When a student from the Bronx is struggling at the University of Vermont, there’s a good chance they will be directed to CFES Brilliant Pathways alumnus Lasana Drame.
A 2017 graduate of Eximius Academy in the Bronx, Drame understands the difficulty of adjusting to college life as an electrical engineering major. He also knows the value of mentorship, which he learned as a CFES Scholar during his senior year.
Now thriving as a junior at UVM, Drame helps his peers, especially those from CFES schools, become successful college students. Drame’s work supports a landmark partnership between UVM and CFES that started in 2000 when 14 students from Christopher Columbus High first came to UVM. Since then, 400 Bronx students, all CFES alumni, have attained UVM degrees.
Drame is part of that tradition, and he understands his legacy. “It was natural for students to come to me because I was a mentor at Eximius,” says Drame “Then students started recommending me to other students. If I saw a student struggling, and I thought I could help, I automatically offered it right there or directed them to someone else who could. My dorm room has become the study room.”
“My senior year one of our teachers told me that I would make a great teacher. To this day I think about it. I really enjoy helping people.”
Drame credits Angel Acosta, his CFES Program Director at Eximius, for teaching him how to really listen to his mentees to understand how best to help them. “I came to UVM because I knew more students from Eximius would come here and that I could help them.”
One of those mentees from Eximius, biomedical engineering major Emmanuella Boateng, credits Drame with helping her get into a prestigious summer program at Syracuse, pass a challenging chemistry exam, overcome some issues at home, and with completing the UVM application. Now a mentor leader at UVM, Boateng credits Drame with helping her succeed at UVM and for her becoming treasurer of the National Society of Black Engineers.
“When Lasana graduated, I stepped into his shoes in hopes of making an impact on someone else’s life like he did mine,” said Boateng. “When I was admitted into UVM with merit-based scholarships, he worked with me to ensure my success at UVM. When my engineering courses were decimating me, he personally tutored me so that I would pass, even though he wasn’t obligated to do so anymore after high school. When I picked Lasana to be my mentor in high school, I didn’t expect to gain a lifelong confidant and advisor. I am very thankful to him and his dedication.”
Drame says his desire to help others was fostered through CFES and in Gambia, where he lived for five years before returning to the U.S. for high school. “Gambia was less technologically advanced so I was more engaged with people and that became an important part of me,” he says. “I think that’s also part of why I enjoy CFES so much, because there is a lot of interpersonal communication and networking between new people.”
Drame, who is quick to also credit the Mosaic Center for Students of Color at UVM for the support they provide students, believes that mentors benefit as much as mentees, albeit in different ways.
“During my time with CFES as a mentor, I learned more than I did in my first three years of high school combined,” says Drame. “Once I understood how to use the Essential Skills with my mentees, I started using them in my own daily life.”
Drame is leaning toward engineering research after graduation, but hasn’t ruled out another calling. “My senior year one of our teachers told me that I would make a great teacher. To this day I think about it. I really enjoy helping people.”