Symbolizing the promise of a bright tomorrow, six 2009 Students of the Year, their sights set on college, were recently recognized for their academic efforts, achieved via hard work and a “can-do” attitude.
An afternoon of inspiration and celebration best describes the Thirteenth Annual Achievement Awards Benefit Luncheon held in Queens Village on Nov. 21. The theme, “Don't Give Up on Your Dream,” resounded in the room where members and supporters of the You Can Go To College Committee gathered together to honor individuals whose “generosity of spirit” and support helped their mission succeed. Student honorees' accomplishments were highlighted. Dressed in their finest, the program's best lined up to receive their awards, smiling proudly for those in attendance.
The committee, a community based nonprofit organization, was formed to ensure a smooth transition from high school to college, providing opportunities for Queens youth from challenged communities, to pursue their dreams. Their mantra is: “Our youth are the key to tomorrow.”
“This is a worthwhile program. There are so many students this program has helped. I am very honored to be able to support it in any way that I can,” said Judge Cheree Buggs, a former honoree of the committee and now a Queens Civil Court Judge. In her speech Buggs said, “Take the power to make your life healthy and happy-take the power to reach year dreams.” Indeed, she is proof that a close-knit community of people, who are driven to make a difference, can make good things happen….
The committee's co-founders, Executive Director Dorita Clarke and Educational Director Sister Shirley Dye, have made their vision a reality for over 3,000 students enrolled in colleges and universities and more than 1,000 graduates across the U.S. Many helping hands worked together to put those students on the road to a college education by providing training for the PSAT and SAT, and honing skills required for acceptance to a college of their choice.
Later in the school year, the committee will be hosting its big annual event, the 14th Annual Historical Black College Bus Tour for students.
One student who would be able to visit the school of her choice on the tour is Shareef Babb, who wants to major in International Business at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She has already benefited from the committee's work.
“The program helped me push farther,” Shareef said. “It gives you inspiration and it was really informative.”
Another student, Jasmine King, who takes law courses at Cardozo High School, echoed those feelings, saying, “The program showed me that I should never give up and that I'm able to go to any college.”
Parents of students who have gained from the program were among those attending the luncheon.
“It was a struggle for us, but the program walked him through the process of getting into college,” said Nancy Scott, whose son Jamaal was one of the first students in the program. “He was accepted to Morehouse College, and is now working toward his doctorate in clinical psychology, graduating in July 2010. Because of this program, his college registration fees were waived and congressmens' wives donated $5,000 towards his education. While in college, Jamaal even received care packages.”
During the event there were words of encouragement from officials and dignitaries including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Fox 5 TV reporter Nicole Johnson and high-ranking members of the NYPD, among others. The family of police shooting victim Sean Bell was also there; his sister, Delores Bell, was one of the student honorees.
In a letter to the You Can Go To College team, Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), the deputy majority leader, wrote, “Our young people must be constantly reminded that education is freedom and the catalyst to having a life that is full of opportunities and advancement. The steady encouragement and support given to the young people who participate in your programs helps them to develop self-esteem and confidence, bolstering their desire to achieve higher education.”