CCTOP would like to introduce our very first “CCTOP Alumni Spotlight” series. CCTOP students come from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and possess knowledge in different areas of interest. Our first alumni spotlight is Jemair Lewis, NYU Steinhardt Class of 2015, and now a student in NYU’s Master’s Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness program.
CCTOP Graduate Intern, Kevin Franco, spoke with Jemair about her successes and her CCTOP experience.
M.A. Counseling for Mental Health & Wellness, May 2018
Community College Attended: Hostos Community College
“This journey is bigger than me. That’s my success story so far and the rest remains unwritten.”
Kevin: So Jemair, what does success mean to you?
Jemair: For me, success is not a destination, but a journey. It’s an ongoing process and I believe as long as you are being proactive and taking steps forward, no matter how small, you are on your way. However, I do not dwell on the idea of being successful out of fear of becoming complacent. Success is something I am striving towards whether through personal and professional goals each and every day. And I have learned that such success is interdependent of one another. Essentially, I see myself as my biggest competition and always feel there is something I can improve upon. Success is a feeling for me, not a title, position or a degree. Currently, I am successful not only because of my accomplishments, but also because of the awesome and supportive people I have around me.
Kevin: I really like how you say that success is a “feeling…not a title, position, or a degree.” Keeping that notion in mind, how was your CCTOP experience?
“It is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Jemair: Being a part of CCTOP has afforded me the opportunity to attend what has been my dream school since I was I was a freshman in high school. When I was applying to transfer to NYU from Hostos Community College, I did not know much about CCTOP and my career advisor was the one who brought it to my attention. I was elated to find out I had been accepted to NYU and was also a recipient of the CCTOP scholarship. Upon getting to NYU, I was worried about finding a community in which I could felt I belonged to within such a big school. CCTOP was that small and close-knit community I needed. The great thing about CCTOP is that it is offered to students in certain programs, so it makes it more likely that you will find other students who are also a part of CCTOP. I had new student orientation with a few other CCTOP students in my cohort and we immediately began to bond over the fact that we were transfer students from community colleges around the city. Most of us were also commuter students, so we related that way as well. I had a department advisor, but I took advantage of the fact that CCTOP was another support system to help me stay on track with my classes. So, I did just that and regularly made appointments with the director of CCTOP. Finding people I could connect with based on the fact that I came from a CUNY school was one aspect I really enjoyed. I cherished these connections and friendships throughout my undergrad career at NYU and continue to do so to this day. I also enjoyed listening to the diversified experiences and opinions of my classmates from all over the world. I felt fortunate to be surrounded by people who were inquisitive about everything life had to offer, whether I agreed with these opinions or not. I quickly learned it’s okay to ask questions, to explore and challenge concepts that have been ingrained in us since childhood because this is how our minds expand and ultimately, how my own opinions and beliefs evolved during my time at NYU. Moreover, celebrating our 2-year journey as CCTOP students during graduation celebration was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced, and I will hold onto that feeling of solidarity and accomplishment forever.
Kevin: That is really powerful, Jemair. It seems that CCTOP played a pivotal role in your NYU experience. Any advice you would like to give to current CCTOP students?
Jemair: Be open. Be open to meeting new people, going to new places (study abroad if possible) and of course learning new things from not only your professors and mentors, but from your peers as well. One essential thing that I took away from my undergraduate experience at NYU is the diversified opinions. It was always great to hear the opinions of my peers, because it challenged me to be more self-aware and self-reflective, which ultimately, inspired progression in my critical thinking skills and, overall, personal growth. I would also advise new or current students to utilize the resources they have available to them both on campus and beyond. Be curious! Participate in CCTOP events, spread the word about the program and connect with your peers within and outside of the program. The bigger the support system, the better. Lastly, remember that these connections that you make now can continue beyond graduation as you start or continue in your field of choice, so definitely take advantage of networking opportunities at NYU.
Kevin: This is all great advice and it’s great that you were able to stay connected at NYU through your graduate studies. To my knowledge, you are also busy as a Student Tutor for 1st graders at NYU America Reads/Counts. I also understand that you’re planning to study abroad in Shanghai, China. Looking back at everything, how does success look to you now?
Jemair: I think my idea of success has evolved in the way that I now know it is defined on an individual basis and not based on what society tells you it is. Most importantly, I try not to give anyone else the power to decide whether I am successful at something or not, instead I create what makes me successful at something each day, even celebrating small victories. I have my doubts like any other person, but one thing I never doubted was how far I could get as it relates to my education and my career. I am right where I imagined I would be and have exceeded the expectations I had for myself along the way. Growing up as an introverted person, my main goal was to help people and only through life experiences was I able to recognize my gifts, talents, and potential in contributing to the mental health field as a counselor. Imagine how scary the thought could be for an introverted person to step outside of themselves and be in constant communication with clients and colleagues. This idea was initially nerve-wracking to me, but my passion for helping and reaching out to others through this specific modality of counseling trumps all those fears. This journey is bigger than me. That’s my success story so far and the rest remains unwritten. Ultimately, it’s also important to recognize that we are the experts of our own narratives. The best part about writing your own life story is that you hold the pen and, therefore, decide what success means for you.
Thank you Jemair for taking the time to talk to us. If anyone would like to reach out to Jemair, she is willing to chat and she is, fortunately, “still around!” If you are a CCTOP alumni or current CCTOP student and would like to share your story, please reach out to us. We would love to hear your story.