The grand stairway in Decker Health Sciences seemed a bit crowded on Oct. 7, as recipients of this year’s Presidential Honors Scholarship gathered for photos.
And with good reason. This year, the Broome Community College Foundation awarded the full-tuition scholarships to 16 students – a record number. The foundation had received nearly 70 applicants from high schools in Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Tioga counties.
“It’s our attempt to help keep our best and brightest in Broome County,” said SUNY Broome President Kevin E. Drumm.
The bar is high for applicants. To qualify, they needed to graduate in the top 10 percent of their class. Like their predecessors, this year’s Scholars completed a rigorous academic curriculum in high school that included AP, Honors, and college coursework. They were also active in their school and community in other ways, ranging from part-time employment, community service and academic clubs to mentoring programs and athletics.
“It feels amazing because it shows our hard work really pays off,” said Ashlyn Decker, a graduate of Bainbridge-Guilford High School now majoring in dental hygiene. She plans to go on to dental school someday, she said.
Stella Safari, a Johnson City High School graduate, plans to major in business administration and eventually start a nonprofit “to help people in need.” Her family had moved to Broome County from Rwanda when she was five.
Being able to earn a degree without going into debt is a huge relief, she noted.
“I feel that the donors are a huge part of it, the fact that they’re donating money to people’s education,” she said.
This year’s recipients are: High School
Ishaq Ahmad Binghamton High School
Ellen Armstrong Vestal High School
Ashlyn Decker Bainbridge-Guilford High School
Mariah Fredenburg Central Baptist Christian Academy
Scott Gardner Owego Free Academy
Emily Gibson Seton Catholic Central High School
Zane Johnson Spencer Van-Etten High School
Jared Leonard Deposit High School
Ryan McMahon Harpursville High School
Megan Pessarchick Windsor High School
Jacob Rossie Chenango Valley High School
Stella Safari Johnson City High School
Tanner Schunk Sidney High School
Taylor Thomas Chenango Forks High School
Kathryn Wills Binghamton High School
Bryan Ziegler Maine-Endwell High School
‘Separate yourself from the pack’
While the scholarship undoubtedly changes the lives of recipients, it also helps shape Broome County’s future. By recruiting top area high school graduates with leadership skills, the college – and the region – is able to retain top talent who might otherwise leave, said President Drumm.
And while the college does attract students from across the state and even across the globe, its local mission remains exceptionally strong. Nearly two-thirds of the college’s nearly 50,000 alumni have remained in the area, becoming professionals and leaders in all manner of fields, from business to politics. Their ranks include five of the seven Broome County executives, he noted.
Among those success graduates is former PHS recipient Nathan Dean, who graduated from SUNY Broome last May with a degree in Communications and Media Arts. A graduate of Newark Valley High School in 2012, Dean has found work in his field at Owego-based radio station WEBO. He began as a news reporter and has since been promoted to news director, he told students.
“I didn’t go to Harvard. I didn’t go to Yale. But here I am, working in my field,” he told students. “I’m loving what I’m doing each and every day.”
He advised students to make the most of their time at SUNY Broome: join clubs and organization, become tutors, become acquainted with the college’s many services and staff members. Forge connections and network with each other as fellow high achievers.
“Always look for ways to separate yourself from the pack,” he advised.
A commitment to community
The scholarship began in the fall of 2007, funded initially by the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation and an anonymous donor, and developed by former SUNY Broome President Lawrence Spraggs and former BCC Foundation executive director Judy Siggins.
While Conrad Klee passed away in 1962, he would certainly have approved of scholarships. An insurance man, he and his wife Virginia never had children of their own. But both believed strongly in higher education, and privately paid for the education of friends and family members, said Judith Peckham, executive director of the Klee Foundation.
The Presidential Honors Scholarships were created to give recognition to the region’s high achievers, and not just students in need, Peckham noted.
“We need you to help build that healthy community,” she told students.
Donors also received recognition and praise during the event, and had a chance to offer their congratulations in turn. The community is proud of the students, who are all future leaders, said Jeff Lake, the regional president of NBT Bank, of the scholarship’s donors.
Start-up funding and on-going support for the Presidential Honors Scholarship Program is provided by the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation and other donors to the BCC Foundation; Estate of Emil Calice, Dr. G. Clifford & Florence B. Decker Foundation, Delta Engineers, William H. Lane, Inc., Lockheed Martin (MS2), M&T Bank, Matco Electric Corporation, Mirabito Holdings, Inc., NBT Bank and NBT-Mang Insurance have also made leadership level commitments to provide full-tuition scholarship support to PHS students. Other supporters include Chemung Canal Trust Company, Community Bank, N.A., and LeChase Construction Services.
The reception was a proud moment for Stella Safari’s father and sister, who watched her receive the certificate from Wilson and Drumm.
“She has been so great in high school all along,” said her father, Richard Safari. “It is gratifying to see her earn this scholarship.”
If you are a Broome or Tioga County high school senior interested in applying for the next round of Presidential Honors Scholarships or for more information on the program, please contact SUNY Broome’s Admissions Office at (607) 778-5001 or the BCC Foundation at (607) 778-5047.