“Who wants to be a millionaire?”
Not a trick question, but one that got ten high school freshman from the East Ramapo School District in Rockland County thinking. The response was hands raised…though hesitantly at first. Maybe this was a trick question. Gently guided by Mark Meehan, Nyack’s dean of Community Life and Learning, he took his young audience through a series of questions that caused them to grabble with facts they may not have considered before.
How would you go about becoming a millionaire? How much money do you think you’d make without a high school diploma? How much money could you make with a high school diploma? With a college degree? Guesses at the "correct" answer were quite telling. But for an audience of young teens, not surprising. Meehan's bottom line, the $19,000 annual income—for a person without a high school diploma—(slightly below the poverty level), really grabbed their attention.
As they began to connect the dots and recognize the importance of education, Dean Meehan shifted gears to have them consider not just what education can do for an individual but what it can do to an individual. And that was the point of the visit to the Rockland County campus coordinated by Earl Miller, Nyack’s Executive Director of Community Relations: to consider possibilities.
Meehan promoted Nyack’s distinctive of diversity and asked the mostly African American group of young men to consider what it would be like to go to school with people who come from other places in our country…maybe a kid who grew up on a farm milking cows or having a roommate whose primary language is German. Skillfully weaving dreams, Meehan talked about leading Nyack students on a trip to South Africa this year, fully equipped with a backpack—stuffed with belongings that could weigh no more than 20 pounds—for a two-week stay.
One minute they were picturing the dean and his students fishing with locals in Mozambique. The next he coaxed them back to Rockland County and simply asked them to visualize themselves sitting in a Nyack classroom. “Say, ‘This is my seat’ he urged. “Each of you has potential to come and be a student here.” And sharing the words often spoken by Nyack’s president Dr. Michael Scales, he interjected, “It’s not what you come here with, it’s what you have when you leave.”
On this late May day, beyond the bustle of an active campus, the young men were able to get a glimpse of what they can aspire to. Chaperoned by community mentor, Joe Dais and social worker, Debra Quinones, the student visitors included Anije Bagby, Oliver Bowman, Alex Corbin, Tailore Ferguson, Chris Henry, Erickson Hernandez, Dwayne Hicks, Anthony Lauture, Lamont Smith and Denzel Teachey.
In addition to being hosted by Mr. Miller, the students were also greeted by Director of Admissions, Dinesh Mahtani; campus tour guide and admissions counselor, Joel Fevig; School of Music professor, Dr. Tammy Lum; Director of Library Services, Linda Poston; basketball coach Ted Quinn and assistant, Antwuan Holloway; and Nyack College (‘06)/ATS (‘09) alumnus and an assistant to President Scales, Charles Galbreath.