Bronx Community College Student Wins Peter Jennings Award

August 3, 2010 | Bronx Community College

Bronx, NY – Bully Camara, a business major at Bronx Community College (BCC), won a Peter Jennings Scholarship Laurel Award for being an exemplary student in earning his general education diploma (GED). Originally from the West African nation of Gambia, Camara is 50 years old and the first person in his family to go to college. “I follow the adage, ‘as long as there’s life there’s hope,’” said Camara. “I am very fortunate to have been able to work with the group of people who manage the GED program at BCC.” As part of his award, Camara received a certificate, two books on Peter Jennings and $1,000.

The Peter Jennings Scholarship Laurel Award ceremony was held in June 2010 at the CUNY TV studio on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. The $1,000 scholarships are given to adults who have recently achieved their GED diplomas, written an essay through the CUNY Adult Literacy/GED Program, and continued their education at one of the CUNY campuses. Awarded to up to 10 individuals each year, the scholarships are given in honor of the late Peter Jennings, an ABC-TV news anchor who never graduated from high school. Early in his journalism career he was a strong believer in the need for students to earn a high school diploma as the necessary first step to move productively into higher education or the workplace.

The scholarships are paid in part by the Peter Jennings Foundation and the Assurant Company, a provider of specialized insurance products. The award was presented to Camara by Dr. Leslee Oppenheim, CUNY director of Language and Literacy Programs, and Rhonda Barnat, managing director of the Abernathy MacGregor Group Inc., a strategic communications firm that encouraged Jennings to initiate the awards program in 2003. Camara said he will use his money to buy books for next semester’s classes.

As a student in BCC’s Pre-GED program, Camara distinguished himself as a serious student on an educational journey. “Mr. Camara always knew what he wanted to do,” said Joan Henlin, assistant director of BCC’s GED program. “He arrived early and was well prepared for class every day. He was a highly motivated student who demonstrated a strong work ethic.”

While in Gambia, Camara stopped his schooling in the 10th grade to help his parents, who were farmers. He then made several attempts at starting his own business before moving to the United States. “The earlier business ventures I tried did not succeed,” he said. “I know it was because I didn’t have a college education. In middle age, I came to see that getting my GED was a necessary first step.”

At BCC he was enthusiastic about learning, and he diligently completed his assignments. “When I passed my GED, I realized that I had a strong enough educational background to enroll in BCC,” said Camara, who speaks seven languages (German, English, French, Mandingo, Wolof, Lingala, and Fulani). This past spring he finished his first semester. He received As in all of his first semester business major courses except one, he shared. 

“The GED process of earning the equivalent of a high school diploma, studying, and passing a five-part test opens new worlds for students whose academic preparation has been limited because of poverty, lack of opportunity, or interruption in their education,” said Blanche Kellawon, director of Adult Education and Training Programs at BCC. She attended the awards event with Camara.

The CUNY Adult Literacy/GED Program is supported through funding by the New York State Education Department and the Office of the Mayor of New York City. The program provides educational opportunities for a diverse group of approximately 1,000 students a year. Students range in age from 16 to 75, and come from many parts of the world. The Peter Jennings Award ceremony was initiated by Jennings in 2003. He was 67 years old when he died in 2005. He was awarded the CUNY Chancellor’s Medal for his extraordinary achievements in journalism and his contributions as a role model and catalyst for a better-informed citizenry.

Founded in 1957, Bronx Community College (BCC), the oldest of City University of New York’s six community colleges, serves as the engine for academic and economic mobility for motivated students from diverse backgrounds and preparations. More than 11,000 students from over 109 nations are enrolled in 30 associate degree and certificate programs including Nursing, Radiologic Technology, Computer Graphics, Nuclear Medicine, and Business Administration, Digital Arts, Computer Information Systems, Education Associate, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technology, Electronic Engineering Technology, Liberal Arts, Marketing, Accounting, Human Services, Media Technology and Paralegal Studies. BCC’s 43-acre campus, high above the Harlem River, features architectural masterpieces of Stanford White and Marcel Breuer, as well as the Hall of Fame of Great Americans, the nation’s first hall of fame. BCC President Carolyn G. Williams is in her 14th year of leadership service to the College, which is located at  2155 University Avenue at West 181st Street, formerly New York University’s uptown campus until 1973.

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 and is also working to enhance student and academic support at the colleges. NCEA also coordinates the College’s global initiative which facilitates global learning within and outside of the classroom.

Bryant Mason / (718) 289-5208 / bryant.mason@bcc.cuny.edu