BY MARCIA MOXAM COMRIE
Durrell Washington, a member of the York College class of 2017, has accepted an offer from Columbia University’s School of Social Work.
Washington came to York College in 2014 with an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. He grew up in the South Bronx and played football in the community college before “blowing out” his knees.
“Before I blew out my knees, my GPA wasn’t that high,” he said. “But after my surgery, I realized I couldn’t play football anymore, I thought, ‘Now what? I’m going to have to start getting better grades.’”
Washington, the single father of a 3 year-old son, said that he has received “great family help” throughout his life and educational journey. He describes himself as “first generation everything.” He is the first to graduate from high school without having been held back and first to earn college degrees.
In addition to his parents and aunts, Washington credits his York College mentor, Selena T. Rodgers, with helping him to grow as a scholar and encouraging him to pursue co-curricular engagements to make himself more appealing to graduate schools.
“When my GPA was a 3.0, she took me into her office and told me that it needed to be higher in order to get into the graduate schools I wanted to apply to,” Washington said. “She also told me I needed to be active on campus.”
He heeded the advice and joined several campus program, in addition to speaking at commencements for the York Early College Academy (YECA), a high school affiliated with the college. He also attended a social work conference designed for graduate students in Washington, D.C. in 2016 and was one of only three undergraduates—all of whom were York College students—there.
As for his GPA, it currently stands at 3.7. At first, Washington had his sights set on attending graduate school at Hampton University in Virginia or at the University of Pennsylvania, but thought better of it after considering his toddler son.
“He’s young enough where I could have gone,” said Washington. “But I asked myself, ‘Do I really want to be away from him for 10 months?’ The answer was ‘no.’ But I’ve always wanted to go to Columbia University from when I first visited the campus when I was in junior high school.”
So, he applied to Columbia, New York University and Fordham University for the one-year program. All three accepted his application and offered him scholarship funds. Columbia’s $18,000 offer was the highest, but he decided to appeal it and the school raised its offer to $24,000.
He said that he will also continue going to high schools and encouraging students to be the best they can be.
“The knowledge I get I never want to hold it for myself,” said Washington, whose area of interest for study is mass incarceration. “Columbia is giving me the opportunity to focus on mass incarceration and policy. The people who make the decisions [in the prison system] don’t come from where I come from. I also plan to do a Ph.D. and already have a concentration in mind. I want to look at the international prison system. [It is] different from ours.”