Bridges to Opportunity

Ifrah Hassan (left) and Sidrat Rahman (right) spent part of their summer at SUNY Binghamton thanks to the Bridges to Baccalaureate program.

OCC students Ifrah Hassan and Sidrat Rahman enjoyed transformative learning experiences this summer. They participated in paid internships at SUNY Binghamton as part of the Bridges to Baccalaureate program. Rahman focused on chemistry, Hassan on psychology. “I loved the opportunity of being in a lab and getting real hands-on experience,” said Rahman. “I loved my research,” added Hassan. “I learned a lot about psychology and myself. Being around people from other schools made me more outgoing. I’m more confident now when it comes to engaging in conversation.”

The Bridges to Baccalaureate program supports under-represented students interested in pursuing careers in biomedical sciences. The program is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Health and is a collaboration between SUNY Binghamton and three community colleges, including OCC.

Both students have similar life and academic backgrounds. Hassan is from Kenya. She moved to the United States in 2003 and graduated from Utica’s Proctor High School in 2016. Rahman’s parents are from Bangladesh. She was raised in Montreal before coming to the United States. She graduated from Jamesville-Dewitt High School in 2016. Both are Mathematics & Science majors with Honors minors, members of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and strong believers in the college’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP). “I was a little lost when I first came to OCC,” Rahman said. “Once I found the C-STEP office everything worked out. C-STEP is my family!”

During her internship Rahman worked in a lab, trying to figure out how to make a compound more soluble. “I found I really liked the process of figuring things out. Research is definitely a career I am considering now.”

Hassan found the internship also had a significant impact on her. The research she conducted focused on how ethanol impacts the brains of adults and adolescents. “More than anything I learned any part of life can be researched, not just science. Now when I have a thought about something I think, ‘I should do research on that.’ I used to be afraid of research but now I like finding answers myself.”

Hassan will earn her degree this December. During her final semester she’ll serve fellow students in the Learning Center, tutoring calculus and biology. Rahman is on track to earn her degree next May. She’s planning to work as a Student Ambassador with C-STEP throughout the academic year, sharing her success story with fellow students and guiding them. “I know people think community colleges aren’t academically challenging but OCC is. I’m glad I came here and I saved money too!”

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