May 7, 2014: It's customary for a college to send letters to accepted students, but it's not often when the college comes to the students to commemorate and celebrate this next significant step in their lives.
On April 29, for the first time, members of Southern Vermont College's administration visited the Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE) office to award four seniors from Gorton High School in Yonkers their certificates of acceptance to the college as Mountaineer Scholars and personally welcome them to their new community.
A volunteer selection committee, whose membership included Bronxville resident Judy Unis, reviewed applicants' academic records, test scores, and involvement in extracurricular activities, read application essays, and conducted a personal interview with each student.
In keeping with the goal of the Mountaineer Scholars Program to provide an affordable private college education to students whose families have modest resources, each of the four scholars will receive a scholarship package underwritten by YPIE, government and Southern Vermont College grants, work-study assignments, and a small government loan.
Marie Rama, YPIE director and former Bronxville resident, introduced Mountaineer Scholars Keila Hernandez, Cheyenne Darcy Amaya, Kemberly Vasquez, and Albert Asamoah to an enthusiastic gathering of family members, friends, teachers and administrators, and YPIE staff and volunteers.
In her freshman year, Keila Hernandez decided to assume responsibility for her family's household chores, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and helping her mother when her mother suffered serious health issues. Without adequate time for studying, Keila's grades declined, but when the family obtained help, Keila's grades improved. "As I matured and watched my mom face those difficulties," Keila wrote in her essay, "I decided to become a psychologist. I have a passion for caring for people."
Cheyenne Darcy Amaya also plans to become a clinical psychologist and wrote in her essay that she plans to earn her PhD. An honor roll student, Cheyenne has taken Advanced Placement English, Spanish, and psychology courses. Beyond academics, she is Gorton student government president, she serves as a College Center student mentor, and she works as a yearbook photographer. A teacher described Cheyenne as a "rare gem who shares her brilliance with her peers and our entire Gorton community every day."
When she had to assume family responsibilities at home after her mother had a serious accident, Kemberly Vasquez did not let the demands of cooking, cleaning, shopping, and caretaking keep her from excelling in her studies. She has taken Advanced Placement Spanish, as well as honors English and history, and has achieved a GPA in the 90s. Along with her studies, Kemberly plays soccer and basketball. She wrote in her essay, "The challenges made me more mature, stronger, braver. I realized I could take on any challenge." Kemberly will pursue her dream of becoming a neonatal nurse.
Albert Asamoah and his family came to the United States from their native Ghana in 2012. In his first year at Gorton, he challenged himself by taking honors English, chemistry, physics, and precalculus, along with Advanced Placement English and biology. He ended the school year with a 94 GPA. "We saw in Albert a mature worldly wisdom we don't see in other young men his age," Marie Rama noted in her introduction. "It instilled in us a desire to support him as much as we could." Albert plans to major in bioscience at Southern Vermont College and become a doctor.
Southern Vermont College president Karen Gross told the newest Mountaineer Scholars, "For us it isn't just coming to SVC, it's graduating from SVC. That is a very important part of who we are. We are with you not just at the beginning, but all the way through to graduation."
Ivan Figueroa, director of the Mountaineer Scholars Program, echoed Gross's remarks in saying, "We not only want you to succeed, we will help you every step of the way."
When the 2014-2015 academic year begins, the college will have 65 Mountaineer Scholars on campus. The Gorton High School cohort will be the third group from Yonkers to enroll in the program.
Launched in 2007, the privately funded, nonprofit Yonkers Partners in Education has a mission to increase the number of Yonkers Public School students who complete a post-secondary education that will prepare them for a successful career. YPIE has created a college culture in Yonkers schools that did not previously exist.
Bronxville residents David Westin and James J. Veneruso serve on YPIE's board of directors, Westin as chairman and Veneruso as secretary.
Pictured here (L to R): Board member Marie Rama, Mountaineer Scholar Kemberly Vasquez, Southern Vermont College president Karen Gross, Mountaineer Scholars Albert Asamoah, Keila Hernandez, and Cheyenne Darcy Amaya, and YPIE Gorton High School college and career center advisor Stephanie Russo.
Photo by Carol P. Bartold