The Class of 2016

The seventh Scholarship Plus class. Top row from left: Emmanuel Junior Amoateng, Shuofei Sun, Sumitra G.C, Isaiah White, Kadijat Sylla, Muhammed Gondal, Vasiki Konneh

The seven members of the Scholarship Plus Class of 2016 bring the Scholarship Plus family to a total of 44.The newest scholars all have achieved great academic success, are active in their communities and have overcome great personal challenges including: overcoming family difficulties, the challenges of mastering a new language and a new culture, and great poverty.

Their accomplishments have earned them admission to Bentley University, Binghamton University, Colby College, Fordham University, the Sophie Davis Biomedical Education Program at the City University of New York, Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania.

Emmanuel Junior Amoateng immigrated from Ghana two years ago with his twin brother, his mother and younger twin siblings. He is first in his senior class at the Felisa Rincon de Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy in the Bronx.

He's a student leader who leads by example. Some classmates this year have copied his personal taste for wearing a jacket in school and for clearing his lunch table in the cafeteria. They also like the pizza he serves at a tutorial program he runs.

His grandmothers illness helped propel him towards a career in medicine. This fall, he will start the Sophie Davis Biomedical Education Program at City University-7 years of school that includes medical school.

The teacher who made a difference in his life is his college counselor, Sandie Maldonado from Felisa Rincon de Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy.

Isaiah White, according to one of his teachers at Brooklyn Technical High School, "has an extraordinary ability to overcome obstacles."  Despite great challenges in his life, including the death of his mother at a young age, Isaiah's high school record at Brooklyn Technical is outstanding.

He took in six AP courses, established Brooklyn Tech's first blood drive, edited the yearbook and worked in Tech's technology department. He majored in the Gateway to Medicine program, with college-level courses in biology, chemistry, physics, psychology and neuroscience. His grades, said one teacher, are "at the mastery level. "

Next for Isaiah is Swarthmore College with a goal of combining medicine and government service.  His real passion, though is political science. When talking about the current year in presidential politics, he says, "This is like candy."

Isaiah's Spanish teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School is Angelica Vazquez. Angelica's teaching helped Isaiah to kindle a passion for the language, which made her a teacher who made a difference in his life.

Muhammed Gondal's AP Calculus teacher describes him as "relentless in his pursuit of mastery."  That relentlessness showed up early, when, as a 10-year-older immigrant from Pakistan living in Coney Island and intent on improving his English he would strike up conversation with random people on the Boardwalk.

His pattern of challenging himself continued: he went out for the swimming team without knowing how to swim, for the bowling team without knowing how to bowl and for the chess team without knowing how to play.  He also took seven AP classes, scored high on the SATs, and ranked 11th out of 269 in his class at Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences. Next stop is Bentley University, near Boston, and then a business career, following his fascination with financial markets.

Muhammed honored Andrew Drenth, his Spanish teacher from Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences. 

Kadijat Sylla has used her adventurous spirit, imagination and determination to overcome obstacles in more than one language. Born here to a family from the Ivory Coast, she found herself at age 11 suddenly living with an aunt in an over- crowded home in Paris. Eventually she and her brother were reunited with their mother in  the Bronx.  Always educationally ambitious, Kadijat decided as a sophomore interested in science that she wanted to take the state Regent's exam in chemistry. But her high school didn't want to help her --or anyone -- do that.  The school did not even offer the necessary science courses. She formed a study group with some classmates, found appropriate instruction videos on YouTube  and passed the test.  She then left her school and switched to A. Philip Randolph Campus High School, where she is graduating  fourth in her class of 272. She's also president of the advisory council and is on her school's varsity soccer team that made it to the city finals.  In September, after a visit to her family's country of origin, the Ivory Coast, she will be bringing that determination to the University of Pennsylvania.  

Kadijat will be honoring her mentor, Sharon Washington. Sharon is the executive director and co-founder of The Fierce Leadership for Youth Program at The Fly Academy. Sharon holds many other titles but to Kadijat she is the Teacher Who Made A Difference.

Vasiki Konneh knows where he's going, but doesn't hesitate to choose unexpected paths to get there.  With his sights on an engineering career, he decided to pass up a summer job at an engineering firm to work at a children's camp – because he wanted to improve his patience. He takes advantage of every opportunity to learn. When the chance to work as an intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art came up, he seized it.

When he and two teammates competed in a Constitutional debate contest, they argued that Constitutional limits on Presidential powers were being ignored, and won the citywide competition.  In his spare time, Vasiki, who is known to his friends as Ba, writes short stories and poetry.  Vasiki lost his mother, whom he describes as his biggest cheerleader, when he was 15. His father, a carpenter, helps support members of his large family in West Africa, so money is very tight.  A standout student at Queens Vocational and Technical High School, his  next destination: Colby College in Maine, for a double degree program heavy in both engineering and liberal arts.

Vaiski's Teacher Who Makes a Difference is Robert J. Schimenz. He is a government, economics and journalism teacher at Queens Vocational and Technical High School. Vasiki took his college course on Literacy and Propaganda. 

Shuofei Sun's memories of growing up in China include the violent mistreatment of his parents for their attempt to violate Beijing's one-child policy.  His father fled China first- Shuofei and his mother joined him in New York to and a half years ago. They all settled near Sunset Park in Brooklyn, and set about having a new life --and another child. Shuofei's little brother is now one year old!

At first, school here was rough. "I was blind, deaf, speechless and expressionless," he says. That changed quickly--enough so that last year he was chosen for a summer science program at Rockefeller University.  

What did not change is a family heritage of independence and grit. Shuofei is graduating second in his class at Emma Lazarus High School in Manhattan – which has a student body from 18 countries, all immigrants. He will head for Binghamton University after  another summer at a Rockefeller University lab. With the deaths of all four  grandparents from cancer in mind, he hopes for a career in cancer research.  "Science," he says, "is powerful."

Shuofei honored his senior advocate counselor, Anna Umanskaya.  Anna runs the NYC Mission Society's  Learning To Work Program at Emma Lazarus High School.  Anna was also a New York Times Scholar when Soma Behr ran the program.

SUMITRA G. C. was born in Nepal,  traditionally the birthplace of the Buddha, a nation of peace and harmony.  When she was was a child there, however, it was a place of political confrontation and Maoist revolt.

"News about murders, abductions and an upcoming revolution replaced cartoons and games," Sumitra wrote in an essay. "Festivals were quiet and solemn.  Laughter was silenced." Her father, a government worker, was the first in his family to attend college. He had even gone on to earn a master's degree and traveled  to places far from home for weeks at a time to build schools and health  facilities and to advocate for better education. Sumitra remembers frightening phone calls with ransom threats, school bus rides interrupted by violence, and her mother burying money in a field.

Eventually Sumitra, her parents and a sister made it out, and settled in New York. Her father is now a salesman in a Garment District store that sells trimmings, and her mother works in a nail salon. In her two years at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, Sumitra has achieved a remarkable 4.0 average  and extracurriculars galore--including  chief editor of the yearbook, vice president of her class, captain of the school's Science Olympiad team and troop leader of the Nepal Scouts.  Her next stop is Fordham, to study political science, and then perhaps law school.

The teacher who made a difference in Sumitra's high school career at Grover Cleveland High School is her calculus teacher, Marius Cosma.