Rishana is a second year Peer Leader at BMCC’s Learning Academy and has taken on a leadership role through CARA’s Peer Leader Fellows program. Rishana graduated with her Associates in Business Administration from BMCC in May 2019 and is now a student at Baruch College majoring in Finance. Rishana was a recipient of BMCC’s Foundation Scholarship at BMCCl, and is also serving as a “Peer Fellow” at CARA, helping to design and run training for new Peer Leaders.

What is something you have done as a peer leader you feel particularly proud of?

I really was proud of helping one of my Mentees get a scholarship. She only saw BMCC as a community college and she didn’t have a good view on community colleges so she was planning on transferring to Albany right after two semesters. I told her that BMCC had a lot to offer and told her about all of the things that were available. I told her about a scholarship that I got that my professor helped me with… She emailed me this semester and told me she received the scholarship and she is now more excited to stay.

I also got a few students off probation. One girl was close to graduating but fell behind. She came to me every other week and when I last checked her grades she had all great grades and got off of probation. I think being the person that cares about what she was doing and her progress helped her. Sometimes you need a little extra push and I was that person for her who helped her go to tutoring and find her own style and make it work for her.

I worked with other students whose GPAs went up. One girl was not close to graduating and had a lot of issues with her family. I told her to download “My Study Life” and made her go to tutoring every week. I also helped her speak to professors when something was not clear. She took all of my advice and was able to get her grades up. 

What impact have you seen peer leaders have in your program/at your campus?

Peer Leaders have a great impact on the students. At the Learning Academy we are mostly involved with seminars as a “second help” to students whenever they have a question. Every seminar has a different focus like “transfer” or “navigating your first year”. We are helping students as students because we better relate to students than advisors. They may be intimidated or shy but feel more comfortable talking to a peer leader and asking “what they really want to know”.

Why did you want to be a peer leader?

When I first start at BMCC I was like every other first year student, confused and not knowing what is going on, But then I got this email about Peer Leaders so I thought it was mandatory so I signed up. I had my first meeting with a peer leader and I really connected with her. She told me about the services and I thought, “Wow, this was helpful”. She helped me understand the campus and even with a class that I was having a hard time with. She was very encouraging and I thought that I wanted to be who she was to me for someone else. 

Decision Day: A Peek Inside CARA’s College Process

In the world of high school seniors, spring means exactly one thing: College acceptance letters are starting to roll in! At CARA’s 29 College Bridge schools, our Coaches are overflowing with pride for the students they’ve been supporting all year through the application process. Here are some of their stories.

Moses (Port Richmond High School)

“One of my students was accepted into NYU through HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program) with a full ride. Her parents are immigrants, and she will be the first in her family to attend college. We spent dozens of hours together in the college office working through applications – it wasn’t an easy process for her. Getting documents for FAFSA and TAP (financial aid) was challenging, and dealing with school at the same time as applications was overwhelming. But she came into the college office with her friends when she’d get stressed out, and we’d just listen while they talked about what was going on. Knowing that other people were going through it and that we were there to support her made her feel less alone in her struggles. She actually got into most of the schools she applied to, but chose NYU because the medicine program there is very well-known, and she got great financial aid. (We helped her call the aid office after she got the first award letter, and she got them to provide even more money!) Now she’s thinking about dorming next year.”

Erick (Richmond Hill High School)

“I have this student who’s really shy, but I’ve been helping her get more comfortable with herself. The college counselor can be scary for some kids, so I just joke with them and help them relax. I’ve been shy in the past, so I understand what it’s like. She went on a visit to Buffalo State and just loved it. She liked how open and quiet it is, and their great arts program. That was actually her first visit away from home – she’d never stepped foot out of Queens before. So I told her, before you go there for college, you need to practice opening up and getting out of your comfort zone. I had her go out in the city, and practice talking to people – just going up to them and saying hello or good morning. Your own community is the best place to start practicing. Now she’s so much more open. I told her that not everyone is going to speak Spanish there, and that she might stick out more because of her race – but that it would be okay. We have to have these adult conversations so that they’re prepared.”

Ruth (International High School for Health Sciences)

“This student has good grades and passed the Regents, but just didn’t think college was for him. He’s undocumented, and even though his older sister is in college now, he still didn’t feel like it was something he was going to do. But recently we had a parent night, and his mom came in. We talked to her about his situation, and apparently she went home and talked with him and his sister. He’s very shy, but he came into the college office the next morning to tell me he really did want to go to college, and asked if there was still time to apply. We helped him through all of the application process, and he’s gone above and beyond. We also talked to him about the recent New York State DREAM Act and TAP, which allow undocumented students in New York to receive state financial aid. It really opened up his eyes. Now he’s just waiting to hear back from schools. He wants to go to BMCC and study nursing like his sister.  He was the last student in our senior class to apply to college – now 100% of them have submitted applications.

Tasmi (International Community High School)

“I have a student who gets good grades and is on top of everything, but she does have some medical problems. She thought she wasn’t going to be able to go away to school; that it would be better to stay in the city with her mom. But the college office took her on a trip to look at SUNY colleges, and when she saw SUNY Oneonta, she loved it. She realized that the dorms weren’t so far from campus, and she could stay up late studying for med school there and then walk back home with her friends, and it would be safe. It’s so important to show kids these things. Sometimes they aren’t really sure what they want to do, but when they get exposed to things, they realize ‘Wow, that’s really interesting, and it might work for me.’ If we give students the opportunity to see and feel what their lives will be like, they can do things and go places they never even thought of.”