May 2, 2013 | Borough of Manhattan Community College
Thanks to one woman and a community trust, many students at BMCC receive the academic and financial support they need to succeed.
Here’s the backstory: In 2008, Pat White, the Program Director for Children, Youth and Families at The New York Community Trust, arranged for a grant to be donated to BMCC on behalf of The Trust, which was used to fund The Odyssesy Project.
In the spring of 2011, White invited BMCC to submit a second proposal to The Trust requesting $100,000 to support BMCC’s planning and implementation of a Learning Academy program.
The result? White became a special friend to the college, and a new academic initiative was created called Freshman Learning Academy (FLA).
The success of this endeavor led to the invitation to submit a subsequent request for $150,000, to continue the Academy effort at BMCC. This grant was approved by The Trust’s board on April 4, 2013.
White—representing the New York Community Trust—was recently honored with a “thank you” luncheon at a Fiterman Hall banquet room, where she had a chance to meet some FLA students, advisors and supporters.
“We’re always trying to find different vehicles that work with our students—and this works,” said BMCC President Antonio Pérez about FLA. “We’re excited to continue it. Ms. White’s work is essential.”
Added Brian Haller, BMCC’s Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations, who was at the luncheon: “BMCC’s relationship with Ms. White started with just a phone call about The Odyssey Project, and today, BMCC and Ms. White work together as a wonderful team.”
He thanked White, “for her trust in us an institution.”
Launched in the fall of 2012, the Freshman Learning Academy (FLA) at BMCC helps students transition to college life, explore all their academic choices, and bond with faculty mentors and other FLA students. It’s specifically designed for Liberal Arts students, who attend special workshops and classes together.
Students who join FLA have access to benefits such as personalized advisement and registration by a Freshman Coordinator.
According to Alexandra Pyak, FLA Program Supervisor, there are currently 500 students in the FLA program.
At the luncheon, Pyak thanked White on behalf of FLA.
“Students are truly benefitting from this program,” she said. “I love watching them meet with their advisors. That’s when the magic happens.”
She views FLA as an extension of The Odyssey Project, since the program helps students overcome academic and personal barriers that may prevent them from graduating.
FLA advisor Angela McAleese shared a student success story with White.
“So many of our students are in need of services; they deal with everyday issues, such as feeling alone or overwhelmed,” she said. “We help them through these issues. I sent one student I worked with to the on-campus service SingleStop for food stamps, and she said she didn’t even know SingleStop existed.”
New friends, new support
FLA student Jennifer Nguy said joining FLA was “like coming home.”
“I took a break before coming to college and was unfamiliar with the college setting,” she explained to White. “I’m so grateful I had advisors and new friends who all made me feel so safe.”
Students Jealene Castellanos and Madelyn Gonzalez, who met in FLA class, feel like sisters.
“I’ve got A’s, a wonderful advisor, and made some best friends in FLA,” said Castellanos, who calls Gonzalez “a big sister who took me under her wing.”
Gonzalez told White, “without FLA I wouldn’t be able to attend BMCC. We all watch out for each other, and my FLA advisor Angela McAleese has been there for me more than people I’ve known for years; she’s amazing.”
Adds Castellanos: “Everyone should have this type of academic opportunity. I loved the FLA program.”
Thanking the students
White, who was honored with a special journal from the FLA students and given a special Thank You cake, was humbled by the praise for The New York Community Trust.
“I want to thank you for coming full circle in confirming the work we’re all about, which is to carry forth those elements that really help bring us to a different place in achieving what is so important to us,” she said, after hearing from the students in attendance. “And, in this instance, it’s the recognition that we’ve got some young people out there, and if we don’t invest in their achievements, we’re a lost nation.”
She concluded with a message to the FLA team: “I want to thank you for your role helping to make all of us better citizens.”