SUNY Cortland senior Caesaré German, 35, spent more than a dozen years entirely removed from academia.
Now she’s making up for lost time.
German, an inclusive childhood education major from Liverpool, N.Y., recently learned that she is one of only 15 winners of a prestigious national Alpha Sigma Lambda scholarship for adult college students.
“I couldn’t believe that they chose me,” said German, who is concentrating in social sciences and eventually hopes to earn a master’s degree to become a teacher of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). “I feel like there’s a lot of people who applied for this scholarship, and I was very shocked that I was chosen.”
The national honor society based in Charleston, Illinois, recognizes dedicated non-traditional students like German who are successfully continuing their college educations while balancing other important obligations. And the scholarship is only the most recent accolade she's earned, making the most of her second chance at higher education.
German’s sustained academic excellence placed her on SUNY Cortland’s most recent President’s List. In the spring semester, she was inducted into the Cortland chapters of Alpha Sigma Lambda and the interdisciplinary honor society Phi Kappa Phi.
She walked at the Spring 2023 Commencement wrapped proudly in her Kente Ceremony stole, which celebrates multicultural scholarship. At the Kente pre-graduation ceremony, German also received the NAACP Award from the Cortland chapter, in recognition of a graduating senior who strives for academic excellence and is active in promoting diversity, inclusion and social justice matters in support of the Black community and racial equity.
This past spring during his first visit to the campus since becoming the SUNY chancellor, German met John B. King Jr., joining classmates enrolled in Cortland’s Urban Recruitment of Educators (C.U.R.E.) program for a photo.
“He told us a little bit about himself and how he grew up and where he was from,” German said of King. “He asked us to do the same, a few of us who were there. It was nice to see how he could relate to us, how similar our backgrounds and our stories are. It shows you how anything is possible.”
An outstanding high school student, after graduation in 2006 she balanced work, community college and helping the family care for her mother, who has multiple sclerosis.
One day she could no longer cope. In 2010, German reestablished herself as a California resident near San Francisco, enrolling in community college. But the state’s cost of living undermined her academic plans and ultimately her sobriety.
In 2017, a Salvation Army rehabilitation program in Syracuse, N.Y., helped her get back on her feet.
Right now, German covers her expenses working at a restaurant in East Syracuse, N.Y., and also has supported her education as a part-time substitute teacher in the Syracuse City School District.
The $2,500 scholarship will keep her afloat for her final semester while she completes her student teaching this fall at McKinley Brighton and Syracuse Latin School, both in Syracuse, N.Y., with plans to graduate in December.
“During student teaching, you’re not able to work, it’s not recommended,” said German, who recently moved from Syracuse to Liverpool and plans to marry her fiancé, Paul Marquis, this summer.
German is grateful for the support that has allowed her to excel at SUNY Cortland, such as the Cortland's Urban Recruitment of Educators, or C.U.R.E., program, which helps prepare students to teach in challenging school districts. The cost of German’s studies at SUNY Cortland are also offset by the Lenora J. Rumore Scholarship, awarded to a C.U.R.E. student who demonstrates leadership qualities, academic achievement and personal triumphs.
Her university expenses have been helped by a Dorothea Kreig Allen Fowler ’52, M ’74 Scholarship for Future Educators; a Kenneth and Jo Ann Wickman Scholarship; a Marylou B. Wright ’68 Non-traditional Student Scholarship and a TEACH Grant through the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation. The C.U.R.E. and TEACH scholarships come with a commitment to begin one’s career in underrepresented New York state schools.
German hopes to land a job as an elementary school teacher. That should impress her grandfather, a retired teacher and school principal from her hometown of Port Murray, New Jersey, and a role model for achievement.
“He’s 91 and yeah, he’s very proud of me,” she said.
Approximately 250 non-traditional students are enrolled at SUNY Cortland. The university defines non-traditional students as undergraduate students who are 24 years of age or older or, regardless of age, may have dependent children, be working full time, have military experience or have made a break in education at some point after high school.
German is the fifth SUNY Cortland non-traditional student to be honored with the monetary award since 2010. Past SUNY Cortland awardees include Mathew Adams ’21, Corrine Edick ’17, Karyn Scott ’16 and Rachel Alexander ’10.