My Thanh Nguyen and Clifford Simmons, both seniors at Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics High School, on East 116th Street, and Double Discovery participants, recently garnered lucrative college scholarships that will help them join the first generation in their families to attend a four-year college.
Nguyen is one of 20 New York City high school seniors to receive the fifth annual The New York Times College Scholarship Program awards, and Simmons is one of two recipients of a one-time $5,000 McDonald's Student Athlete Scholarship Award. Both participate in Columbia's Double Discovery Center (DDC) Upward Bound Program, which annually offers 1,000 low-income, motivated high school students after-school tutoring and academic classes on Saturdays. The program also provides academic, career, college and counseling services and a six-week residential summer academic program at Columbia.
Chosen from a pool of 1,400 applicants citywide, Nguyen will receive $7,500 a year for four years toward her college tuition, a computer and printer and a $500-a-week summer job at the Times, as well as exposure to Broadway and other local cultural attractions.
Born in Vietnam, Nguyen moved to New York City six years ago, and since 2001 has participated in afterschool and Saturday programs through Columbia's Double Discovery Center.
Besides her dedication to academics, Nguyen also diligently helps her family. Before arriving each morning at school on E. 116th Street from her Bronx apartment, Nguyen detours to Queens to help her father, a fruit vendor, pick up his cart and set it up on his Midtown corner.
The prospect of attending college in the United States is particularly meaningful for Nguyen. At the age of three, her family attempted to escape from Vietnam by boat and was subsequently imprisoned after a near-fatal disaster at sea.
Nguyen is interested in a career in medicine and has been accepted to Columbia College and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at the City University of New York. She is the second Double Discovery Center student to garner The New York Times scholarship. Denise De Las Nueces (Columbia College '03) was among the first recipients in 1999.
Clifford Simmons was selected as a recipient of the McDonald's Student Athlete Scholarship Award. The Ronald McDonald House Charities/African American Future Achievers Scholarship Program sponsors two scholarships to acknowledge one male and one female outstanding scholar-athlete within their Public School Athletics League (PSAL) varsity basketball programs. In addition to their achievements on the court, scholarship recipients are selected based on academic achievement, financial need, community involvement and personal qualities and strengths. Simmons, who assisted the 13-1 Manhattan Center in winning the Manhattan 1-A Division title, has been a Columbia Double Discovery Center student since the summer of 2000. He has participated in the intensive six-week residential summer program and his Saturday coursework has focused on math and science. This semester he is studying calculus and physics.
When asked to reflect on his award, the Harlem resident replied, "It's a dream come true. I want to show that I am deserving of this scholarship." He will begin studies at Morehouse College in Atlanta in the fall, where he hopes to study mathematics and engineering while continuing to play basketball.
The Double Discovery Center's Executive Director, Olger C. Twyner, III, said of the students' success: "My Thanh and Clifford exemplify what DDC is all about. They are hard-working, energetic, and committed to succeeding in college and beyond."
The students' DDC counselor, Rachel Ford, echoed that sentiment. "Clifford is a very focused young man. He defined goals for himself, and this scholarship will be a great help for him to reach those goals and My Thanh is an enthusiastic and diligent student, and is highly deserving of The New York Times scholarship."
Each year, approximately 96 percent of DDC seniors graduate from high school, and 93 percent enroll in college.