Phil Cusimano




Kingsborough Community College ASAP '13

I am the eldest of three siblings, a first generation American of Sicilian ancestry, and a native of Brooklyn. My favorite sports team is the New York Yankees; I am an avid scuba diver and reef aquarium enthusiast, and love to swim and scuba dive in the playground of the world’s oceans.


I can assuredly tell you that one of the most difficult endeavors I have ever embarked upon has been going back to college full-time after having a successful business career, which spanned over two decades. Adding another level of dimensional difficulty has been replacing my area of expertise in finance with a course of study in marine biology. This kind of shift can make transitions even more arduous and challenging. But as Dr. Frank Percaccio, English professor at Kingsborough, would say, “Choose a career that you really enjoy, and you’ll never feel like you’ve worked a day in your life.”  


Like most incoming students, I had to take the college assessment exams in both math and English and I did not pass either one of the tests. Did this mean that I could not write an essay, or solve algebraic problems and that I was incapable of doing college level work?  Absolutely not. It just amplified my sense that my skill sets were finely tuned to my job requirements and not suited toward an academic environment. My career required that my writing be very concise, short and to the point; my math skills eroded from disuse due to the use of spreadsheet programs, which performed calculation for me instead of requiring skills I learned over years of schooling.


PC familyThat’s where the ASAP program became an invaluable asset. I was extremely naïve about Kingsborough’s programs and opportunities. ASAP recruiter Jonelle Gulston explained the entire program to me and invited me to join. I was looking for some sort of support mechanism that would help make the transition into academic life smoother, while giving me an opportunity that would facilitate earning my associate degree. With Jonelle’s knowledge and assistance, she made me aware of, and enrolled me in Kingsborough’s summer immersion program for basic English writing and I passed the CATW. This saved me valuable time, and kept me on pace to earn my degree by 2013. That left me with only a remedial math course to take during my first semester.


The cornerstone of the ASAP programs lies in its personal advisement, support system, and resources. Furthermore, what sets the program apart from the rest is that you are not just a number on an assembly line; rather, you are a unique individual and the focus and emphasis is on you the student. Building a one-on-one rapport with an extremely supportive academic advisor like Marie Caty is indispensable. Marie has often said to me, “If others can see what you bring to the table, why can’t you see it in yourself?  Not only that but you’re driven, unselfish, passionate, poised, intelligent, eager and an all-round good person.” Marie guides you in achieving your academic goals; you can tap her knowledge and can pose questions, and she is someone you can speak to about your concerns. Moreover, you have access to tutoring services and the ASAP career counselor Heidi Yu, who helps keep you informed of internship opportunities, potential job prospects, scholarship opportunities, career development, and job research skills. The program has a lot to offer and helps make you successful in the academic community. Director Richard Rivera is an outstanding individual who has surrounded himself with a very knowledgeable, supportive, and very helpful staff. Richard leads by example, setting the tenor of the program.      


The ASAP population is more like a combination fraternity and sorority, or perhaps even like a family.  Everyone starts on the same page. The cohorts are all energetic and eager to learn, friendly, willing to help each other out, and have an extremely positive attitude. As ASAP students, we travel together through linked courses during the first semester, fostering a strong sense of camaraderie. It definitely creates an environment that is extremely conducive to learning. It is also a small and closely-knit group where everyone knows each other. The program has also enhanced my abilities by allowing me to stay focused on my education, and that translates into higher grades. It also provides me with an extensive support staff, and that has not changed from day one and nor has my impression about the program changed.  Additionally, I  know I always have someone that I can speak to concerning academic issues, and sometimes personal ones as well.


PC SharkOnce I’ve earned my associates degree in marine biology, my plans are to earn my bachelor of science degree in marine vertebrate biology, hopefully at Stony Brook University. I would like to pursue research jobs in marine aquaculture and perhaps come back to teach at Kingsborough Community College because I would like to be in a position to give back to an institution that has given me so such.


If I could pass on a piece of wisdom to current and perspective ASAP cohorts it would be the following: Never give up your dreams, always believe in yourself, never forsake your core values for any reason, work hard and don’t cheat yourself, always give your best effort, be humble, be a humanitarian, and give to those less fortunate then yourself. Additionally, remember two important thoughts: “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, but what you do when you get up that counts.” and “It’s not who we are that defines us, but what we do that defines us.” Believe in these principles and you will be successful not only academically, but also professionally, and most importantly, you will be successful in life.    




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