Guttman Community College students Bashir Juwara and Camila Rodriguez have been selected as semifinalists for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, making history as the first Guttman students to receive the honor in the College’s ten-year history. Mr. Juwara and Ms. Rodriguez join a distinguished group of 440 semifinalists from community colleges around the country and are two of 22 CUNY students competing for the prize. The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship offers coverage for students’ educational expenses for the two to three years necessary to achieve a bachelor’s degree at a transfer institution. Winners will be announced in May. The two Guttman scholars’ journeys leading up to the decision and graduation at the end of the semester are marked with resilience and perseverance.
Both Bashir and Camila started at Guttman in Fall 2020 as members of the first fully remote class. They both say that online learning has not been easy, but they made sure to take advantage of all the learning resources and support the College has offered throughout the pandemic in the remote-learning environment, and they have both thrived at Guttman. Their academic accomplishments have allowed them to join the Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society at Guttman, where Associate Director of Student Support Krystal Liriano-Gonzalez and Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Dr. Grace Pai, who advise the PTK, provided guidance in applying for the Jack Kent Cooke award. Bashir and Camila’s grit and dedication to their education are to be admired.
In addition to being a PTK member and a Jack Kent Cooke semifinalist, Bashir Juwara is also Guttman’s Student Government Association President. He emigrated to the United Stated from Gambia only a few years ago and has made great strides in pursuing his goal to be able to go back to Gambia one day and make a difference in his community, ensuring young folks like him have educational and career opportunities. He will be graduating from Guttman with a degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences. He has submitted multiple transfer applications; his dream school is Georgetown University, where he hopes to take advantage of the school’s Washington D.C. location to closely study policy and activism.
Camila Rodriguez was born in Honduras and came to the United States with her family at the age of sixteen, and, like Bashir, is a first-generation college student. With many people around her doubting her intellect and ability as a new immigrant, Camila overcame many obstacles and is now shining at Guttman. She is a Human Services major who has always been passionate about helping others. She said she has really enjoyed and learned so much from her internships and classes that pushed her to realize her potential. She credits participation in the Global Scholars Achieving Career Success (GSACS) project with opening her mind to a career beyond human services. While she is still undecided about where she wants to transfer after graduation, Camila would like to pursue social work, but now also wants to explore international business or a related field that would allow her to learn from, and work with, people from multiple cultures.
When talking about their Guttman experience, Bashir and Camila praise the multiple opportunities and resources available to all students and encourage everyone to take initiative, not be afraid to ask for help, and to participate in the programs Guttman offers. Camila touts the Peer Mentors who helped her with her assignments during Meet-Ups. Bashir has expressed supreme gratitude to all his faculty and staff mentors who helped him along the way. It was at the encouragement of their advisors who saw their greatness that Bashir and Camila applied for the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship.
Words of advice that the All-Star Grizzlies have to offer are to keep persevering despite uncertainty. “The worst enemy you could have is self-doubt,” Camila said. When presented with an opportunity, take advantage of it, and don’t be afraid to fail. And always apply for that scholarship – “the worst that can happen is that you won’t get it,” she said. Bashir reiterated the importance of being part of a supportive community like Guttman. On the achievement of being one of two students from Guttman to get the Jack Kent Cooke nod for the first time, he said, “it’s better to make history together than to do it alone.”