HIGHER ED TODAY
Kingsborough Community College student
Jaweria Bakar grew up in Pakistan
and moved to Brooklyn with her husband in
2010. Inspired to become a doctor after her
father’s recovery from a stroke, the mother
of two enrolled at Kingsborough in the fall
of 2018, ending a decade-long educational
gap. There, she emerged as a campus leader,
and an honors biology student.
This spring, Bakar was one of three
high-achieving CUNY community college
students to win a highly competitive
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate
Transfer Scholarship, joining an elite
group of 50 students selected from among
1,500 applicants from more than 300 community
colleges. The scholarship, worth
up to $40,000 per year, will help Bakar to
continue pursuing her bachelor’s degree at
She is one of dozens of current CUNY
students and recent grads who have garnered
prestigious honors during this academic
awards season. In addition to the
Cooke winners, CUNY counted one Soros
winner, 16 Fulbright scholars, two Goldwater
scholars, one National Institutes of
Health’s Oxford-Cambridge Scholar, seven
National Science Foundation Graduate Research
Fellows, and the list goes on.
Even as our attention remains focused
on the medical, economic and emotional
hardships that have been wrought by the
coronavirus pandemic, our students continue
to shine. It is their resiliency, determination
and drive that make CUNY,
a transformative engine for thousands of
families with roots in every corner of the
world, a beacon of opportunity that will
be even more vital in the unsteady times
It is important, then, that we take stock
of our students’ outstanding accomplishments,
and extend the congratulations and
recognition that they richly deserve.
This year’s cadre of standouts includes
Haiti-born poet Joel Francois, a recent
Brooklyn College grad whose family immigrated
to Brooklyn when he was 5, who was
honored with the renowned Soros Fellowship
for New Americans.
Lehman College senior Jasmine Euyoque,
the child of Mexican immigrants
and the first in her family to attend college,
won a Fulbright U.S. Student Scholarship.
Euyoque excelled in the highly selective
Lehman Scholars Program, cultivating
an interest in computer science. She plans
to spend her Fulbright year teaching English
in Uruguay, where she seeks to expose
youngsters to opportunities in tech.
Her successes, along with those of
Francois, Bakar and the others, reinforce
the values of our University.
Feting our Grads
The conclusion of the semester also
means it’s time to honor our graduates. For
more than 30,000 (CHECKING) members of
CUNY’s Class of 2020, the last leg of the college
journey took an abrupt and unimaginable
turn. These grads had their final semester
altered in unprecedented fashion,
but they still made it to the finish.
Now, despite the requirement to physically
distance in response to the coronavirus,
it is crucial that we give them a fitting
In lieu of in-person ceremonies, which
most of our colleges still plan to hold when
circumstances allow, CUNY schools have
already started holding virtual festivities
that feature speakers from the worlds
of government, philanthropy and the sciences.
They include New York State Attorney
General Letitia (Tish) James; Former
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; marine
biologist and environmental advocate
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson; two-time CUNY
graduate and immigration advocate Antonio
Alarcon; and philanthropist Judith K.
I am participating in many of these
virtual celebrations and have already addressed
the graduates of several schools,
including the history-making first graduating
class of CUNY’s School of Medicine.
Those brave students concluded their studies
ahead of schedule so they could join the
frontline battle against the pandemic.
As I’ve told many of our students, the
Class of 2020 has demonstrated a resilience
and resolve that inspires me. They stayed
strong, adapted and pulled together, even
as their campus life ended abruptly.
I am incredibly proud of them, and
despite the uncertain times ahead I’m as
optimistic and excited as ever about their
Please join me in congratulating them.
TIMESLEDGER | QNS.COM | MAY 29-JUNE 4, 2020 19
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