by Silvio Vazquez '87
Sunday, May 6, the New City Scholars and their families gathered for dinner in the Presidents Dining Room to celebrate a milestone--the upcoming graduation of the first cohort of recipients of this scholarship for urban students. The event was hosted by Jud and Jan Carlberg, and organized by Sheena Graham, director of intercultural affairs. The evening underscored the diverse journeys of these urban students and their families. Six members of the original New City Scholars cohort--Kevin Thai, Dean Blackette, Sonya Peters, Samuel Tsoi, Diane Andre and Matthew Hicks--walked across the stage at this year's Commencement. Two others, Pedro Maura and Joel Vargas, will finish their degrees this fall.
During dinner I sat with the parents of Kevin Thai and Samuel Tsoi, whom I'd first met four years earlier as Kevin and Sam were being considered for the scholarship. It was a moving experience to be with these people again, celebrating the achievements of their children. I knew they and many other parents in the room that evening had overcome tremendous obstacles to have their children be the first in their families to graduate from college.
Kevin recounted for us some of these obstacles and challenges. "My grandfather had to escape from China to Vietnam," he said. "And my father escaped from Vietnam to this country. Now I'm the first in my extended family of 300 to graduate from college. And I don't have to run." Kevin, as part of a new generation that does not have to run from anything or anybody, is wasting no time. This summer he will be moving to South Korea to teach English for the coming year.
With gratitude and humility, Samuel Tsoi thanked faculty and friends for the impression they've made on his life. He ended his remarks in his native Cantonese as he tearfully thanked his parents for their love, support and sacrifices. Sam's interniship through the Gordon in Boston program was with OXFAM International's Boston headquarters in the North End. He worked on the Corporate Partnerships Team and hopes his internship will lead to a full-time position.
One of the things that struck me as Kevin, Sam and other students spoke of their four years at Gordon was how they were fine examples, even mentors, for the younger New City Scholars in the room. Gordon, as a suburban campus, had much to learn from the NCS cohort's urban perspective. The cohesiveness of the scholars has been critical to success.
I was also struck by how beneficial the New City Scholars program has been for the College. It has enabled us to build a critical mass of students coming from urban communities--not just in terms of numbers but in terms of collegiality. Attracting students from diverse backgrounds and stories, the New City Scholars program has made us all the richer for allowing us to be part of the global Church right here in Wenham. I am grateful for how God continues to use Gordon to advance His Kingdom.