BCC celebrates its 60th year anniversary

Martinez (l) with Isekenegbe, Councilman Fernando Cabrera, Joyner, councilmen Jimmy Vacca and Ritchie Torres, school faculty and elected officials at the 60th Proclamation Ceremony.
Photo by Jewel Webber

One of the borough’s oldest community colleges has embarked on a milestone year.

This year, Bronx Community College is celebrating its 60-year anniversary, after the school was officially opened in 1957.

Established by civic-minded groups to meet the growing need for increased higher education facilities in the Bronx, BCC currently serves a student body of just under 12,000, provides more than 30 academic programs that prepare students for a career and/or continuing their education at four-year colleges.

“One of the main goals of this school is to provide affordable but high quality education to first-generation, immigrant and low-income students who have the determination but just need the opportunity to be successful,” said BCC president Thomas Isekenegbe, who has held the position since June 2015 and originally came here in 1981 from Nigeria. “In my opinion, a good education is the key to economic success and social mobility.”

Isekenegbe previously served as president of Cumberland County College, a community college in Vineland, NJ, for six years.

“This school has always had a student-first mentality, and I’ve told many of these students in the past – one of you will be sitting in my chair one day,” Isekenegbe said.

“I owe a lot to BCC – this school is the reason why I have learned so much and have been so successful,” said Nicholas Asamoah, an honors student who currently serves as the president of the BCC Student Government Association and will graduate in June. “I never imagined I would make such an big impact here – and there is nothing better than inspiring someone and making their life better.”

Asamoah, a chemistry/psychology major who came here from Ghana in 2012, was recently accepted to John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Law and Society to complete his undergraduate degrees.

“They (BCC) made me feel welcome – as this school is accepting of all ethnicities and cultures,” said Asamoah. “My mom (Patricia) always told me that getting an education was very valuable, and, with this education, I am very much looking forward to serving my community when I go back home.”

“Education gives us the ability to spread our wings and discover our potential, and when you don’t have an education, you live a different life,” said Kirssy Martinez, a 2015 graduate who came to the Bronx from the Dominican Republic at age 14 and became the first DREAMer Valedictorian upon graduation, after receiving a scholarship from TheDream.US, a program which aids low-income immigrant students who come to the US at an early age with no documentation in attempts to provide them with a quality education. “Education is a privilege – and I was not only privileged but blessed to have the opportunity to go here. It was one of the greatest things to ever happen to me.”

Martinez, who chose to balance five-course semesters along with her responsibilities as a parent, successfully earned the credits she needed to complete her associates degree in two years with a 4.0 grade point average. She said she gained tremendous support from the BCC Child Care Center, which assists student-parents.

Martinez, who will graduate with a major in political science and a minor in public policy in June, has also held previous internships through the UCLA Labor Center, which then placed her at the LatinoJustice PRLDEF, CUNY Women’s Public Service Internship Program and Causus CUNY Scholars Program, as part of the Edward T. Rogowsky Internship Program.

She has also interned for Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner and added that she is very interested in politics and actively working so that woman can get a seat at the table.

BCC has made a tremendous economic impact, as it is estimated that the higher earnings of its students are 35% more than a high school graduate at career midpoint, while the average salary of graduate students is just under $32,000.

In total, the added income attributable to the accumulation of credits in the workforce exceeds $175 million each year.

The college also provides financial wellness, as nine of ten BCC graduates are free of federal loan debt.

Approximately 54% of BCC’s students are first generation immigrants, while 53% of students come from low-income households.

BCC, whose current campus was owned by New York University from 1894 until 1973, was originally spread across different buildings in Fordham Heights and the northwest Bronx before NYU sold the campus to NYS Dormitory Authority in 1973, making it possible for BCC to move to the campus.

In 2012, BCC’s 45-acre campus became the first community college in the country to be declared a National Historic Landmark.

BCC is also home to the country’s first hall of fame, the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, which includes 98 statue portraits of the county’s historic figures, including John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington Carver, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Thomas Jefferson, Edgar Allan Poe and Jackie Robinson, among others.

On Thursday, May 4, BCC hosted its 60th Anniversary Trailblazers Series kick-off with fellow alum Kam Wong, who currently serves as the president and chief executive officer of New York’s Municipal Credit Union, which is one of the oldest and largest credit unions in the country with more than 400,000 members and over $2.6 billion in assets.

More from Around NYC

>