"We all have a role to play in this world, and helping others is a key role that I want to take on," says Bushra Begum, a first-year student and Liberal Arts and Sciences major at Stella and Charles Guttman Community College at CUNY. The proud daughter of a Bengali immigrant and the first in her family to attend college, Bushra champions the rights of all youth to a quality education irrespective of their socioeconomic status. Bushra understood from her own experience that the college readiness information and preparation that she and her classmates could access in their public schools was far less than the college preparatory work her peers in private schools could obtain in addition to the costly tutoring and extra test prep classes they could afford after school and on weekends when she and her friends had to work. "As a child whose parent came here to provide a better life for us, I know that improving life for children everywhere depends on their ability to attain a quality education." To that end, Bushra has been active as a mentor and ambassador in a no-cost college prep program and plans to start a Guttman UNICEF club.
The first time I took initiative in addressing issues of educational inequality, and socioeconomic disparities in public schools was when I began teaching and mentoring students in grades 7th through 12th for the Upward Bound Program at Columbia University. From my personal experiences of attending public school, I can agree to the fact that these issues are present, especially in schools that are located in impoverished neighborhoods. Due to low funding and a lack of resources in many New York City public schools, students aren't receiving a quality education that is needed in order for them to be college ready. This issue in our education system needed to be addressed. So, I was determined to help fight this issue through the power of mentor-ship, and serving as an academic tutor to students whom are facing these injustices. Programs like Upward Bound helped bridge the gap by pairing students with mentors to guide their academic journey into higher education. I am passionate about advocating for students of color to get equal opportunity, and empower them to become agents of change. If these students can't attend college and be strengthened with powerful information, then they can't come out and strengthen their communities.