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From choir boy to class prez

Mover and shaker, performer, lobbyist—Kibuchi Banfield ’08 brought it all into play during his first year at Skidmore.

Banfield had been familiar with Skidmore for years. A member of the Boys Choir of Harlem and the coed Choir Academy affiliated with it, he spent a few weeks on campus each summer during the choir’s annual residencies. At other times, along with a rigorous schedule of academic and choral work, he participated in performance tours in the US and abroad; a highlight, he says, was meeting South African leader Nelson Mandela. Banfield set his sights on Skidmore and not only won admission but became the first recipient of a scholarship established expressly for Choir Academy students at the college. (Endowed by Albany-area businessman Alan Goldberg and other donors, the scholarship assists Choir Academy graduates who demonstrate financial need as well as strong academic and leadership records.)

Banfield was one of thirty-four freshmen in Skidmore’s state-funded Higher Education Opportunity Program, which starts with a summer session focusing on academic and social transitions to college life. One transition was especially easy: “The summer program was the size of my high-school class,” he says. But he soon gained a high profile among the freshman class at large: after campaigning in a suit and tie and a sandwich-board sign, which he wore to classrooms and dining halls, he was elected class president. His duties included planning events (such as the campuswide Winterfest weekend) and participating in the student senate. He also helped organize a Skidmore contingent for a lobbying effort that drew nearly 1,000 private-college students to Albany to press New York State legislators for the preservation of financial-aid programs. Says Barb Schallehn, a student-activities staffer and keen-eyed mentor, “Buchi is charismatic and has so much potential.”

With so many out-of-class activities, Banfield still pulled off a 3.0 GPA for the year. Staying in regular contact with his HEOP advisors, he says, “I had no excuses to do poorly.” In the fall he completed a legendary Skidmore challenge: MB 107, the business-immersion course. During the finale, a real-life presentation before a panel of business executives, Banfield's stage experience from his Boys Choir days almost let him down. “It was a little scary,” he acknowledges. “I blanked out for a moment. But I was able to recover and continue my talk.” From then on, he adds, “it was fun.”

Another important and satisfying venture was the Liberal Studies 1 course taken by all freshmen—“an experience universal and unique to Skidmore.” When he heard that new first-year seminars will soon replace LS1, he says, “I felt it should be preserved and even asked the student senate about working on a way to save it.” But then, he admits, “sometimes change can be good”—even (or especially) in the course of a first-year experience. —AW, SR