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Students Say It Best!

On February 7 and 8, RCC celebrated the outstanding accomplishments of hundreds of local middle school and high school students of color in the categories of academic success, community service, artistic expression, athletic ability, leadership, or personal triumph and success. Joined by their proud family members, the young award recipients filled the theater for two consecutive nights of celebration. They were privileged to hear from several outstanding guest speakers, including Jordan Zuber-Banks, whose speech I am sharing with you here. After all, students say it best!

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and good evening to the leaders right in front of me. It is an honor to speak with you tonight. Before I begin, let me say, congratulations on your achievements, and distinguishing yourself from your peers. You may have noticed I said, “The leaders in front of me,” not future leaders or any variation of the phrase. For as young adults you are not just the future, we are the present. Implicit in the saying is the realization that your role in the world has
already begun. Therefore what you have achieved so far is exceptional and as you continue with your academic success, many opportunities will open up for you, which is quite an exciting prospect.

By extension, you will have many decisions to make. As a student in the Sam Draper Mentor / Talented Students Honors Program, I have been asked to speak with you tonight about my academic career; where I’ve been, how I got to be where I am now, and my aspirations for the future. So, to begin, during my junior year in high school, I did what many of you are doing now and what some of you will be doing soon; preparing for college. My parents and teachers taught me as a child that the only certain means of success is to go above and beyond, to render more and better service than is expected, no matter what the task might be. You all know that to do only what is expected of you is the surest way to condemn yourself to mediocrity. I don’t think any of you will be mediocre. Besides focusing on your GPA, a lot of you, like I was, are heavily involved in student life. I was a member of 15 clubs, holding leadership positions in five, and serving as president of two. Some of you have achieved similar feats in your careers so far and some of you will soon. I played varsity and JV sports, and set a record for my school’s mock trial team. Some of you have conquered demons like that and some of you will soon. Outside of school, I served my community through civic organizations, internships, and other activities. Some of you have built reputations like that already and some of you will soon. It wasn’t until I neared the end of my junior year that the idea of college came full force into my life. You will know exactly what I mean when I say that the expectations of both my family and peers were high for me, yet not nearly as high as my own. It has always been my dream to attend Harvard University. You have dreams like that, too. It might not be Harvard for you but it’s some personal or professional “Harvard” that’s your utmost goal for personal achievement. I aspire to become a lawyer. You all have your own, similar, but personal aspirations and you all will face challenges, just as I will. I found that in 2010 nearly 23,000 students applied to Harvard. Only 2,300 got in. Therefore, in order to overcome this statistic, I had to create a plan to distinguish myself further than I already had done. You will all have to do the same in order to succeed, and all of you have already begun that process of creating your own plans. You see, dreams and goals merely excite… you need plans to in-cite. So as I continued looking into my goals and my challenges, my Mom told me about an honors program at SUNY Rockland. She said I would get to in essence skip my senior year and begin earning college credits by taking college honors classes, close to home. Through this program, my family would save tens of thousands of dollars by sending me to this program for my freshman year (which would have been my senior year either way), and sophomore year in college. Did I make the right decision? Did you? Because my mom was right.

The M/TS Honors program here has transcended even my highest expectations. Instead of drowning in a sea of sameness, I feel as if I am on a mountain overlooking my future. As you know, the teachers here are amazing. They teach in ways both interesting and stimulating. They foster a positive and creative learning environment. And, the opportunities here are endless. Like many of you, I’m still young. I’m only 17 years old, and my first semester here I have already traveled to London for study abroad, I got to immerse myself in the culture, sights, food, and history while studying British literature. I interned with a national magazine, First Inkling, which is run by honors students and faculty here at the school. There are no community college programs anywhere in the world that let you do that. I debated teams across New York representing Rockland Community College. You, too, have had experiences like this and if you haven’t, I urge you to start taking more advantage of the opportunities that abound here. But perhaps most importantly, I urge you to take full advantage of your mentor. Each student in the honors program is assigned a mentor. But I have found many mentors among the faculty. Every professor here is more than willing to lend an ear and help with any problem, no matter how simple or complex. Through them I have found that I am never alone in my endeavors, nor am I alone in my triumphs. Joining the M/TS Honors Program here at SUNY Rockland has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I think it will be for you, too. I ask and expect that as you continue on your journey of academic success you strongly consider this program. Thank you for your time, and congratulations again.

At the Black Achievement Awards, pictured (from left to right) are:
Dr. Cliff L. Wood, President, RCC; and keynote speakers:
Deena R. Wilson, Senior Vice President, First Investors Corporation;
and Jordan Zuber-Banks, RCC M/TS Honors Student.


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