An Uncharted Path
When Ahmed Albajari ’19 was 12, he joined his father by working at his family’s grocery store in Brooklyn to help bring in more money for the household of seven. As his high school graduation rolled around, he figured his academic career was coming to a close and he would begin working full time.
But as he watched his peers applying for college, he changed his mind. He could be the first in his family to attend college and pave the way for his younger siblings to obtain higher education.
“Something inside of me sparked and I saw [attending college] as an opportunity to give back to my parents who have worked so hard to give me this life I live,” said Ahmed, whose parents emigrated from Yemen. “All throughout my years in college, I have always had my family’s best interest in mind and have even abstained from summer internship opportunities to make my contributions to the family store because my father was in need of the assistance.”
Despite passing up summer internship opportunities, Ahmed packed as much as he could into his four years at SUNY Oswego. He graduated with a GPA of 3.96, and a long list of extracurricular activities that enriched his college experience. Today, he works as a treasury analyst for Point72 Asset Management in Stamford, Conn.
As the recipient of the Michael O’Brien ’81 Memorial Scholarship at SUNY Oswego, he credits the financial support he received as being integral to his success and said he hopes to someday establish a scholarship for students in need.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my donors’ help,” he said.
Long and Winding Road
After Casey Stewart ’23 earned an associate’s degree in 2012, she got married, bought a house and started working full time. She has always
dreamed of earning a bachelor’s but, “Life just happened quickly,” she said. A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2017 was life-changing, but she became more determined to forge ahead.
“No matter what happens in life you have to be able to push on and keep moving forward bettering yourself as a person,” she said. “Now is my time to further my education to move up in the world.”
She enrolled part-time in the business administration program at the Oswego Syracuse campus and received the Visions Federal Credit Union Scholarship that is helping to pay for her books and reducing her student loan debt.
After earning her bachelor’s degree, she aspires to obtain a role as human resources manager at her current employer, Spectrum Community Solutions in Syracuse.
“As a recipient of that scholarship, I know my community supports me and wants me to further my education,” Casey said. “I don’t take that lightly. It brings a good pressure, and it drives me to get that essay done and keep studying until I know the information. It definitely boosts my morale and lets me know that not only do I know I can do it, Visions does, too!”
A Vocal Journey
Angel Tyler ’21of Cleveland, Ohio, first became aware of and interested in SUNY Oswego as she watched the “Rokerthon 3” live broadcast on NBC’s Today show in 2017, and after a little online research and a campus visit, she knew it was the right place for her to pursue her passion for music and vocal performance.
“Only one problem…figuring out how to afford being here,” she said. “Finances are a struggle for my family; we are categorized as a low-income household. Neither of my parents went to college, and only one of my parents is able to work. My mom cannot work any more due to her battle with breast cancer. Constant medical bills, including a recent two-month stay in the hospital, puts additional strain on our family’s finances, and not to mention, on our emotions. Without scholarship support, I can honestly say to you, I would not be here today as a SUNY Oswego student.”
She received academic scholarships and works as a resident assistant in Seneca Hall to help pay for college. She also received the Carapetyan Voice Scholarship, which did more than help her afford to stay in college.
“When I learned that I was the recipient of this scholarship, I was extremely happy and proud because I saw being selected as a reflection of my growth as a singer,” Angel said. “It proved to me that my hard work was paying off, and that I am on the right track towards my future.”
The Path FORWARD
The stories of Casey, Angel and Ahmed are only three among thousands of SUNY Oswego students who seek to better themselves and make a greater contribution to society through higher education.
They study alongside classmates who entered college with an average SAT score of 1150 and average high school GPA of 90; whose academic accomplishments have led to Oswego being named a top producer of Fulbright U.S. Student award recipients; and whose broadcast excellence and commitment to service and civic engagement have garnered national awards.
They are academically gifted and motivated students who have the drive to succeed and overcome adversity, and they are willing to commit and invest in their educational pursuits.
Yet, despite taking advantage of the state, federal and private resources available to them to fund their college education, many still face what can seem like insurmountable financial barriers. More than 41 percent of SUNY Oswego students receive the federal Pell grant, which is intended for the financially neediest students whose total annual family income is less than $50,000.
“That means any little change in their circumstance—an illness at home, food insecurity, problems with travel to and from campus—can end their dream of obtaining a college education and their life trajectory changes forever,” said President Deborah F. Stanley. “These are students who are worthy of our support, and I know our Oswego family will pull together and help close the gap so that our students remain on course and complete their degrees.”
That’s why the college is announcing a new campaign—The Path Forward—to double the number of need-based scholarships from 220 to 440 over the next two years.
“Here at SUNY Oswego, we have a long legacy of receiving support from our alumni and friends and a strong track record of stewarding those gifts to make the greatest impact on our students,” said Mary Gibbons Canale ‘81, vice president for development and alumni engagement. “We are grateful for your philanthropy, and know you will once again join us in supporting The Path Forward—an initiative to generate more scholarship support for SUNY Oswego students.”
“We can ensure that our students’ SUNY Oswego story continues,” President Stanley said. “We can empower them so they can take full advantage of the rich opportunities and resources the college offers. By contributing to these students, we are committing to a better world. Change can happen one student at a time.”
Please consider supporting our students on The Path Forward. Join the effort at oswego.edu/pathforward.