Fordham & BronxWorks Honor 2014 History Makers Graduates

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

In a ceremony at Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx, 24 high school seniors received compliments and certificates attesting to their graduation from History Makers, a unique college-preparatory program sponsored by BronxWorks and Fordham.  The teens are students from eight Bronx-based high schools who have set their sights on college and, as part of the History Makers program, carried out community-based research projects that point out problem areas that must be solved so that the South Bronx can reach its full potential.

The ceremony, witnessed by an audience of 120 parents and friends, as well as Fordham and BronxWorks administrators and staffers, also celebrated the ninth year of History Makers at BronxWorks.  Appropriately, the event’s theme was “Education and Liberation.”

Jean Pierre LaCour, who oversees History Makers as coordinator of BronxWorks Center for Achieving Future Education (CAFÉ), and Ken Small, development director of BronxWorks, spoke briefly.  Monsignor Joseph P. Quinn, vice president of Fordham’s mission and ministry, gave the invocation and prayer.

In his remarks, Mr. LaCour described the impact of History Makers on students who cycled through the program, giving them the opportunity to sample the campus environment, meet professors and upperclassmen who mentored them and to carry out research projects on themes related to community service.  The program is designed to reinforce their intention to get a college education, paving the way to possible scholarships and other aid.  

Mr. Small pointed out BronxWorks’ long-time relationship with Fordham, a partnership that has carried out many projects over the years.  He emphasized the importance of giving back to the community through community service, a theme emphasized by History Makers and the research projects they completed.

The highlight of the evening was reports on four research projects focused on local Bronx issues that were carried out by the History Makers participants, with the guidance of Fordham student mentors. The students carried out independent projects and then coordinated with team members to consolidate the results of their individual efforts. As Mr. LaCour pointed out, “These are considerable accomplishments for these students and a real taste of the kind of independent work they will be expected to initiate and finalize as part of a college curriculum.”

The projects were:  

Media Mirage:   Research confirmed the tendencies of media to foster negative views of the life and culture of Afro-American and Latino youths living in the South Bronx, findings that suggest much must be done to counteract negative stereotypes suggested by the media. (Students were mentored by Ciera Ambrose, a junior at Fordham.)

The Path to College:  South Bronx youth hoping to go to college face obstacles not encountered by students in more upscale communities, this study confirmed. Comparing the schools they attend with schools in white-dominant neighborhoods, deficiencies include fewer extracurricular programs and academic resources; unfair gaps in high school to college opportunities, and inadequate staffing to counsel students on preparing for college. (Mentor: junior Courtney Williams.)

School to Prison Pipeline in the Bronx:  Research indicates the Bronx school system resembled a prison system in areas including discipline and race and class biases in law enforcement, findings reinforced by the student researchers’ own experiences.  Inner city students and students of color experienced this animus in all too many public and charter schools, especially in the Bronx.  (Mentor:  junior Anderson Bridgemohan.)

Giving Hope to the Hopeless Borough:  The many  people in the Bronx from various backgrounds and ethnicities making up a diverse and immigrant-driven population have achieved distinctive cultural achievements that mitigate the problems this community faces.  (Mentor:  sophomore Jalen Glenn.)

Celebrating the night year of the History Makers program co-sponsored by BronxWorks and Fordham, Mr. LaCour paid tribute to Fordham academics and administrators who contributed to the overall success of History Makers.  In addition to the student mentors, he cited in particular two individuals:

Kathryn Crawford, LMSW, associate coordinator of service learning at the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice, trained the staff and mentors, outlined the program’s theme and its contents, oversaw production of program materials, arranged academic trips and supervised all activities and events related to History Makers.

Scarly Rodriguez, a junior on the Rose Hill campus, organized trips and living arrangements for the History Makers, and assisted in arranging speeches and other interfaces with Fordham academics.

The 24 graduates from History Makers’ ninth cycle are:  Kathleen Abbott, Unique Bartley, Omy Palmer, Tyler Rodriquez, Gregory Vasquez, Sachem Torres, Octavia Phoenix, Reanna Raja, Miracle Nwakile, Anuri Ireaja, Kevin Catalano, Dewin Pena, Clarissa Rivera, Benjamin James, Mahamadou Jagana, Jasmarie Molina, Christopher Coreano, Alexa Nunez, Corym Brito, Jocelyn Spencer, Isis Ramoo, Liya Demoz, Taja Clarke, Lorraine Ramirez.

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