From Starbucks to Stand-out

May 21, 2012 | Borough of Manhattan Community College

From Starbucks to Stand-out

BMCC graduates, meet your 2012 Valedictorian: Liberal Arts major Andre Barber, an aspiring doctor with a 4.0 GPA, heading to City College of New York (CCNY) this fall.

“I’m excited to share my message with the rest of my peers, their guests, and the BMCC administration on graduation day,” he says.

Initially, college didn’t come easily to Barber. After graduating from his Manhattan high school, he enrolled at BMCC in 2005, but didn’t stay long.

“At that time, I wasn’t ready for college,” he explains.

Instead, Barber worked as a terminal manager at John F. Kennedy airport. “I realized if I wanted to get ahead, I needed my college degree. I felt limited,” he recalls.

Second chance
Feeling more confident the second time around, Barber re-enrolled at BMCC in 2010—and everything started falling into place. The “strong support system” Barber found at the college contributed to his academic success.

“English Professor Rolando Jorif encourages his students to carry themselves in a professional manner. Health Education Professor Olivia Cousins was so supportive and scholarship coordinator Sussie Gyamfi kept me on track, academically,” says Barber. “Science Professor Shalton Colquhoun answered all my questions about med school, and I asked a lot of them!”

There’s one more person at BMCC Barber wants to acknowledge.

“BMCC’s Vice President Marva Craig is so welcoming,” he adds. “She’s always asking me how I’m doing.”

A ‘hard-working’ student
Barber’s mentors share the same sentiments.

“Andre is an outstanding student,” says Gyamfi of the 2012 Valedictorian, who received a BMCC Foundation scholarship. “He’s one of the most enthusiastic students I have ever met.”

Colquhoun, Barber’s chemistry professor, agrees.

“I would characterize Andre as a curious, insightful, diligent, and a hard-working student who likes to be challenged academically,” he says.

Balancing work and classroom
Like most BMCC students, Barber worked while attending classes. He volunteers at Metropolitan Hospital by reading to young patients, and also manages a Manhattan Starbucks.

“I’ve learned a lot at Starbucks. I’ve definitely made mistakes, but working there has sharpened my people-skills and taught me how to manage others. I learned I can still be bubbly but less overzealous, as well as the importance of rallying a team,” he says. “I brought these skills to BMCC, and that’s when opportunities began to grow.”

Since 2010, Barber’s been active in Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honor society, the BMCC Debate Club, Scholarship Society events, and also worked as an on-campus tutor.

And—surprise!—Barber’s been the “Panther” mascot.

“Dressed in the Panther suit, I was featured in a holiday video with President Antonio Pérez and the children of the Early Childhood Center,” he says.

Moving on up…to CCNY
Zeroing in on his aptitude for science, Barber’s major at City College will be biology. And after that? Medical school.

“Bio fits me,” he says. “The nurses and doctors I’ve met at Metropolitan Hospital are so informative and helpful. I love the idea of balancing patient care with a soothing aspect. That’s what patients need; a doctor with a caring bedside manner.”

Barber, who practices martial arts in his spare time, advises his peers to “take risks.”

“You may not reach the goal you want, but if you don’t take risks in life, you’ll never know.”