The Power of Opportunity

Dhimiter Cobani addresses his fellow scholars at the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region's 2016 Scholarship Reception.

Dhimiter Cobani addresses his fellow scholars at the Community Foundation’s 2016 Scholarship Reception.

The Community Foundation awards more than $500,000 in scholarships each year (click here to view current scholarship opportunities). At our 2016 Scholarship Reception, Dhimiter Cobani, an Albany High School student from Albania, shared moving remarks on why his scholarship was so important, and how his experiences have shaped his future. Read his speech below to see how the Foundation is changing the lives of exceptional local youth!

“I would like to thank the Community Foundation for Greater Capital Region and the Delia- Curiano Family for their generous scholarship. I was very appreciative and happy to learn that I was selected from a very impressive group of candidates. My parents do not earn a lot of money, so this scholarship means a lot to them and me.

“It is unbelievable that I am here to give a speech today. You might say ‘why? Why are you making a big deal out of it?’ I am from Albania, a small, tiny country in the Balkan region. I have been here for almost three years. When I first came to the United States, I had no prior knowledge of English. I could not even form a simple sentence. As a result, I was placed in an ESL Beginner class. The only language I could speak was that of Mathematics. Being placed in an ESL classroom was uncomfortable for me.

“At that point a spark born in me, and I had never felt that way in my life. I murmured to myself, ‘If I want to succeed, I must improve myself.’ I initiated to work hard and forget days, nights, weeks and weekends. Thus I was able to move from ESL Beginners to AP English within one year. Once I learned the basic English skills required to communicate, I started to take more AP classes and became more active.

“Improving yourself is one thing and finding the meaning of your life is another. In September of 2015, I started volunteering at Albany Stratton VA Medical Center. One day, I saw a patient looking for help, and I approached her. I said, ‘What can I do for you?’ She did not respond. She was just staring at me in a manner as she would like to say something. I asked her once again, but I did not receive any responses. When I asked one of the nurses, she stated that the patient is paralyzed and therefore couldn’t perform any voluntary movement. At that instant, I turned around and while looking at the patient I said, ‘she needs us, they need us.’

“I spent the rest of the day reading about the brain to understand the reasons why people might lose control of voluntary muscles. A few months later I became part of a Brain-Computer Interfacing Research at Wadsworth Center so that I could learn more about the advances in neuroscience.

“Since then my life goal is to become a neurologist and contribute to improving neuroscience technology that one-day will provide to severely paralyzed people a way to communicate, will improve the lives of Alzheimer, Autism and Aphasia patients. I believe in science.

“I have been asked by many people ‘Why did you come to America?’ ‘What is special about us?’

“I always answer, ‘Here in United States, it does not matter where you come from, and it does not matter how much you know. If you are truly passionate about something and really want to make a difference in the world, you will find your way. This is a feature of this country and no one else.’

“Therefore, my last advice is ‘Dream Big.’ As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.'”