BCCC Graduate Kemardo Henry wins prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

As Baltimore City Community College’s Class of 2010 graduates take to the stage June 5 at 1st Mariner Arena, three of their members have already distinguished themselves for accomplishments which swing open the doors to four-year college and university life and make them “most likely to succeed” in American society.

For Kemardo Henry, Jamaica native, Granville T. Woods Scholar and recipient of a Governor’s Citation for academic excellence, the halls of medicine now beckon. Having just been selected as a 2010 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholar, Kemardo will pursue pre-medical studies this fall in biochemistry at Syracuse University. The prestigious scholarship pays up to $30,000 per year for tuition, living expenses, books and fees for the final two to three years of a baccalaureate degree, and up to $50,000 for graduate studies. Kemardo is one of only 40 such scholars nationwide, and the second at BCCC in four years, to receive the scholarship.

Life was anything but easy for Henry throughout his studies at BCCC, yet he constantly stayed busy. Confronted with the grim news in fall 2008 he had a rare but treatable form of blood cancer, Henry began chemotherapy on Christmas Eve 2008.

The treatments continued through April, just as he embarked on his studies. A month afterward, radiation followed, yet the only outward sign of Henry’s condition was his missing hair. The experience moved him to change the focus of his General Studies major from chemical engineering to biochemistry.

“I’ve long wanted to become a doctor,” he said. “I realized my interests became so much more specific after battling cancer I grew fascinated with the biological determinants of disease-not only as they relate to practicing medicine, but research and teaching.”

Henry has volunteered at Sinai Hospital and is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) research assistant at Towson University studying plant biology. He hopes to become a medical oncologist and do cancer research.

To BCCC addiction counseling graduate Christopher Pelfrey, being named a 2010 Coca-Cola National Finalist based on scores he earned in the All-USA Academic Team competition (All Maryland Academic Team) was just one step on a successful journey which included membership in Phi Theta Kappa [honor society for two-year colleges]; a 4.0 GPA throughout his studies at BCCC; a BCCC Presidential Scholarship to the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), where he will attend this fall; and recognition in Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.

He provides compassionate service as a volunteer to Baltimore’s homeless population and works as a campus pastor at Helping Up Mission. Upon his transfer to UMBC, Pelfrey will complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work with the goal of becoming a behavioral therapist. Ultimately, he would like to achieve a doctoral degree in psychology.

“My experience in the classroom has given me the tools and education necessary to impact vulnerable people in our community,” he said. “If we look around us, there are no perfect people. We must come as we are. That’s what attracted me to this field.”

Granville T. Woods Scholar Lystra Kiser holds an abiding interest in the environment. She rose to the All-Maryland Academic Team and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the BCCC Environmental Science Club. During her time at BCCC, she served as a naturalist at Gunpowder Falls State Park in Kingsville, Md., where she conducted natural history and environmental education programs including outdoor recreation activities for the public. She also tutors students at the college.

Interestingly, Kiser first heard about BCCC through a friend at a mall. She filled out her application and sent it in. She needed a little money for school. Before long, she was accepted into the Woods program and found herself on an airplane-bound for Italy-for a month-long study abroad.

“I wouldn’t have discovered myself if it weren’t for BCCC,” she said. “Community colleges put you ahead of your four-year peers. At BCCC I found solidarity in a small setting. This fully prepares you to step out of the high school realm into adulthood.”

Kiser will begin her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies this fall at Goucher College.

BCCC’s 61st Commencement: June 5 at 10 a.m., 1st Mariner Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St., open to the public. For more information, contact the BCCC Institutional Advancement office.

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