College of Staten Island President Dr. William J. Fritz, Nabila Zubair, and Kayce Freed Jennings at the scholarship awards ceremony.


Nabila Zubair was awarded the 2015 Peter Jennings Scholarship Laurel Award at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY).

The Peter Jennings Scholarship Laurel Award Program provides scholarships to adults who have recently completed their coursework with great success, achieved their High School Equivalency (HSE) diplomas through CUNY’s Adult Learning Centers (ALC), and who will continue their education at a CUNY College. The scholarships, in the amount of $1,000 each, were awarded to ten individuals at the June 18th event with the support of his widow Kayce Freed Jennings.

Growing up in Kuwait, Nabila Zubair, was a serious student in school and particularly did well in science and biology classes.  When Nabila married at 17 years old, her hopes for further education were no longer a possibility. In her culture, a married woman was required to put aside her hopes and concentrate her time and energy toward caring for her family.

Donna Grant, Kenichi Iwama, Nabila Zubair and Christopher Cruz Cullari at the 2015 Peter Jennings Scholarship Laurel Award at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

“Nabila’s secret wish was to have the opportunity to go to college and continue studying topics in biology and science and become a nurse,” explains Donna Grant, Director of the ALC, English as a Second Language (ESOL) Programs, and CUNY Start at CSI.  “It is amazing to me that she has persevered through so many obstacles.”

Nabila was a young newlywed with an infant child when Iraq invaded Kuwait which resulted in the Persian Gulf War. There was aerial and naval bombardment of Kuwait to defeat the invading Iraqi army, but when the ground assault began, Nabila’s husband’s business was burned to the ground.

The family fled Kuwait, and for the next eight years the family was unsettled, living in three different countries.

With her four children and husband, she arrived in the United States in 1999, where Nabila’s first priority on her list of steps toward achieving a college degree was to improve her English language skills.

When she enrolled in the ALC in 2010, she was not quite at third grade reading level.  At the end of that semester, her assessment test score had moved her into a Pre-GED level class, demonstrating literacy skills at the middle school level.  After Nabila’s first semester at the ALC, family responsibilities again became the only priority, and her goal was put on hold again.  Then, in 2012, Super Storm Sandy devastated Nabila’s Staten Island neighborhood and her husband’s small business.  Postponing her studies for a time to rebuild her family business, Nabila eventually returned to the ALC, continued to make literacy gains, and took the high school equivalency (HSE) exam in the summer of 2014.  She successfully passed the HSE exam that summer, and Nabila transitioned to the CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP), where she is completing the advanced class.

“It is really our privilege to serve Nabila and the students of the ALC,” says Christopher Cruz Cullari, Executive Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development. “There are many students in our programs who share similar stories of success despite facing enormous obstacles, and I am deeply impressed with the commitment and resiliency of our students.”  Cullari was joined at the ceremony by College of Staten Island President Dr. William J. Fritz, along with the leadership team of Continuing Education and Professional Development, and Kenichi Iwama, Deputy to the President and Chief of Staff.

The Office of Continuing Education and Professional Development supervises programs in pre-college remediation such as CUNY Start, as well as programs for Workforce Development, Community Development, English for Speakers of Other Languages, and the 1199 Union Student Support Program for Working Adults.   Its services and transformative programs provide support to diverse groups of students throughout Staten Island and New York City.