Lenoi and Jevar Carter know how fortunate they are. Four years ago they left their home in the Caribbean country of Jamaica and moved to Central New York with their mother. They came for a chance to better themselves, something which they say was nearly impossible at home. “In Jamaica opportunities were extremely difficult to find,” said Lenoi. “We’d be cheating our friends in Jamaica if we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity here and make the most out of it.”
In May 2016 Lenoi and Jevar completed work toward Engineering Science degrees, wrapping up a wonderful three year journey on the Onondaga Community College campus. They were often referred to as “The Carter Brothers” because people confused who was who. Despite their resemblance they are not twins. In fact there the age difference between them is more than three-and-a-half years. They learned to embrace the confusion their similar appearances caused and have fun with it. “We would tell (Mathematics) Professor Oppedisano our wrong names just to confuse him! Eventually he learned who we were,” said Lenoi.
The age gap between the brothers led to a lifetime of friendly competition between them. “Because I was older I was always naturally better than him at certain things,” said Lenoi. “I think when I was 17 he actually beat me in a race. I was like, ‘Oh okay.’ He kept working and working to get better.”
Jevar admits equaling or beating his big brother was a goal since childhood. Ask him what he is better at than Lenoi and he immediately answers, “Sports and geography.” Academically the gap between them was wide with Lenoi being the better student. “When I came to OCC I was copying Lenoi’s style of work and his way of going to class,” said Jevar. “But it didn’t work for me. We have completely different styles of learning. I had a very rough first semester while I was trying to figure out what worked for me.”
Jevar found the answers he needed in the office of OCC’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP). “Everyone there was so helpful. They could help me with any questions I had. C-STEP provided the support system I needed to get me to the point where I’m doing really well.”
After his rocky first semester Jevar’s grades steadily improved to the point where in the fall 2015 semester his grade point average was only .1 behind Lenoi. “I tried to beat him at least once while we were here,” said Jevar. “I give Lenoi a lot of credit for what I accomplished. He motivated me to better myself.”
As Jevar improved academically he also became more involved on campus. He became a Student Ambassador, giving tours to prospective students. Both Carter brothers were named NASA Scholars and invited to take part in the New York Space Grant program. Lenoi’s sustained academic excellence earned him membership in international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. Lenoi also benefitted from the C-STEP program which introduced him to summer research programs and sent him to numerous conferences and seminars.
During the 2015-16 academic year Lenoi was the student representative on OCC’s Board of Trustees. “I gained self-confidence being on the Board,” said Lenoi. “I realized I could advocate for students and impact their lives. It gave me a different perspective and made me think as a manager.”
Lenoi and Javar are thankful for the opportunities they found at the College. “I’m truly grateful to OCC for molding me into the person I am today,” said Jevar. “I’m glad I made the decision to come here,” added Lenoi. “If I would have gone from Jamaica to a four-year school I wouldn’t have been as prepared as I am now.”
It’s possible the Carter brothers will wind up at different college as they pursue bachelor’s degrees but they vow to remain together in pursuit of a lifelong goal. Both want to give back to their home country and help young people just like them. “We wouldn’t have gotten to where we are without people assisting us,” said Lenoi. “We want to create a scholarship program for young people in Jamaica and help them find the same opportunities here we found.”