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Mamfatou Baldeh '14

Mamfatou Baldeh
“Although my parents wanted me to go to college, it was theoretical. Being at BHSEC made me realize that I can do college, and I can do well.” Mamfatou Baldeh, who graduated in 2014 from BHSEC Queens, heard about BHSEC from a friend in her middle school, MS 118 in the Bronx. She knew the basics: that you could earn college credits and an AA degree. When she started in 2010, she knew she was a part of something special.

“The moment I realized this was something bigger,” she said, “was when my dad was talking about it and telling some family friends. They were so fascinated by it and I felt great about it. I knew that I might be able to transfer over all these credits; but at that moment, I felt like I really knew that it was special.

Mamfatou is currently in her freshman year at Columbia University, where she appreciates the preparation she received from Bard. “I got so many skills from dealing with the intensity of BHSEC. I know so much better, now, how to handle heavy workloads. I would have been drowning now and freaking out about it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I know how to handle it.” 

Mamfatou has been focused on her academics for her whole life. Her family had always stressed education and going to college. “Back then in middle school, I was getting all 90s and above. But when I got to my first year at Bard, I got a B+ and I cried over it! I was used to being at that A standard, and I thought it would be a breeze to get As there too.” She knew that BHSEC was going to push her to levels that she hadn’t reached before, and she was ready for it. 

At Columbia, Mamfatou continues to challenge herself, but does express her gratitude for all the growth she experienced at BHSEC. She credits the nurturing environment at BHSEC for her smooth transition to Columbia. “ It is such a different atmosphere. Here, you’re kind of left on your own. Being here and seeing that people just expect you to go off and be independent made me appreciate all the support I received at BHSEC. They love you and they want to help you. I had a great support system with all my professors and guidance counselors and even the Dean and Principal. They all wanted to get to know you and help you with whatever they could help you with.”

In addition to BHSEC’s resources and extensive support systems, the liberal arts and seminar class styles introduced new perspectives and options, Mamfatou says. “When I was in middle school, I wanted to be a doctor, and then I got to BHSEC and was exposed to the seminar style classes and the readings we were doing. It was then I realized I like humanities.” The learning at BHSEC very much stressed the importance of community and the value in each individual’s voice. “In seminar,” she says, “we’d sit in a circle, see one another, and talk to each other. That’s where I realized that that’s the kind of thing that I like.” She references her experiences in seminar when looking for classes at Columbia that fit her best. 

For Mamfatou, BHSEC’s passionate faculty made a real difference in how she approached the material. “One of my favorite classes at BHSEC was my globalization class with Professor Hymson—I loved her. I find it really comparable to a class I'm taking now: my modern Caribbean class.” What attracted her to both classes, she says, was that both professors genuinely seemed to like what they were` teaching, and showed that they are human just like their students. “The professors at BHSEC genuinely like what they are teaching. It’s not just a job.”

Mamfatou is entering her second semester at Columbia, and feeling confident in doing so. “It’s definitely comparable—I just know how to handle it. I’ve done it. That’s why it’s an easier transition. I’ve done this before, and it’s the same standards they’re holding us to.” Mamfatou is prepared for the work ahead of her at Columbia, and is grateful for the head start she received at BHSEC Queens. 

“I did a lot of learning about how I learn.  I learned a lot about myself as a student, and that helped me to go forward.”