Life pushed her down, she pushed back

Finger Lakes Community College student Gabrielle Young of Shortsville has received the 2020 Norman R. McConney Jr. Award, an honor that recognizes excellence among participants in the State University of New York Educational Opportunity Program.

Gabrielle Young

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras congratulated Young and other students from across New York in December.

The award bears the name of the late Norman McConney, one of the architects of the statewide Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which provides financial assistance and support to those who face obstacles in achieving their educational and personal goals.

Young is majoring in childhood education with plans to become a K-5 teacher. She was a lead teacher at Our Children’s Place Child Care Center in Canandaigua from August 2019 to March 2020 and has volunteered at the Catholic Charities food pantry. She is currently working as a nanny, including managing virtual learning for the children in her care.

Lisa Thomas, director of the Educational Opportunity Program at FLCC, nominated Young for overcoming obstacles early in life.

“Gabrielle is such a wonderful young woman. She has such a positive and upbeat attitude regardless of what she has had to face in life,” Thomas wrote. “Coming from a broken home, Gabrielle has experienced a lot of trauma and dealt with anxiety and depression for years but has not let it define her. She wants to be a role model and lead by example, making sure that others know that they, too, can persevere no matter what challenges life may present.”

Young is scheduled to graduate in May and would like to transfer into a psychology program at a four-year school.

“I am interested in the early years of a human’s life and how that potentially sets the course for the rest of their life,” she said, adding that her enjoyment in working with children stems from her interest in watching their development.

At FLCC, she was most impressed by “the guidance of professors who care so much about what they are teaching to their students,” she said.

Young said she took some time after high school to decide on her future path and would encourage other students to work on their goals at their own pace.

“I faced a lot of hardships in my life, but that kept me determined to not want to live the life in which I was raised. I wanted better for myself and I pushed forward, even when I felt like life was pushing me back,” she said. “Push towards your personal and professional goals. There is no set time in which you need to complete it by. You will achieve it when you are ready.”

In the current academic year, SUNY had more than 10,000 EOP students on 49 SUNY campuses. EOP students often outperform their peers, with 74 percent of them graduating with a baccalaureate degree within six years.

The EOP was founded by Arthur O. Eve, a former Deputy Speaker of the New York State Assembly. The Buffalo representative devoted his 36 years in the Assembly to advancing the needs of New York’s underserved populations and serving as a champion of educational, economic, and social equality.

The Educational Opportunity Program is open to New York State residents who show evidence of a historical educational and financial disadvantage and demonstrate the potential to be academically successful with EOP support. Further details and an application are available at or by calling (585) 785-1390.

Author: Lenore Friend

Lenore Friend is the community affairs director at FLCC and the college's liaison with Finger Lakes TV. Contact her at (585) 785-1623 or

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