BY TRONE DOWD
Danielsen Bernadel, 17, recently graduated from the York Early College Academy (YECA), a high school affiliated with York College and located in nearby IS 8.
The school enables students to take courses at York and earn up to 60 college credits by the time they graduate. Bernadel is graduating with 56 college credits from York and an impressive GPA.
If the student attends York or another CUNY institution, the credits count toward their baccalaureate degree. Students who attend outside of CUNY will lose some of those credits earned at their school’s affiliated college campus, such as York.
But Bernadel felt that it was worth sacrificing most of his hard-earned credits to attend a prestigious school on scholarship. Enter Cornell University.
The Ithaca-based, Ivy League school made him an offer he could not refuse—a full ride. The school will also accept 15 to 16 of his York-earned credits toward his degree. Bernadel still hasn’t decided on a major, but he is already talking about pursuing a Ph.D.
“In high school, I specialized in math and science—but I’m thinking about majoring in English now,” says Bernadel, who has enrolled in Cornell’s summer program for incoming students. “A lot of people are doing STEM now, so I feel I should mix it up and do English.”
The young scholar is already 25 pages into a novel that he’s writing and hopes to publish. The seventh of eight children, Bernadel grew up in Jamaica with a single mom, who struggled to make ends meet.
“I watched my mom struggle to put food on the table and keep the light on,” said Bernadel, who was also wait-listed at Harvard University before withdrawing his application. “Sometimes, she couldn’t. But my older siblings also helped me to stay on the path.”
His mother, a U.S. Army veteran, also led by example. She returned to school as an adult to earn a degree in information technology, setting the tone for her son.
When asked why he believes YECA is special, Bernadel cited the school’s uncompromising commitment to students’ success.
“What’s special about YECA is [that] everyone believes,” he says. “No one says, ‘you can’t.’ I told this [incoming freshman] today, ‘They’re not going to let you fail here—even if you want to. They are going to make sure that you become the person you are going to be.’”
In addition to family and teachers, Bernadel also gives credit to two mentors for his college ambitions.
“Miss [Linda] Perry at YECA is always helping,” he said. “She’s always encouraging. And Mr. [Reginald] Madden at York, he was the one who told me, ‘You can go to an Ivy League.’”
According to Madden, an academic affairs manager and liaison to YECA, his mentee has what it takes to succeed anywhere.
“He really is a great student,” said Madden. “His performance in his high school curriculum and his courses here at York College demonstrate his solid academic foundation. Danielsen also has the discipline and perspective that positions him to be successful at Cornell. I’m excited about his future.”
YECA is one of several Early College Secondary School partnership programs between the City University of New York and New York City Department of Education. YECA opened in 2006 with 81 sixth grade students and added a grade each year, growing to a full sixth through twelfth grade school, currently serving 617 students.