Defying Gravity

Behind every department award presented at the BMCC Honors Convocation is a student with a story.

Mykola Kyrychuk, from the Ukraine, spent a year in developmental skills classes, before earning a 3.98 GPA and winning the Academic Excellence in Engineering Science award.

Agnes Felicia, from Jakarta, Indonesia, works full time in a printing company and still maintains a 4.0 GPA. She was awarded the Grace Hopper Award from the Computer Information Systems department.

Cassandra Benoit, who won the Academic Excellence Award in Nursing, came to BMCC with a bachelor of arts degree in criminology, worked as a paralegal, and now plans to blend her past skills with present ones, starting a career in forensic nursing.

The stars and their supporting cast
As professors and administrators stepped to the podium to present awards to their students—58 awards, altogether—themes emerged in the stories presented.

Yes, students received copious support from their professors and staff at BMCC. Yes, they availed themselves of the support found in clubs, Phi Theta Kappa, internships, and the like.

But they also “paid it forward,” meaning, they shared their hard-won content knowledge and skills by tutoring other students, acting as welcome ambassadors, peer achievement leaders, and sister-to-sister mentors. They volunteered after Hurricane Sandy, shared study skills in Each One Reach One, and more.

“Congratulations to the stars of the show tonight, and their supporting cast, their family,” said VP for Student Affairs Marva Craig in her opening remarks, shining light on another contributing factor to student success—their families.

Parents cheered from the steeply tiered seating of BMCC’s Theatre II, while some students will be sharing photos of the moment with family in Russia, China, Trinidad and other countries around the world.

“You are the best of the best,” said Senior VP for Academic Affairs Sadie Bragg. “The one thing I’d like to share with you is, there is no place like BMCC.”

President Perez spoke frankly with the students about their “capacity for compassion.”

“At the end of the day,” he said, “these awards will have less meaning, and you’ll be measured by your ability to help and interact with others. Your legacy will not be defined by what happens here tonight. You’ve already shown you can achieve in the classroom. Now let’s see if you can achieve as a human being.”

The program featured a performance by the BMCC Select Chorus, directed by Professor Christine Free, and accompanied by Professor Howard Meltzer, on piano. Ten students in black suits and white blouses or shirts performed the soaring hit song, “Defying Gravity,” from the Broadway hit, Wicked.

“Something has changed within me,” they sang. “Something is not the same / I’m through with playing by the rules / Of someone else’s game / Too late for second-guessing / Too late to go back to sleep / It’s time to trust my instincts / Close my eyes: and leap!”

A new award: The Katy Halepli Scholarship
VP of Development and Chief Operating Officer of the BMCC Foundation Doris Holz presented the first Katy Halepli Graduating Scholarship for Women award.

The scholarship is a gift from BMCC Foundation Board member and former chair Elizabeth Butson, in honor of her mother, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology “at a time young women her age were destined to learn to cook, embroider and major in household duties,” Butson says.

The recipient of the first Katy Halepli scholarship, Marcia Grey, is secretary of the BMCC science club, and a volunteer in the Women’s Resource Center. She also volunteers at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and earned a 3.85 GPA.

If Katy Halepli were alive today, she likely would have approved of the choral performance’s selection of song, with lyrics that seemed to echo throughout the evening: “I’m through accepting limits / ’cause someone says they’re so / Some things I cannot change / But till I try, I’ll never know!”

At the event’s close, attendees met in the Richard Harris Terrace for a lavish buffet banquet, and enjoyed music by Sol Gipsys, a jazz band managed by guitarist and BMCC alumni Frankie DiDonato. The band also features Samantha Greene, vocals; Keiji Yoshino, bass; Kazoomi Yamane, drums, and Joel Rappelfeild, percussion. Sol Gypsis performs every year at Honors Convocation, as well as at BMCC’s freshman assemblies, and other special events.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The 2013 Convocation Awards included ACCOUNTING: Louis Horowitz Award, Cuizi Tong; ALLIED HEALTH SCIENCES: Academic Excellence [AE] in Health Information Technology, Vicky Le and Jennifer McLaughlin; AE in Respiratory Therapy Technology, Catherine Flynn and Sayed Ahmed; BUSINESS MANAGEMENT: AE in Business Administration, Dana Elbaz; AE in Business Management, Eunjeong Ko; Business Management Internship Award, Eunjeong Ko; Office Administration Internship Award, Kavita Seelal; CENTER FOR ETHNIC STUDIES: AE in Asian Studies, Jeahun An; AE in Latino Studies, Jennifer Polanco; COMPUTER INFORMATION SYSTEMS: AE in Computer Science, Naing Aung and David Eng; AE in Computer Information Systems, Richard Cruz; AE in Computer Network Technology: Wendy-Ann Fonrose, Fiorella Olivera and Md Sharafat; Grace Hopper Award, Agness Felicia; ENGLISH: AE in English, Lauren Jonik, Tabitha Rinko-Gay and Arthur Morris; HUMAN SERVICES, AE in Human Services: Shannon Barrows and Brett Toney; MATHEMATICS: AE in Mathematics: Goran Milic, Sung An and Evoung M’Voula; MEDIA ARTS & TECHNOLOGY: AE in video Arts & Technology, John Marshall; AE in Multimedia Art: Kirill Shevyakov and Gianluca Teti; AE in Multimedia Programming: Vladimir Barinov; MODERN LANGUAGES: AE in French Non-Native Speaker: Aharona Lerner and Lindsay Hadad; AE in Spanish Native Speaker: Antonio Fernandez-Borrego; AE in Spanish Non-Native Speaker: Julia Halpin; NURSING: AE in Nursing: Cassandra Benoit and Solange Ortiz; SCIENCE: AE in Biotechnology Science: Yuk Lam; AE in Science: Rada-Mayya Kostadinoa; AE in Engineering Science: Mykola Kyrychuk; AE in Forensic Science: Elaine Castillo; SPEECH, COMMUNICATION AND THEATRE ARTS: AE in Communicatio Studies: Natalia Sorokina; AE in Theatre: Amanda Beckett and Laura Mia Guzman; TEACHER EDUCATION: AE in Early Childhood Education (Childcare): Rebeca Genao; AE in Early Childhood Education (Preschool): Claudia Charles; AE in Early Childhood Education (Bilingual): Cesar Gil; AE in Early Childhood Education: Sara Marr; SPECIAL AWARDS: Valedictorian: Tabitha Rinko-Gay; Senior VP/Dean of Academic Affairs Award: Mustafa Assady; VP for Student Affairs Award: Guy Gerald Fabre; Orville N. Hill College Discovery Award: Ronald Burey; Abner B. Rosenfield Award: Jianhang Xiao; Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship: Azar Kafaei; Katy Halepli Graduating Scholarship for Women: Marcia Grey; Josh Wolfson Accounting Scholarship fund: Magda Kosiorek; Leila & Simon Peskoff Memorial Scholarship Award: Zoia Hmelnitcaia and Yazhu Liu; Icarus Prize for Mathematics: Carlo Fervil and Alan Ridderhof.