BY TESS McRAE
What started out as a small school in Saint Petersburg, Russia in the 1880s, has transformed into one of the most innovative education facilities in the world.
“We cater to young adults and working students,” David Kanani, president of Bramson ORT College in Forest Hills, said. “We make it a point to let them know they have a chance at bettering themselves if they choose to take it.”
Kanani was honored at the Queens Tribune’s Business Achievement Awards for his ability to overcome adversity and bring higher education to groups who otherwise go unnoticed.
“The mission of ORT is to serve the underprivileged people in our society,” he said. “We act as a stepping stone to get them on the right track.”
The school has grown more than 50 times from the original one-building campus to serve in 59 countries and serve 369,000 students worldwide. Though initially opened to educate the Russian Jews – who were not allowed to go to school by law – Bramson ORT College has expanded to serve anyone eager to learn.
Many Bramson students come from humble beginnings and lead difficult lives at home. Kanani said the school works a lot with Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women who can be discouraged by friends and family to pursue a higher degree of education.
“Some of our students struggled in high school or went to college and had to drop out because they needed tutoring or remedial courses,” Kanani said. “We provide tutoring in all subjects for out students free of charge.”
But what makes Kanani special isn’t just his commitment to bettering the lives and potential of his students, it is his first-hand knowledge of the ORT way of learning. Growing up in Iran, Kanani was unable to receive the education other young adults around the world often take for granted. But he found solace in ORT and eventually went on to obtain his Ph.D. from Princeton University.
“This award isn’t really for me, it’s for all of Bramson ORT,” Kanani said upon receiving his award. “It is the ORT vision that makes us so successful and makes me so successful.”
Kanani has more than just an award to celebrate over, on June 29, he and the Bramson ORT staff will send off a fresh crop of students into the real world. The commencement ceremony will be held at the Forest Hills Jewish Center at 106-06 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will be the keynote speaker. Students will receive associates degrees in a number of areas including accounting, business, occupational therapy, office technology, game design and more.
In addition, each department will present awards to students with high academic achievement. If you would like to sponsor an award and have your name listed in the program, you can send your tax-deductible contribution check to Bramson ORT College at 69-30 Austin St., Forest Hills, NY 11375. Send to the attention of Mark Mirenberg, Controller.
Reach Editor Tess McRae at (718) 357-7400 ext. 123, email@example.com or on Twitter @tess_mcrae.