By Shira Frager
Two students proved themselves worthy of a second chance when they were honored with a scholarship after earning GEDs from LaGuardia Community College and pushing ahead to acquire their associate degrees.
Kenny Fisher Mack and Linh Lee were awarded the Peter Jennings Scholarship Laurel Award based on their hard work and determination in pursuing their college education.
Charles Perkins, assistant director of the Adult Learning Center at LaGuardia Community College, said Jennings decided to create the annual award ceremony honoring GED students who, like him, had never received high school diplomas.
“There was something he saw in people who hadn’t gone to school,” said Perkins. “He thought it was important that people who don’t have a high school diploma and the kind of good luck he had were given chances.”
Mack, a New York native, dropped out of high school in ninth-grade and returned to school via the Adult Learning Center’s GED program. His GED certificate and LaGuardia’s College Transition program allowed Mack to pursue his degree in business administration.
“College is a place I never saw myself …. Now I’m here, and it’s exciting,” Mack said.
Linh Leeï»¿ emigrated from Vietnam to New York almost 30 years ago to escape political and financial struggle.
“When I came to United States, I had to embrace the newer way of life,” said Lee. “I had to support myself in order to survive in the big New York City.”
Following her completion of ESL classes and earning her GED certificate with the Adult Learning Center at LaGuardia, Lee enrolled as a liberal arts major. She hopes to earn a degree that combines Eastern and Western approaches to nutrition and health.
“America has such opportunity,” said Lee. “In Vietnam I can’t get that,” The Vietnamese finish school at 18 and, according to Lee, do not have the chance to go back and pursue what they want.
“Here, America is open to everybody,” said Lee. “As long as you want to study and want to continue to have the dream, the dream comes true.”
“This is a huge thing that’s happening. Under-educated, under-skilled people are finally being paid attention to as potential resources,” said Perkins. “It’s a substantial national movement, to educate people and train them more effectively.”
Named after the former “ABC World News” anchorman, the scholarship holds an annual awards ceremony honoring 10 students at CUNY schools who have earned their GED certificate from a CUNY Adult Literacy/GED Program and plan to continue their education at a CUNY college.
The scholarship requires students to be nominated by a teacher or staff member and write a personal essay on their college journey. Selected recipients receive a $1,500 award toward their college education.
Richard Cook and Jennings believed the award was important not only to acknowledge student achievements, but also to encourage adults to go back to school “for education to be respected and approved, for them to be honored for the effort they’ve made,” said Perkins.