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This post was written by Noelitta Tailiam, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

Reflecting back on my first encounter with a higher education institution, I vividly remember feeling secured and my professors always reassured and motivated me to believe that there was no room for failure. This gave me the drive to obtain my Associate’s Degree in Science from the Borough Of Manhattan Community College.

Unlike my fellow ACE scholarship recipients, I never took time off from school. I immediately transferred to Hunter College. There I felt overwhelmed, unsure of myself, and my drive slowly reduced. I felt like a fish in an ocean full of sharks and stingrays. My professors were intimidating just as much as my classmates were. I received no support and no reassurance that I could do this and excel. I remember crying for the first two weeks because I felt so lost. After a year of not wanting to be there, I received an impromptu email from the CUNY School of Professional Studies and I figured, “what would I lose by attending the information session?” I remember running from the number 1 train to the 3 train from the Upper West Side to get there. I made it in 15 minutes before the session ended. I vaguely remember Director of Student Services Z. Lobley being there and she handed me all the information I needed. She encouraged me to attend a one-on-one evaluation session with an advisor and apply in person. This has been one of the best life changing decisions that I have ever made.

Many tried to discourage me to not follow the path of online learning and I am very happy that I am not easily swayed. Having two jobs and working 50-60 hours a week gave me little time to sit in a classroom setting. After my first semester at CUNY SPS, I felt the same way I did at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. I felt safe, encouraged, and the support of my advisor and professors were just what I envisioned my learning experience to be. The professors had the same motto that “failure is not an option,” which they showed. It varied from emails, phone calls, and the Blackboard messages they bombarded us with on a weekly schedule. Being selected as the recipient of the ACE Scholarship validated for me that all of my late night studying and heavy consumption of black coffee did not go unnoticed.

While on the scholarship, I am currently giving back to my fellow students by being a mentor, which is another life changer. Now that I am so close to completing the requirements for my degree, I hope to use everything I have learned to continue working in my community, either in a non-profit organization that advocates for disability rights or in the education field.

Thank you, CUNY SPS, for this opportunity, and for supporting me and my fellow students in our future endeavors.

Noelitta Tailiam is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the BA in Disability Studies degree program in June 2016.

“Is education important to your own sense of freedom?”

That was the question I was asked when I visited the Brooklyn Historical Society to check out the exhibit, Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom, which is on display through Winter 2018.  It’s a small, but good, exhibit.  Check it out.


One theme of the abolition movement of old is former slaves doing whatever they could to get an education for themselves.  The need for education is just as strong now.  Today, people all over the world are at-risk of being trafficked due to illiteracy, poor education and poverty, and they become victims through force, fraud and coercion.  People who work in education and workforce development are on the protection side of the anti-trafficking/abolition movement.

( I’m proud to be an educator.

Education is a pathway to the higher rungs of the job market, where people have an opportunity to find stable employment at living wage.  Yet, education is not just about getting a job.  Education is important because it helps us solve problems, it is fun, and it helps us to be fully participating citizens.

Education helps us solve problems.  Back in my social service days, my ability to read “official” letters was just an important as my social work skills.  For example, clients would bring in letters from the Human Resources Administration indicating that their benefits were about to be cut off, and not be able to understand the fine print explaining the appeals process.

Education is fun!  Education helps us understand some types of humor, like satire.  It also helps us enjoy activities like the crossword puzzle, Scrabble and Jeopardy.  (Remember Gloria (Rosie Perez) from the movie White Men Can’t Jump?  She studied furiously while waiting for her chance to get on the show.  Hilarious!)

Education undergirds meaningful citizenship.  We might be able to hear a campaign speech from Hillary or Bernie or Donald, and we can watch them debate; but meaningful participation comes down to critical thinking skills, which are honed through education.

Let education (and freedom) ring!

Rhonda Harrison is currently studying at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.