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Academics, Advocacy Lead to ‘Star’ Award 

Ahmat Djouma accepts the On Point Student Star award in Utica last week. Pictured are, from left, Djouma's brother Yaya; Zakhar Berkovich, the director of undergraduate student services at Rockefeller College; and Djouma's father, Adam. (Courtesy Photo)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 19, 2019) — Political Science major Ahmat Adam Djouma received the Student Star award last week from On Point for College, a Utica-based organization dedicated to assisting students with navigating the transition to college. The award recognizes students who overcome challenges, excel academically and serve their communities and schools.

Djouma, who was born in Sudan, spent four years in a refugee camp in Chad before immigrating with his family to the United States in 2009. Blind since shortly after birth, Djouma is an advocate for accessibility in education and serves on the state Education Department’s Advisory Council for Students with Disabilities.

He transferred to UAlbany in the fall from Mohawk Valley Community College, where he maintained a 4.0 GPA. In his final semester at MVCC he won a SUNY Chancellor’s Award and the national Achieving the Dream award, given to only eight community college students nationwide, for excellence in scholarship and service to their schools.

On Point began working with Djouma when he was in high school in Utica, assisting him with accessibility needs such as a computer, as well as textbook costs, transportation and college visits.

“At my high school it was difficult to get accommodations,” Djouma recalled. “That is how I developed the skills to advocate for myself. You have to ask for what you need. I try to take initiative so that what I have is accessible.”

In college, that means contacting professors before classes begin to make sure he can get accessible versions of the textbooks and other class materials.

Now a junior at UAlbany, Djouma is studying political science with a public law concentration and a sociology minor. His goal is to work in government or law.

“I have always been interested in politics and how the U.S. government and other governments work. I want to go into public service and help people,” Djouma said. “I would be interested in disability law or immigration law or family law – I have not decided which.”

One of  Djouma’s two brothers, Mahamad Adam Djouma, also is a student at UAlbany.

On Point serves about 1,500 students in the Mohawk Valley who face financial, personal or academic barriers to college. Most are first-generation college students, and On Point provides not only guidance and advisement for applying to colleges, but financial aid, transportation, dorm room and college supplies, internships and career advice. About 100 UAlbany students have received assistance from On Point.

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