student Is Touched by Summer Volunteer Experiences in Peru

Bronx, NY – Daniel Robles (a BCC 2009 liberal arts/psychology graduate) had a transformative experience as the recipient of the Michael Steuerman Legacy Fund scholarship ($2,500) this past summer. In June, he traveled to Cusco, Peru, the city known for Machu Picchu in the Andes Mountains, located 11,000 feet above sea level and often referred to as “The Lost City of the Incas.” (See Steuerman description below.)

“I volunteered in an after-school program and helped children to catch up with their homework by explaining basic math and Spanish,” says Robles. “The volunteer program in which I worked included people from the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. Part of the underwriting management costs was given to the communities where we worked.”

For Robles, who came to the Bronx from the Dominican Republic in 2006 and enrolled at Bronx Community College in 2007, the experience opened his eyes to the world. The majesty of the surrounding Andes Mountains and the dusty poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of Cusco were the backdrop for Robles’ travels in his after-school workday program with children (4 – 10-years-old) for whom he tutored and sometimes sang to and played a guitar. It was winter in Peru in June. The days were cool and the nights were cold and dry. Many of the young people were so poor they didn’t have suitable warm clothes to protect them from the cold outside their houses.

He said the trip was transformative in many ways because it expanded his cultural understanding immensely. “Living like a local gave me a vivid experience of the bitter reality of the poor and the less fortunate in South America. After I came back to the USA, I realized that the most valuable treasure in this life is to live in harmony with ourselves and our communities, and that struggling to have a life with unnecessary luxuries is what makes the people in more developed societies not appreciate what they have.

“The people are quite shy with strangers, but I found that if I broke the ice first they were very friendly,” says Robles. “I found them to be very spiritual and some of them very religious. They were very proud of their heritage as well. It was interesting because that heritage combines their ancient Inca beliefs with Christianity.”

Robles states that he is very appreciative of what Bronx Community College helped him to do. “This is the place where I mastered interpersonal relations. It was my first college experience in the United States. It was a challenge for me to adapt to American college standards. I was encouraged to become a better public speaker. I had to master English and learn how to speak in front of a room full of strangers.

“I remember writing my first essay. I visited the Writing Center. I learned to listen closely to my professors. And, I learned to ask questions,” states Robles. He says some of his favorite professors at Bronx Community College were History Professors Drs. Tamar Rothenberg and David Gordon; English Professor Andrew Rowan;
Psychology Professor Najwa Awad; Orientation and Career Development Professor Dr. Ted Ingram; and Professor Denise Frank in Abnormal Psychology.

On his stay in Peru from June 13 to 29, Robles maintained a journal and took many pictures which he has edited. He said that he would be happy to talk about his trip to BCC students if professors or students invited him back to BCC.

Prior to coming to BCC, Robles studied psychology at the Universidad Technologica de Santiago Utesa in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Why was he selected to receive the Michael Steuerman scholarship? Robles says “because my proposal was associated with my background as someone who was born in the third world who understands the importance of hard work and education, and my willingness to give the best of me in volunteer projects without forgetting that my work was also going to become a cultural learning experience.”

Now, Robles is a psychology student at the City College of New York. He hopes to achieve the professional and educational excellence in his field to become a clinical psychologist. To help pay the bills, he is a salesperson in a watch store in Times Square.

“I encourage BCC students to explore connecting with opportunities to volunteer in the U.S. or foreign countries. What can be learned with these experiences can be invaluable over a lifetime,” states Robles.
“I say to BCC students and donors who would like to contribute to help students volunteer in foreign countries that going abroad gives an invaluable experience on learning how other people live. Volunteers learn by helping others. Students qualify to win a scholarship through education and training and by committing themselves to community work. Gaining experience by going abroad in a program like this is one of the ultimate lessons one can learn in this life.

“I recommend BCC as a college where students can share something in common with other people in the world. This is the starting point. BCC’s staff works hard for students to develop a cultural understanding which can lead students to become global learners.

“There’s a need in our modern societies to be globally aware. In becoming a nation with an inner cultural connection, we as students will be able to cooperate better in our diverse system,” adds Robles.

Michael Steuerman was one of Bronx Community College’s most esteemed faculty members. He passed away in 2006. He served the College for over 30 years. During this time, in addition to his teaching and coaching, he accepted many administrative responsibilities: Chair of the Department of Health and Physical Education, Dean of Students, Chair of the Curriculum Committee, and founder of SHARE, a community-based food collaborative. During his tenure at the College, Professor Steuerman earned many tributes for additional, wider responsibilities which ranged from CUNY’s Director of Athletics to coach of Israel’s Olympic wrestling team.

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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 www.bcc.cuny.edu