Queensborough Community College celebrates 40 years of its life-changing flagship English Language program, known as Port of Entry (PoE), by acknowledging notable graduates and honoring community members whose support has enabled 12,669 students from 21 countries – who arrived with little or no English skills — establish themselves and prosper in New York City.
Tony Shen, a 1992 graduate from Taiwan, is a Citi Group financial professional who continued his studies at Queensborough (Associate’s Degree) and Baruch (Bachelor in Finance and Industrial Psychology). He came to America two years after finishing high school and serving in the Army in Taiwan.
[Pictured: Back row, left to right: Port of Entry alumnus Geovanna Paola Erazo Villegas; PoE donor representative Peggy Chiang from the Taiwan Junior Chamber of Commerce of New York (representing Mr. Thomas Chen); PoE alumni Yin Yun Zheng Li, Jiacheng Guo and Toby Shen. Front row: PoE Director Florence Tse; Donor Mrs. Liu Tee Shu; Queensborough President Dr. Timothy G. Lynch and Dr. Hui-Yin Hsu, Dean of Continuing Education and Workforce Development. Photo: Leo Correa/QCC]
Shen is currently studying for a Master’s in Divinity because, “I see the need for care and counselling in the Chinese community.” He expressed his gratitude this week to a packed auditorium of current students, parents, guests, faculty and staff and other supporters, for Queensborough’s commitment to newly arrived immigrants.
“Whenever I reach out and help people I always feel that it’s because of my experience with, and deep feelings for, [Port of Entry Director] Florence Tse and [Coordinator] Dolores Hopkins and all of the passionate educators here. The legacy of Port of Entry for me is that they really helped me to help others,” Shen said.
Approximately 250 PoE students have benefitted from scholarships and other program awards since 2004.
Recent graduates, Jiacheng Guo and Yin Yun Zheng Li, found professional pathways in graphic design and healthcare, respectively.
Guo – who completed studies at Queensborough and Queens College — has worked on major campaigns for the likes of Volkswagen and Con Edison.
“I spoke broken English when I arrived six years ago, but I learned more than a language at Queensborough. I learned how to properly engage people, ask for help and work hard,” said the Chinese immigrant, just sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
Li, of Chinese heritage but born and raised in Venezuela, arrived in Queens in 2014 carrying an international student visa.
“As a girl who only knew Chinese and Spanish, I failed my first essay, but that was good. It motivated me and I pursued a health career,” explained the newly registered nurse, who was also a peer leader and mentor at Queensborough.
“To be an immigrant myself and not only teach people English, but also help them with difficult subject matter — it was very empowering to be able to pass on my skills and experience.”
The tightly knit PoE community, established in 1980, has benefitted from continuous College and CUNY support as well as critical financial assistance from generous scholarship donors.
Queensborough celebrated four distinguished families’ contributions at a reception this week, including that of Liu Tee Shu, Chairwoman of the American Chinese Culture Foundation, who spoke through an interpreter, her youngest of four “very good” sons.
“My mom wants to say that she only finished middle school but she never gave up. She came to America in 1975 because of the American Dream, but spoke no English. It has been a long journey. She says that you are very lucky indeed, because you have an opportunity to have an education and learn English. She wants you to use what you learn to achieve success. Mom is very happy that this program was founded and is very pleased at how successful it has become,” George said on behalf of his 77-year-old mother.
Other donors acknowledged today were Thomas Chen of Crystal Window and Door Systems, a national manufacturer based in Flushing; Professor Emeritus Jackson Lum (Queensborough, Engineering Technology) and Muriel Lum, founders of Logic Controls; and Professor Emeritus Nathan Chao (Professor of Engineering Technology, Queensborough) and Rose Chao.
Director Florence Tse of PoE, is a tireless champion of the Second Language program and endlessly promotes cross-cultural understanding throughout Queens. She tells students that their knowledge of America and the New York way of life is as important as their English language development.
“The journey is challenging but productive, rewarding, and refreshing and our teams enjoy working, listening, watching, and assessing the success of our language students here,” says Tse, a well-known local community member and recipient of the Inspiring Leadership Award from the Chinese American Heritage Association.
Her Cultural Orientation program introduces immigrants to U.S. History, government, the Arts and culture, sports, technology, religions, economics and labor relations.
As PoE celebrates 40 years, Queensborough marks its 60th year of community service and commitment to what President Dr. Timothy G. Lynch calls transformative education.
“The Port of Entry’s mission is an important component of what we do here to educate and serve a wide cross-section of students,” said Dr. Lynch in remarks that kicked off the ceremony Monday at 10:00AM.
“My original area of study was immigration and ethnicity. So, I feel a strong bond to the Port of Entry program. For providing access and opportunity to individuals who are newcomers to our country, I congratulate Florence on 40 years of leadership and commitment,” Dr. Lynch added.
Geovanna Paola Erazo Villegas received an award for being an outstanding PoE graduate. Having a Bachelor’s Degree plus two Master’s, Villegas is the Chief Physician Assistant at the Queens Hospital Center. Directing her remarks to incoming PoE students, she implored immigrants to follow through on their aspirations.
“Don’t think it’s not possible, because it is. We have so many dreams when we come here. At the beginning, you think it is very hard to get where you want to get, but you can do it.
This program will open doors for you as it has opened up doors for me.”
The Port of Entry Program, based on Queensborough’s Bayside campus, also operates a satellite program in downtown Flushing. Its intensive programs, offered three times a year, provide international students and new immigrants with the language skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to succeed in higher education and professional careers in the United States.