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         ASAP Newsletter


    Rachel ChambersRACHEL CHAMBERS: Cohort 8 ASAP Graduate
    MAJOR: Liberal Arts: Social Sciences and Humanities
    TRANSFERRED TO: Emory University

    “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” These words describe the entire ASAP graduating class. We have all done something remarkable today by surpassing expectations, overcoming obstacles and believing in ourselves to achieve this goal. We all know this journey was not easy, each one of us encountered struggles that could have prevented us from completing our educational goals.  We are no longer the same people of yesterday’s world, but the people of the future that will contribute balance, change and innovation in the world we live in.

    This quote embodies the people we are today, the experiences we had, and the stories we all have to share. We all have the will to win, but why? Why is it so important for us to have this will? Is it competitiveness? No actually, we all have something deeper --the need to provide for family, to give back to those around us, and to develop our future selves. I know this is true because of my own experiences. My mother moved to the United States in 2009, leaving me and my family behind, in hopes of obtaining a higher paying job. While my mom tried to support us financially as best as she could, it still was not enough money. Despite the difficulty in these times, I studied whenever I could, even nights at home with only a candle and a handful of faith due to the circumstances. I attended extra lessons, weekend classes and balanced my social and academic life while being involved in sports and clubs.

    With the help of my friend, I started my own informal technology business when I was thirteen because I wanted my family to have a better living situation. My business included the buying of devices such as phones, tablets, and computers, refurbishing broken units and reselling them at a profit throughout Jamaica. It was so successful that I continued working through the end of my high school career. I used the additional income to help out at home by paying utility bills, buying food for the house and ensuring my brother and I were able to afford lunch and the cost of transportation to and from school. This experience drives me every day to be successful in life, to overcome my battles and always remember I will make a change. We all have stories like these that are our hidden motivation and reason for our will to win.

    My mother and I went to school here together for some time, and because of her belief in me, and how proud she was, she introduced me to everyone on campus she knew. There were days I would feel alone, struggle in a class, unsure about what my future held, and even wondering if I made a good decision. Eventually, my mother introduced me to the ASAP program, which she was also a part of. ASAP is where I got connected to my personal advisor, obtained a free metro card and other services. Since that day, we have shared a bond and will to always succeed. I was able to focus on a major, take different classes that would not only challenge me but broaden my mind to endless possibilities. Having the support system from this program gave me stability in different ways wherein I was able to focus more on school and less on the personal problems that would hinder my success. This program believed in me and I believed in them because of what it had to offer knowing how much this program helped my mother in her time of need while attending LAGCC. My mother is now a graduate of LAGCC and ASAP and everyone in this room including myself will now become a graduate of LAGCC.

    We all have a desire to succeed and an urge to reach our full potential because of the pride and belief we have in ourselves, being a part of a program that is designed to ensure we succeed and earn our degrees, and most importantly being challenged out of our comfort zone is what cements the sky's the limit for our success.  Our love or need for education stemmed from somewhere which is used as a motivation each day. For me, I know it was a saying I had since the day I could speak, “I want to be Dr. Rachel Chambers ABCDEFG!” And as simple and silly as that quote may seem, anytime I am in doubt I remember it and the experiences I have been through, and tell myself I can do anything.

    Now on campus, I am involved in different organizations and projects not only because of the help from ASAP but also the services of LAGCC. I am a member and past officer of Phi Theta Kappa, a member of the Alpha Sigma Pi Leadership Society, a scholar of the Kaplan Leadership Program, and I have been to countless events and meetings advocating for students like ourselves for the improvement of our services while being offered different opportunities such as becoming the spokesperson for the ‘HeadsUp Campaign’ and meeting and speaking with Dr. Jill Biden, to help provide free education for 2 year colleges. These are just a few of my accomplishments while being both an ASAP and LAGCC student, because the the list is endless, not just for me, but everyone in this room today. I have made connections with students all over the world, from different countries, cultures, economic, social and educational backgrounds with stories to tell. Individuals from the young to the old, the continuers to the beginners, but now we are all graduates. The mother who is a student with 3 children and a job, the student who is homeless but makes it on time every day and does well in his or her classes, the student who can barely speak English but is motivated to learn everything he or she can… A father, a brother, a son, a daughter, a grandmother, a grandfather, a niece, a nephew or anyone else, I have met them all… and guess what? Most of you are in the audience today! And all of you are in this audience as individuals that accomplished their goals.

    Graduation is not the end of our accomplishments and our personal excellence, but instead it is opening another door to the continuance of our personal excellence and accomplishments. We now have the keys to this world to help make a change and give back to others who not only helped us, but are in need of help. We are ASAP and LAGCC students who dare to do more. Because every day of our lives we dare to do more… and do it! I can only leave you with this quote by Bil Keane, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” So put your hands together and applaud and praise not only yourselves but your fellow graduates for accomplishing this goal and achieving this ‘present’ because you are all the future of this world.

    Karol OrtizKAROL ORTIZ: Cohort 8 ASAP Graduate
    MAJOR: Liberal Arts: Social Sciences and Humanities
    TRANSFERRED TO: Hunter College

    Persistence. It is a word that has stuck with me for a long time. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people.” Even though I have always had a good understanding of what the word means, I never had the word involved in my everyday life until one day when my old advisor David used it to describe me as we were saying our last goodbyes. Since then, the word has stuck with me, not because I’d like to think highly of myself in what I have achieved up to this point, but because it is a word that I believe describes every successful person.

    My road through LaGuardia Community College was not an easy road to travel on. From the very start of it, I had to deal with the fact that I had two remedial math classes that were hanging over my shoulders. These classes were symbolic to me, not because they a sign that my math skills were not up to the level that was required, but because it was a reminder of the struggles and lack of effort that I experienced while I was in high school. The remedial classes were a reminder to me that my past actions could affect me in the future—something that I regretted a lot while I was in those classes. Many of us students, or people in general, have probably felt that way at some point in our lives. That feeling of regret—of not doing more to help our own cause.

    It’s a sad feeling, especially when you feel that you are all alone. However, as I look at this room today, I can safely say that I was never alone because ASAP was always there with me. Even though I did not know it at the time, when I went to that information session about the program back in 2014, I was getting introduced to a program that would help guide me through my community college journey.

    Even though they don’t like to admit it, the faculty of ASAP is what makes this program so great. Their eagerness to always help and find solutions to problems that we students might have is something that I always took note of—whether it be when I had an appointment with my advisor Matthew, or when I was simply sitting in the office watching the entire staff work with the students. Our director Ramon and the rest of the staff like to say that the program’s success comes because of the students’ success, but whether it be because they are too humble to realize it or just don’t see it, it helps to be in a program that is always worried about our success.

    I’ve always said that the reason I joined ASAP was because of the advising that they provided for each student. While the free Metro cards and textbooks were nice additives (something that attracts a lot of the students that join), to me the most important perk of the program is student advising because it’s something that can go a long way for a student. I can remember many times when I would go to either David’s office or Matthew’s office to talk about some of the problems that I would be having with school, and they seemed to always know what to say to me. I soon came to realize that I was working side by side with them, pushing forward towards my ultimate goal of graduating from LaGuardia and moving on to bigger and better things. That teamwork is in my opinion is “X-factor” of the program- the ability for students and staffs to work together for the common goal of seeing us graduate.

    As I look back at my time in ASAP, the one thing that always stood out to me about the student body was that no matter how different our lives may have been outside of the school, each of us had the same goal. And it isn’t just the fact that we all wanted to graduate. It’s the fact that we all wanted to become better versions of ourselves, and many of us achieved that through the guidance of ASAP. In my time in ASAP, I became a more focused student, always striving to get the highest grade possible in each of my classes. Ultimately, ASAP made me realize that in order to find success, one has to be focused and, once again, persistent in what it is that they want. The road that is community college is not an easy one for anyone. But if a person has the will to push through all the bumps that they may come across as they travel, and they have the kind of support staff that makes it possible for that travel a bit easier, then in many ways people can come out of it on top.

    Yunxi HuYUNXI HU: Cohort 9 ASAP Graduate
    MAJOR: Business Administration
    TRANSFERRED TO: Columbia University 

    Good afternoon everyone, my name is Vance. I remember the time before I came to college. I was a first generation of immigrant who was working in the service industry. I hated my job, not because of the job itself but because I had not found my passion. The only thing I could look forward to would be tomorrow, but tomorrow would be just like today, and the next day still. More importantly, I could not give more to the world around me. I know many of you might had experienced the same feeling before college.

    I also know we were all here for a reason, for a change in our lives to win, to succeed and to reach our potential. ASAP has been helping us to explore our potentials, to dare to do more in order to afford our dreams. The future may seem challenging and full of uncertainties, but we have done a great job in the first step. College is hard, but we are graduating from LaGuardia with a decent transcript. Now we are standing here and what we can look forward to is a tomorrow that will be brand new, with potentials. There are things that seemed small, but changed my life. ASAP is one of them. During my first semester at LaGuardia, I excelled beyond my expectation academically, getting A’s in every course. Yet, despite academics and the new friends I met, I still lacked a sense of belonging. I felt invisible in the college. I was always an outsider. At the second semester I joined ASAP. I talked to my academic advisor, Aura, and told her that I wanted to integrate myself more into this school through college leadership programs, which was not really related to my academics. She seemed excited to see that I was ambitious and told me immediately that there an election going on the College Senate. She and Caroline helped me to submit my application at the same day. That was when I realized ASAP is not just about Metro cards and textbook money. ASAP showed me care, they are proud of my desire to succeed, and they urged me to explore my potentials.

    I remember something Caroline said when she saw me and a few other ASAP students at the first meeting of the College Senate. She said she was proud, and she did it for the love. At the College Senate I was surprised to see that students could get involved in the decision-making process of their school, which I did not see in high school. I discovered a whole new world besides course work. I proposed for Wi-Fi access by multiple devices on campus because I wanted to acquire more benefits for my peers at LaGuardia, after I saw programs like ASAP had been seeking benefits for me. It was the first time I felt valuable in here and was pleased to call New York my second home. My major was business administration, but when I transfer my major will be economics in a policy concentration because my experience at LaGuardia helped me to discover my passion in policy. ASAP was not the only program that helped me get to this point, but it was the first one who showed me welcome and love.

    The economy out there is still tough. Although I know that I am going on to a four year college, I still have no idea what my future will be like, just like many of you. Just like a year and a half ago, I had no idea how my education at LaGuardia would be like. So, I figured graduating from here proves one thing: we have the ability to reach our goals and all we have to do is keep going. Whether you will continue your education or start working, make sure that is what you really want, but not what seems easier or safer. ASAP required us to take more classes, to graduate sooner and to obtain a high GPA was not because they wanted to make our lives harder but because they wanted to make sure that by the time we make it here today, we would be a lot stronger and would be ready to deal with more future challenges than others do. As we transfer to our senior college, or as we start to enter the workplace, there will be not less, but only more programs like ASAP to help us overcome obstacles along the way to success. With our experience with ASAP in mind, we should be more proactive looking for those opportunities in the future. I wish you all the best!

    Angelique BarretoANGELIQUE BARRETO: Cohort 7 ASAP Graduate
    MAJOR: Liberal Arts: Social Sciences and Humanities

    Hello, my name is Angelique and this semester I will be departing LaGuardia and continuing my educational journey elsewhere. I had begun my time here at LaGuardia in the fall 2013. Although it was not my plan to begin at LaGuardia, I was dedicated to soaking in all that I could from the college experience. The beginning of my journey in LAGCC was a harsh one. The campus is fairly large and I had no knowledge of what to expect in college, since I am a first-generation college student. I felt alone in a crowded space (which you would might know as the E building Atrium).

    Luckily my AP English teacher in high school had spoken to me about ASAP and all the benefits of the program, and I became proactive about getting myself in the program. Steve, my advisor, is not only a knowledgeable advisor but also someone who recognized all of my major accomplishments. He would always be the first to call me when a new opportunity arose, but most importantly he contributed to my overall academic growth. It is because of Steve that I have become a spokesperson for ASAP in high schools here in NYC, that I have applied for various scholarships and been able to perform amazingly during my time here at LaGuardia. Steve is like the cheerleader every student needs in order to feel like they are on the right path. Steve defines what it means to have a passionate advisor who truly desires that all of their students not only to succeed, but thrive in life and are able to market themselves well to colleges and possible employers. I doubted my potential as a student and thought maybe college was not right for me, but because of the ASAP community I have been able to thrive.

    ASAP and the family that I formed there have been a tremendous source of inspiration and motivation and helped me to move past my academic limits. Because of ASAP, I finally understand what it means to step out of my comfort zone and achieve higher than my original goals. This reminds me of the quote by Confucius, “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” In other words, ASAP allows students like myself to explore their interests and try something new because ASAP understands that some students may have passions that have not been ignited and they have the ability to allow those students to see that they can go beyond their limits. ASAP is where I realized that I should strive for personal excellence in all that I do, in and out of the classroom.

    My college journey here at LAGCC was not always an easy one. I started off enjoying all my classes and college seemed to be a sweet stroll in the park at first, and then suddenly I had to withdraw because I was in a work accident. For a year, I did not receive any form of academic education and it was in those months that it hit me how hard it would be to navigate life without a valued education. I worked a full time job, working 40+ hours, but the checks had become meaningless. No amount of money would satisfy the desire for knowledge that I had building up inside of my mind. I began to really understand that if I went back to school I would be given respect in terms of being an educated young person, and of Hispanic descent at that. I would also have skills no one could rip away from me. There is one quote from Nelson Mandela that I read during those months repetitively, and it would always cross my mind when college seemed like it was getting nothing but tougher. “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, and that a child of farm workers can become the president of a nation.” This quote stuck in my mind and it motivated me even more to get back into the ASAP program. Steve was there for me and more than willing to guide me back on track and provide me with all the information I needed to remain up to date on campus happenings. I finally had the will, the desire and the passion to fulfill my educational goal of becoming not only a sociologist working in a non-for-profit organization, but perhaps a college professor.

    My parents had to limit their educations, they didn’t get the chance I have to pursue their academic goals. My father who had to give up school as early as the fifth grade for family reasons, and my mother had to give up on her dream of studying political science and becoming a lawyer when she had to drop out of BMCC for financial reasons. I am proud of myself. I am proud to be able to be where I am today. Proud to be talking to you about the power of education. I hope that each and every one of you take the knowledge and concrete foundation you are building here in the walls of LaGuardia to all corners of the world, whether you decide to pursue your education further, enter the workforce, the military or even start your own business. Remember that ASAP is a family, a family that has always believed in you and the power of education. Remember that the moment you graduate from this amazing college, you will be a voice for ASAP and a power of example for all of the individuals who do not believe they could overcome adversity in their life and earn themselves an education. You are the best you there is. No one can compete with you. The only person you are in competition with is your former self. So as an ASAP graduate, I ask you to give CUNY, give ASAP and yourself, the chance to make you a believer in the power of an educated mind.

    Selma SkrijelJSELMA SKRIJELJ: Cohort 9 ASAP Graduate
    MAJOR: Psychology
    ACCEPTED AT: Queens College (CUNY)

    Kerry Washington once said, "Your life is your story, and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential." Had you told me a couple of semesters ago, that I'd be standing here today, I would have looked at you in disbelief. If you had told me I'd be standing, period, I would not have believed you. In the fall of 2012, during my initial first semester at LaGuardia, I got into a car accident that practically cost me my life. After taking a year off to recover and learn how to walk again, I knew that a full recovery would not be possible until I was back in school, and that I would not consider myself fully recovered,...

    ...until I walked across the stage to get my diploma. So in the spring of 2014, I walked through the doors of LaGuardia Community College, pen and paper in hand, ready to start writing a new chapter of my life. With the help of amazing advisors, mentors, and professors who have gifted me with crucial knowledge, the incredible President Gail Mellow and Vice President Baston, who work so hard on making this college the success it is, and with the help of my peers, all who have made a permanent and positive impact on me, my transition back to college was effortless. My first step into transitioning back to school started with the ASAP Program, which changed my life.

    Coming from a background where I am the first one in my family to go to college, my family and I struggled to figure out how I would pay for tuition, transportation, and my books. It is extremely hard to make ends meet in New York City and ASAP helped me both financially as well as emotionally, and for that I am eternally grateful. Instead of struggling to figure out how I would pay for my tuition, how I would pay for my books, and how I would make it to school, I was able to make my studies my primary concern and to do the best in my courses. Being part of ASAP made me feel that I was never alone. I always felt that I had a place to go to whether I needed emotional support, or an extra push to make me work harder. The feeling of anxiety that I would not live up to my full potential because of my setback, quickly deteriorated thanks to this program. Having to keep up with my advisor Marlenes helped me to stay on track and made it possible to make sure I was striving in my courses. This is not to say that being an ASAP student was all work and no play. Our end of the semester potlucks and group meetings helped me meet new people who I have grown close to over the past couple of semesters. I found that when we mentioned we are ASAP students, there was an instant bond because we knew we were part of this program for a reason, and each student I came across that is part of this program, added to my positive experience at LaGuardia.

    Being an ASAP student opened up more doors for me and I have to thank each and every mentor and advisor for keeping me on track. In moments of doubt, when I thought I would break from anxiety and nervousness, I was reminded to never give up, that I have survived harsher times, and that this too shall pass. Regardless of whether I had stress due to difficult classes or research papers, I knew I could count on the entire ASAP Staff to lift me back up and get me back on track. Elyse Newman, along with the faculty and members of the President’s Society, helped me to step out of my shell, better my leadership skills, as well as my networking skills. My mental health mentor David Croft, was my backbone during my years at LaGuardia, and I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to cross paths with him. I know for a fact that I gained experiences at this college that will benefit me for the rest of my life, whether it is continuing my education at Queens College, or when it comes to pursuing my Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling at NYU.

    I would also like to thank the one person who made all this possible for me, my mom, Izeta. She never doubted me and never lost hope in me, even when I struggled to find hope in myself. She’s the one person who reminds me on a daily basis to never give up, and to keep chasing my goals no matter the obstacle or the odds because at the end of the day, I will succeed. I owe all my success to her because she never gave up on me and always believed in me. I wouldn’t be who I am, and I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did, if it wasn’t for her unconditional love and support. Through trials and tribulations, I have gained the skills to make me successful and even more eager to grasp every opportunity that will come my way. Semester after semester was followed by overcoming obstacles and being awarded with more opportunities. I now stand before you as your peer, your Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society member, your Psi Beta Psychology Honor Society member, your President Society Ambassador, and your Valedictorian.

    To conclude my story, I have to say the following. My fellow graduates, each and every one of you are about to finish writing your chapter here at LaGuardia, and about to embark on another journey. Whether you will be continuing your journey at a four-year institution, or launching your career, I urge you to remember to NEVER GIVE UP. No matter how difficult it may get, don't give up. Use every hardship to your advantage and let it encourage you to push further. Don't forget what you were taught at LaGuardia because I assure you, each and every one of us is blessed to have started our journeys at this college. Every lesson, whether it was learned in a classroom or outside of the classroom, will prepare us for the rest of our lives. To all my peers, I have to say the following: May your journeys fulfill your purpose and potential, and may they be filled with happiness, health, and prosperity. Congratulations to each and every one of you.

    Diana Gil BaronaDIANA GIL BARONA: Cohort 9 ASAP Graduate
    MAJOR: Business Administration
    ACCEPTED AT: Baruch College (CUNY)

    I am honored to address such a diverse graduating class. Before going any further, I would like to thank the ASAP staff for their unconditional support given throughout the past few years. Providing us with the necessary resources helped us stay on track; therefore, I personally thank you. We are all here closing another chapter of our lives and ready to start a new one. I am thankful for the constructive group meetings and the career development support; but mostly I will forever be in debt to my Academic Advisor, Aura Paulino, and for her academic guidance and support.

    I also want to take a moment to thank all families and friends; you have been a big part of this accomplishment. You have seen us strive and prevail and most importantly, you will be there for us, to give us the support and motivation to achieve each of our goals. Gracias a mi familia en especial por estar aquí esta noche acompañándome y por siempre estar apoyándome en cada una de mis decisiones.

    I am a Colombian immigrant who came to the United States when I was sixteen years old. Adjusting to a new life and learning a new language was very challenging. I am sure that those of you who like me, came here with little or no knowledge of English, know how hard it is to be in class and sometimes get lost trying to balance between taking notes and listening to the lecture. Fortunately, there were those classmates who were willing to help and share their notes with you. Catherine Pulsifer once said, “We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity life would be very boring”. We all have a different story to tell and that should make us feel proud. This program is full of great people like each and every one of you. This institution is also full of opportunities for all of us, so do not give up when things are looking tough, always set a higher goal for yourself and work for it. At the end of the day, you will look back and realize that all your efforts were worth it because you will be at the top. I never imagined that in only four years of being in this country, I would be graduating with a Business Administration Associate’s degree and delivering the salutatorian speech.

    Thanks to ASAP I was able to stay focused and graduate on time. My aspirations and dreams have grown and are becoming more attainable. In fall 2017, I will be transferring to Baruch, which will get me one step closer to my ideal career, working at the New York Stock Exchange. Another goal that I have is to start a non-for-profit organization to provide special meals for the homeless and low-income families, especially on holidays such as thanksgiving and Christmas. These types of organizations require countless hours of work and many volunteers. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we joined together and made this happen? I say this to say, never stop dreaming because we all have the potential to change the world and to change the things we don’t like. We all come from different backgrounds, which give us a different perspective of what life is; but those differences just make us stronger. Life is about conquering obstacles and learning from your mistakes. You will never know how far you can go if you give up the first time you fail. Never let someone bring you down or tell you that you are not good enough because it is not true. We can all achieve anything we set our minds to. If you do not believe me, just think about your first semester when things looked confusing and overwhelming. Think about the time you did not know where to go to ask for help or when you didn’t know where the classrooms were. Now, think about this moment, and tell me if it has not been a long journey? I want all of you to keep in mind that if you are here today, it is because you deserve it. It is also because we are stronger than those challenging moments we went through. Remember that the sky is not the limit; it is just the beginning. Let’s start building a better world for us and for the future generations that are to come.

    Once more, congratulations to you all and to your families on this important accomplishment. I wish you all the best on your future endeavors. For those of you who are transferring to a four-year school or are launching your career, put into practice all the knowledge and techniques that you have learned here at LaGuardia. I know it has not been an easy road, and that we will all face many more challenges in the future; however, I am certain that we will continue to work hard and fully commit to become all that we want to be. Thank you ASAP for making this dream come true, for trusting us, and for having faith in us. You have an amazing team that is committed to their work and their students, as you all continue to go above and beyond to help us succeed. Again, Congratulation to all of you and I wish you nothing but the best for your future.

    Yasmeen MunasserYASMEEN MUNASSER: Cohort 9S ASAP Graduate
    MAJOR: Liberal Arts: Math and Science
    ACCEPTED AT: Baruch College (CUNY)

    As’salam wa’alaikum. Hello to my fellow ASAP graduates of 2017. My name is Yasmeen. I am sad to say that I will be leaving LaGuardia and continuing my studies for my Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Mathematics this coming fall. I began LaGuardia in spring 2016 as a transfer student. I have to say that upon entering LaGuardia, I felt a sense of community. From the faculty and staff to the students, everyone in this campus wants to help others to succeed. I could not be happier to have been a part of such a diverse community filled with all ethnicities and wonderful individuals who have marked a special place in my heart.

    I understand that every year there is a meaningful quote that represents us graduates and our journey. This year, I have the pleasure of reading to you a quote by none other than the talented Kerry Washington. “Your life is your story, and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.” To my graduates of 2017, today is OUR day. Look around you. Each one of us has a unique path and personal trial, but on a spiritual journey, we all have the same destination.

    Kerry Washington’s quote could not be truer. It epitomizes that we are in control of our lives. We each have a purpose in life, and it is up to us to fulfill it. It is hard for me to grasp that I am here with all of you today, on stage, reading my speech. As a Yemeni-Muslim American, I attended junior high and completed high school in 2012. However, I knew at the time that high school, for me, was meant to be the end of my education. Most of you may not understand what I mean. Many Yemeni girls do not pursue their education beyond high school into college as it is, in most cases, still not allowed. Yet, I have always had an eager desire to learn. At the time, I did not want to argue with my parents and make things more difficult. I let myself believe that it was wrong to want to continue my education and go after my dreams. But little did I know, I was wrong. I felt I was placed on this earth to make a difference, just like each and every one of you. Yes, marriage and having a family are important, but they should not be the only goals in life. Those two are admirable goals for young women, but they should happen on their own terms. A college education should be equally valued; in fact, even more because when we educate ourselves, we become better versions of us.

    I want to take a brief moment to address the underrepresentation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), which is an issue requiring heighten attention not only among the Muslim culture, but the American culture as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 48 percent of the total workforce; yet, only 24 percent of STEM workers are women. We are undermined by those who believe that this is a “man’s field” where girls do not belong. When women are not seen as equal and capable as men, it especially affects girls. Fields in STEM are some of the fastest growing and women deserve an equal chance at these opportunities. Working in STEM means that you are innovative, creative, passionate, and that you are whoever you want to be. Women belong in STEM fields, and these fields need women. To the young women I say, if your passion is to pursue any one of the STEM majors, go ahead. If you aspire to be an engineer, a computer scientist, a doctor, or a mathematician, go ahead and become one. You are the author of your life and the creator of your reality.

    I am very appreciative of ASAP. At LaGuardia, ASAP improves the graduation and retention of its students. Each and every one of us, have had the advantage of having our own coach, a.k.a Academic Advisor, who supports us every step of the way. For instance, ASAP helps students who have children by making them aware about the daycare, and providing financial support to alleviate the financial burden. In addition, students become skilled at how to manage their priorities. My advisor Esther has seen my ups and downs. She always updated me of new scholarships and special events that she felt suited me. Most of all, she played a role in my academic growth. I hope I made her proud. I thank Esther and the rest of the ASAP staff for helping me become a more devoted student who believes in her own capabilities. Being in school is not easy. One has to be driven and disciplined which is why I want to end with this quote: “If you’re not pushing yourself, you’re not going to get better. If you push yourself, you’re going to fall. Falling is part of getting better.” I wish all of you the best.

    Khalid Ben AddiKHALID BEN ADDI: Cohort 9 ASAP Graduate
    MAJOR: Business Administration
    ATTENDING Baruch College (CUNY)

    Hello friends, faculty, my fellow graduates, and the best of all my ASAP community. We finally did it! We have accomplished one of the best goals of our lives. Getting an associate’s degree is amazing and of course, it is not the end, but a beginning with a bright future in front of us. Before I start my speech, I want to take this opportunity to warmly thank my advisor Aura Paulino who has played a very important role in my educational journey here at LaGuardia Community College. She has helped me with everything I needed to succeed. She was always there for me, and has never hesitated to offer her help.

    Thank you Aura, you are the best! Today is one of the best days of my life. I am honored to address the ASAP graduates who will surely shape and enrich the future of this great nation that we love so much. It all starts with a simple single step, and fortunately we have taken that step, and the story of our lives continues. Before I tell you my humble life story, I would refer to Kerry Washington’s quote: “Your life is your story, and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.” I want to emphasize that your circumstances and the obstacles in your life are temporary, and we can achieve our best and realize our dreams.

    My life story started in the middle of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco in a tiny village that is hard to reach by public transportation. To secondary education was a nightmare for many families due to lack of support and help from the government. I was the first student to earn a high school diploma in my village, followed by my brothers thanks to my wonderful parents who have sacrificed a lot to give a meaning to our lives. After secondary school, I was obliged to travel 50 miles from my village to find myself in a very strange and challenging atmosphere where I had to live in dorms with other students. It was a harsh experience where I learned to depend on myself and deal with life challenges at a young age. Meanwhile, I was the center of criticism among people in my village that viewed spending an enormous time in school, instead of going to work to support the family, shamefully. Yet, I saw things differently. I believed that an education is the real weapon to overcome the barriers of life and society. And so, I decided to challenge myself further. You can imagine how hard it was to move from a small village to a huge place like New York City where I began a new chapter of adventures. I still remember when I first landed at the airport, and on the second day in New York, I started the difficult task of finding a job. I was rejected many times, even for dishwashing jobs.

    But, there is always a happy surprise that changes lives. I was lucky to meet a virtual friend who turned out to be a good friend, brother, and a role model. His name is Mohamed, and he is a LaGuardia graduate. He did not hesitate to share his story, and how he managed to complete his education and obtain his degree from the City University of New York. It was then that I decided to go back to school, which was the best decision I have made. Once I got accepted to LaGuardia, I noticed the obvious difference between the bitterness of washing dishes, flipping burgers, and delivering food on bicycle, and the sweetness of being in a classroom among the bravest, the smartest, and most adventurous students.

    During my first semester at LaGuardia, I faced a lot of challenges; it was hard to manage my work and school schedules. Sustaining myself was a financial burden- I recall one day when I had to walk from school. This became a time to reflect and think about the future. I arrived home feeling really tired, but it felt good to think positively in that all efforts are worth the sacrifice. Then I met another friend on campus, who advised me to register with the ASAP program, and I did not wait to do so, which changed my life as a student. As an ASAP member, I started to appreciate the type of help I received. The program helps us to see that graduation is fast approaching, and we have no excuse to procrastinate and to fail classes. If you are an ASAP student, you have to be among the best doers. Being in ASAP was an awesome opportunity which made it possible to get free transportation, free textbooks, free tutoring services, and the most valuable group of Academic Advisors who treat us as their family, and dedicated their precious time in helping us plan our careers and futures.

    To conclude, I would like to congratulate all of you for the amazing job you have done, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. I also want to thank everyone at LaGuardia Community College for making us eager to do more and more. Here is my life advice: Stay determined, stay positive, and stay focus.