The current crop of Columbia University students from Northern Manhattan receiving the Dyckman Institute Scholarship includes, from left, Aury Violeta Garcia, Patricia Candida Rojas, Christopher George Davidson and Jason Tejeda (not pictured). PHOTO: Mike Fitelson
Few young adults have the opportunity to receive an Ivy League education. Fewer are able to do it on the doorstep of their community.
That is the case of Dyckman Institute Scholarship recipients Aury Garcia, Christopher Davidson, Patricia Rojas, and Jason Tejeda, who received the award this year after being chosen to join a program that helps Inwood and Washington Heights students attend Columbia University.
The scholars are picked each year among students who both excel academically and have a strong history of community service. The Dyckman Institute has served the Washington Heights and Inwood area for over 190 years when it was founded as the first school and public library in the area. Since 1943, the trustees established the Dyckman Institute Scholarship at Columbia College which continues to assist area students today.
In the case of Christopher Davidson, a junior majoring in English and currently interning with Marvel Entertainment, he found out about the scholarship when he was admitted into Columbia after submitting an early decision application. “Columbia has been very good about guiding students who need financial aid,” Davidson said. “If you can get in they’re willing to work with you.”
Davidson said that he is honored to be called a Dyckman Scholar and feels a sense of accomplishment with the award. His experience at Columbia thus far has been rewarding and varied, calling the campus a “smorgasbord” where no two Columbians are alike.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, we can all achieve things,” he said. “There is no shoo-in, so if you want it you have to work for it.”
In the case of freshman Aury Garcia, a resident of Washington Heights hailing from the Dominican Republic, the award came thanks in part to her volunteering experience and work at Mount Sinai Hospital as a high school senior.
“I believe that the combinations of passion for helping my community and my academic focus helped me to get the scholarship,” said Garcia, who is currently enrolled in pre-medical courses that she hopes will one day lead her to medical school. “I’m hoping to pursue a major in psychology,” she added.
Jason Tejada is a second year recipient of the scholarship and is currently studying economics and hopes to enter the financial industry. “I want to use the science of economics to better analyze and predict financial patterns,” said Tejada. Thus far his experiences include interning in finance administration at Bloomberg and providing administrative assistance at the Columbia University center on global brands and leadership.
Being the first in her family to attend college is more than just an honor for Patricia Rojas, a senior in Columbia College studying environmental biology and pre-med.
For Rojas it is about the difference she wishes to make in her community through hard work and education.
“My mother always said to me that the greatest inheritance she leaves me is my education. I always wanted to break the stereotype and not become another statistic,” said Rojas.
Being a native of Washington Heights with Dominican roots, Rojas worries that there’s a growing feeling of hopelessness within the community’s youth and that the lack of funding within the public school system will affect their preparation for college. “With the right counselors and education, I have no doubt in my mind that every young person within the community can go to college,” said Rojas.
Rojas hopes to become a successful doctor, and looks forward to giving back to her community by establishing a clinic and helping those in need. “I want to serve as a role model to those who come from my ethnic background and those within the public school system for them to know que si se puede [yes we can].”