Sinai Cuahutenco is on a mission to become an oncologist to honor her mother, who died of colon cancer at age 30 when Sinai was 13. And thanks to four CUNY programs that help talented but academically underprepared and financially needy students, she’s on her way.
She was 3 when the Cuahutencos came to the States, and attended elementary and middle schools here. But when her mother died, she and her three younger siblings had to return to Mexico to live with grandparents.
When she returned to New York in fall 2008, Cuahutenco, then 18, enrolled in CUNY Prep, which helps students develop the academic skills to earn a general equivalency diploma (GED). While there, she joined CUNY’s College Now program, which offers
college-credit-bearing courses to public high school students. She gained career skills through paid internships arranged by the CUNY Prep Job Corps program; she tutored English and statistics and was a human resources assistant for the CUNY/311 Project, in which students work as part-time call center representatives within New York City’s Customer Service Center.
GED in hand, she enrolled at Hostos Community College in fall 2009, opted into the ASAP program and earned an associate degree in two years.
She entered Hunter College with a 3.9 grade point average and is an honors student and Phi Theta Kappa member.
Now 21, she wants to finish her baccalaureate work as soon as possible. “I want it to take, the maximum, three years,” she says, before she moves into medical training.
Hunter counselors advised that the quickest route to a B.S. degree would be by capitalizing on credits she already had by majoring in psychology. And, she said, “In order to give proper care to anyone, it’s of the utmost importance to be able to understand human psychology. It changes a lot when people get sick.”
When she becomes a physician, she intends to focus on underserved communities, in either urban or rural areas — and to encourage other immigrant students like her. “I want to motivate students so they’ll stay in school….It just takes focus to get to what you want.”