In With the New at the Freshman Convocation

  Campus Events, Feature, News   •

“I am looking at the class of 2021!” proclaimed Dr. Yvonne Erazo, Student life Specialist, as she delivered the opening remarks at the 2019 Freshman Convocation. Held in the Gould Memorial Library auditorium on August 29, it was the first campuswide gathering of the new academic year and drew a full house of high-spirited incoming Bronx Community College students.

“You are going to be so happy and successful — but first you have to learn to be confident, knowledgeable and strong,” Dr. Erazo continued. “We will teach you that. We are BCC and we will always be here for you.”

She encouraged the students to “Look around. Next to you on both sides. Behind you. These are now your classmates, your colleagues, your peers, your friends, your support system — right next to you, right now. Every single one of you walked up that hill to BCC and decided you’re going to make a change. You’re going to get an education.”

Dr. Erazo then introduced BCC alumna and current New York University student Oyindamola Shoola, who read her poetry (“I have raised my standard of being as well as my expectations of acceptance… I have become strong in the knowledge of myself”) and related the story of how she defied her family and pursued her interest in creative writing. Ms. Shoola will start working on her master’s degree in the subject next fall.

It was a story that resonated with the next speaker, BCC President Thomas A. Isekenegbe, who told the freshmen, “My father wanted me to go to medical school and I wanted none of it. Because I love people like you. I love teaching. And I love education. Later on in life, my father agreed with me. That you can be what you want to be as long as you do it well.”

The President then welcomed the new class of Broncos. “Fall semester is one of my favorite times of the year,” he told them. “I see you coming in at the gates on University Avenue and it really makes me happy. I say ‘Wow. We are opening the gates to your future.’ Thank you for picking Bronx Community College to begin your higher education, for giving us the honor of working with you.”

Then came the highlight of the morning, as BCC alumna Britanny Arboleda delivered a keynote address that was by turns moving, funny and uplifting.

“I emigrated to this country when I was six from the Dominican Republic,” she related. “When high school came around, I dropped out. My mom cried and she cried and I felt like I had failed. So here I am at home, playing video games, working at Target.”

But all that changed when Britanny got her GED and was accepted into Bronx Community College.

“I got here… and I fell in love. I realized I had an opportunity. I was no longer Britanny the dropout from the Bronx. I was a college student now! I could do it! That first semester, I got my first 4.0 and OH MY GOD I was on top of the world!”

“Once you do well here, you can go anywhere,” Britanny declared to a cascade of applause. And her life since is living proof of that — she recently graduated from Stanford University.

The morning ended with the return of Dr. Erazo, who led the room in a call and response. “If you work with me…” she cried — and the students answered “I’ll work with you.”

Then they walked out of the auditorium to do just that.

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