For Stephane Zongo, Winning Applications of Learning Along the Way

Published: May 25, 2022

“My essay is about wisdom, embracing a lifetime of learning,” said former Queensborough student Stephane Zongo who was named second runner-up in the 2022 Asian American/Asian Research Institute Chynn-CUNY Ethics and Morality Essay Contest. 

The essay, Winning Applications of Learning Along the Way, reflects looking back to moving on.  

“I did not know my father," said Zongo, 40. “As children my four siblings and I played soccer barefoot in the street, we struggled as a family. I carried some of these experiences with me and as an adult came from a place of anger.” 

Despite these challenges, Zongo says his mother raised him well. “We lived in several African countries—where I began to appreciate diverse cultures: the Burkina Faso, the Ivory coast, and Egypt where I went to High School. In addition to my native language, French, I became fluent in English, Arabic, and the African dialect Fulani.” 

Upon graduation from High School, Zongo came to the U.S. and lived with his older brother in the Bronx “I became lost for a while, lost contact with my family here and back home.”  

Then Zongo decided to move to Richmond Hill in Queens to be closer to his four children who lived with his former wife. At the same time, he decided to go back to school so that he could have a better life for himself and his family. He had an interest in Forensic radiology and enrolled in March 2020 at Queensborough to major in Criminal Justice. Just days later the College had to close because of the pandemic. 

“It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,” laughed Zongo however he was still determined to obtain his degree. First, he enrolled in CUNY Start that summer to hone his reading and writing proficiency to start taking credit courses. Then he joined Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). “I am so grateful for ASAP and Queensborough. Both gave me the platform for self-confidence I will take with me always.” 

A father with a full-time job as a security professional meant Zongo had to be laser focused. “I hung on my professors’ every word. I clearly remember my English professor, Susan Hook, who mentored me as I was learning composition and transition phrases.” 

“Stephane immersed himself in the class,” said Susan Hock, Lecturer, English. “His motivation was contagious and inspired me to give him the feedback and direction he was craving. He managed to take full advantage of our on-line class by consistently adding detailed postings on Blackboard.” 

Zongo was a student at Queensborough for one and half years before he moved to Westchester with his fiancée and then transferred to the Borough of Manhattan Community College in the fall of 2022 to study computer science. A typical day for him starts at 5am to study, then to work from 9am-5:30pm. Then home for dinner and family time. 

“Throughout all this experience, including my mistakes, I am spending more time with my kids, being a better father. Covid played a big part—I was afraid of losing my job, afraid for my family. At some points in my life, I didn’t think I would even be here but here I am, and this award is about wisdom-wisdom I have acquired from both the young and the old. Calm down and enjoy the sun while you can. I will be doing both. 

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