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Student Spotlight


Each month during the fall and spring semesters, we select a student to be part of the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus Student Spotlight series. These students demonstrate a strong commitment to both their education and their community, and exemplify how MC empowers its students to change their lives.

Fall 2018

October

Adela_Lungu

Adela Lungu

Ms. Lungu was 20 when she moved to the U.S. by herself from her home country of Moldova in 2013. Three years earlier, her father died due to medical malpractice at a hospital that she says demanded bribes for treatment even though Moldova officially has universal healthcare. Not wanting to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse among such rampant and pervasive corruption, Ms. Lungu made the difficult choice to start a new life in America.   

“I had to start life from zero in a country where I had no family and only a basic level of English, but a lot of hopes and a desire to succeed,” Ms. Lungu said. “I had a lot of nights sleeping just two to three hours because I worked three jobs to support myself while also studying, but I knew that all this work would make my dreams a reality.”

After spending several years improving her English and adjusting to her new life, Ms. Lungu decided she was ready to go to college and enrolled at MC last fall. She just applied to the Nursing Program after completing her pre-requisites. 

In addition to taking classes and working multiple part-time jobs, Ms. Lungu is a student senator, a member of the Advanced iLead Program, and a learning assistant (LA) in Biology. LAs work under the guidance of a faculty mentor to help teach students in STEM courses and labs. LAs give mini-lectures during class, and also lead study and review sessions for students outside of class.

Ms. Lungu said she enjoys being an LA because there are “a lot of opportunities to feel happy.” For example, she said she loves when she helps a student with the course material, and the student then gets better results on the next test or assignment.

“I like to be involved. I always loved it in high school; to organize things, contribute, and help people,” Ms. Lungu said. As to why she joined the student senate, she says, “Being a senator is being a voice for students.”

Ms. Lungu organizes her busy schedule carefully to make sure she also has time to volunteer for the Red Cross whenever possible.

“To all Montgomery College students I would like to say: If you have the desire and will, everything is possible. Just try harder every time you didn’t succeed and never give up,” Ms. Lungu said.

Here are her answers to the Student Spotlight Questionnaire:

1. What is your major?

Pre-Nursing

2. When do you intend to graduate and/or transfer?

If I do nursing at MC, December 2020. If I transfer, my last semester would be Spring 2019.

3. What do you like most about Montgomery College?

The diversity and opportunities. If you have the desire, everything is possible to achieve.

4. What are some of your hobbies?

Between being a full time student and having several jobs it’s very hard to have time for hobbies. When I do have the time I go to my kickboxing classes or I read books that are not related to school, just to relax. Also, spending time with my friends or my Goddaughter are things that I love.

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

Going back home to see my family, most importantly my grandparents - they are too old to not see them for too long a period of time.

6. What is the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?

Whatever my mother wants. She deserves it the most.

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

My last birthday party when my father was still alive.

8. What was the last movie you watched?

The one that I remember is “The Magic Pill,” a documentary that I recommend to everyone. Maybe there were other ones since, but I don’t remember.

9. What was the last sport or music concert event you attended?

Concert. Jay-Z and Beyonce On The Run II Tour back in July, a present for my mom when she was visiting.

10. What would be your dream job?

Nurse, working in OR.

 

September

Malaz Ibrahim

Malaz Ibrahim

“To reach your potential in a space you must be able to see yourself represented in some way shape or form. Seeing yourself represented gives you confidence, makes you feel like you are heard, and most of all considered,” says Ms. Ibrahim, a student senator who chairs the Senate’s Multicultural and Diversity Committee and serves as president of the Great Minds Club.

Ms. Ibrahim says she personally identifies as a first generation Sudanese-American Muslim woman and believes it is imperative that at least one of those identifications is represented in the spaces that she contributes to. She says she took on her multiple leadership roles to ensure that all students see their heritage conspicuously represented on campus. Ms. Ibrahim was inspired to get involved last year on the Muslim holiday of Eid when she attended classes dressed in traditional clothing to represent her heritage but did not notice others celebrating the holiday. 

Ms. Ibrahim's goal this academic year is to “achieve a better sense of cultural pride, enhance understanding of different cultures, and promote cultural activities.” She is a perfect example of how our students take initiative to enrich the life of their community. Below are her answers to the Student Spotlight Questionnaire:

1. What is your major?

My intended major is Psychology; however, I am doing General Studies at Montgomery College.

2. When do you intend to graduate and/or transfer?

I plan to transfer in Spring 2019.

3. What do you like most about Montgomery College?

I love the students, the charisma that comes with MC, and most of all the amazing professors.

4. What are some of your hobbies?

Some of my hobbies include writing, reading, critiquing television and movies, and having long conversations.

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

I would love to travel to South Africa with my friends and family.

6. What is the first thing you would buy if you won thelottery?

I would pay off my student loans, buy a house, send money to multiple underprivileged countries and communities, and invest the rest.

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

My favorite memory is when I had to speak in my kindergarten class about why I wanted to become a lawyer.

8. What was the last movie you watched?

The last movie I watched was “The Emperor’s New Groove” with my brother.

9. What was the last sport or music concert event youattended?

A personal friend of my family plays an instrument called an “oud” and during the summer he invited us for a jam session.

10. What would be your dream job?

I would love to be a clinical psychologist, as well as a writer. I would love to write more diverse roles for television. 


Spring 2018

May (Graduate Edition)

Ms. Atef-Vahid graduating with her DDS from Howard University College of Dentistry on May 11, 2018.
Ms. Atef-Vahid graduating with her DDS
from Howard University College of Dentistry
on May 11, 2018.

Sara Atef-Vahid

With the Montgomery College Class of 2018 graduating this month, this Graduate Edition of the Student Spotlight series celebrates an MC alum who walked across that very same stage and went on to pursue her dream. Ms. Atef-Vahid just graduated from the Howard University College of Dentistry with her DDS on May 11, 2018. Her sister, another MC alum, also just graduated from the Howard University College of Pharmacy with her Pharm.D. Ms. Atef-Vahid has also been accepted into the AEGD (Advance Education in General Dentistry) program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she starts in July. Below she tells her inspiring story, reflects on how Montgomery College empowered her to change her life, and answers a modified version of the spotlight questionnaire:  

My story began many years ago as I walked through the doors of Montgomery College as a non-traditional student in the fall of 2011. Until then, I had been faced with the challenges of a circuitous life path, from having to move back and forth to different countries to having to change my career several times. It was not easy being married at a very young age, and even more difficult being a divorced single mother and full-time student. After spending my life straddling two cultures with conflicting values, I finally found the opportunity to return to the U.S. to pursue my lifelong goal of becoming a dentist.  

I was born and raised in the U.S.; however, as a high school sophomore, my family moved me to Iran. While in Iran, I was confronted with a system of different values, gender expectations, and cultural rules. Furthermore, I was faced with the challenge of adjusting and learning how to navigate in an ultra-conservative environment where gender roles were defined very differently from what I had been accustomed to. Furthermore, I then had to grapple with a foreign language and completely different educational system. Despite these challenges, I was able to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree, graduating in the top 5% of my class from Shahid Beheshti University (formally National University of Iran). Following this success, I then pursued a Master’s Degree, graduating at the top of my class from Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST). Both of these Universities were held in high prestige in Iran.

Upon my return to the U.S., I decided to pursue my passion of becoming a dentist. Despite the struggles of balancing my time and energy between my daughter and school, as well as the many discouragements from family and friends, I was able to graduate from Montgomery College with an Associate of Science: Biological Sciences, in May, 2014 with a 4.0 GPA. I received the Dr. Harry Harden Jr. Student Academic Excellence Award in recognition of superior and exemplary academic achievement at MC for two consecutive years, 2013 and 2014. I was also awarded the Julius White Achievement Award in Chemistry for outstanding performance in two years of undergraduate chemistry including organic and inorganic chemistry in 2013. I maintained my position on the Dean’s List until graduation, along with being in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and receiving the On RAMP to STEM and Herb Block Scholarships.

Despite a general belief that community colleges have lower educational standards than 4-year universities, I strongly believe that I received the highest level of education at Montgomery College. It was my education at this extraordinary institution that not only prepared me for the national dental school entrance exam, the DAT, but also provided me with the knowledge to achieve a standard score of 25 (99.3 percentile) in the Total Sciences. During my interviews for dental school admission, when I was questioned about why I took my pre-requisite courses at a community college, I would proudly reply, "no I did not take them at just any community college, I took them at Montgomery College," and my transcript and standardized dental national entrance exam scores reflect the academic level of this institution. It was also an assumption that graduating from a community college will not prepare a student for successful completion of a vigorous program and course load of dental school, but clearly this is not the case. I take pride in my education at Montgomery College because it paved the way for my success in the career of my dreams—dentistry.  

On May 11, 2018, I graduated from Howard University College of Dentistry with a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) in the top 15% of my class. I have been accepted into an AEGD (Advance Education in General Dentistry) program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, which I will be starting in July of this year. I feel proud to have also witnessed the success of many students and friends who have attended and graduated from Montgomery College and have pursued their careers successfully in their field of choice. Almost everyone I knew at that time aiming to continue their professional academic careers in the medical, dental, or pharmacy fields has entered into their program of choice, including my sister, Sanaz Atef-Vahid, who is also graduating this May from Howard University College of Pharmacy with a Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy).

I would like to thank my friends and family, who were by my side and encouraged me on this difficult journey, and a special thanks to my parents who supported me in every way possible since the very beginning of my journey at Montgomery College. I would also like to thank the Dean, as well as all of the hard-working staff, administrators and faculty members. I would also to express my deepest appreciation to all my professors at Montgomery College who were a part of my journey and went above and beyond to help me succeed and attain my academic goals. Thank you all for providing a nurturing and stress-free environment, and an overall wonderful experience at Montgomery College. Your support facilitated a smooth transition into my professional career. I hope to set an example and be an inspiration for my daughter and to the many current and prospective students looking to pursue their education. I also hope to inspire those who are faced with the many challenges inherent in one’s personal life and in academic endeavors. I want to say to those who are facing adversity to never give up on your dreams, and to stay strong, motivated, and positive even though you will face many challenges. Most importantly, envision yourself in your desired future; for surely, with patience, perseverance, hard work, and dedication, you have the power to turn your dreams into reality.  

1. What was your major at Montgomery College?

Associate in Science: Biological Sciences.

2. When did you graduate and what was your GPA?

May, 2014. GPA: 4.0

3. What did you like most about Montgomery College?

The ambiance and the people. Montgomery college has a very warm and friendly environment. From professors to students, everybody treated me with kindness and respect.

4. What are some of your hobbies?

As a full-time single mom and dental student there’s barely enough time for any hobbies. However, when I do find a little extra time, I enjoy reading and cooking.

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

To travel around the world for six months with my future spouse and love of my life.

6. What is the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?

I would pay off my extensive student loans! And then I would buy my daughter’s dream house.

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

When I was in first grade, I fell from the monkey bars in the playground at my school on my birthday. I was hospitalized and had to have surgery where they placed a metal bar through my elbow and they affixed my arm hanging over my head for one month. During that time, I received many gifts and stuffed animals from the hospital and hand-made get well soon cards and flowers from my friends, teachers and classmates. Later I found out that my teacher had planned a birthday party for me that day, and since I had to go to the hospital, she had saved my ice-cream cake in the freezer. When I returned to school, we celebrated my birthday. I was very touched by what my teacher had done, and it filled my heart with joy. I felt very loved that day, and it truly was one of the most memorable and special days of my life.

8. What was the last movie you watched?

Avengers: Infinity War. I must admit that I am a die-hard comic book fan. And yes, I love both Marvel and DC Comics the same!

9. What was the last sport or music concert event you attended?

Many years ago, I attended a music concert held in Niavaran Palace in Tehran, Iran, which was the place of residence of the former Shah and his family.

10. What would be your dream job?

To own and manage my own multi-specialty dental clinic so that my patients could have access to all their dental care and treatments in one location.


April

Steeven-Etienne

Steeven Etienne

Mr. Etienne will be graduating this semester with a degree in Information Systems and was just awarded the first annual Student Life Director’s Award for his exemplary level of engagement in student activities. This year, he served as a Student Senator at Large and a participant in the iLead program, and spent spring break working on a habitat for humanity home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Mr. Etienne came to the U.S. from Haiti in 2015 in search of better opportunities and will transfer to a four-year university in the fall.

“Steeven is exactly what a student leader is,” said TP/SS Student Life Director Kimberly Herrera. “We are going to miss Steeven but are extremely proud of his accomplishments this year.”

1. What is your major?

My major is Information Systems.

2. When do you intend to graduate and/or transfer?

I am graduating this semester on May 18, 2018. I plan to transfer to either University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore County, or Georgia Tech in fall 2018.

3. What do you like most about Montgomery College?

What I like most about Montgomery College is diversity. I love the fact that I can encounter so many different cultures and how MC allows students to express themselves freely. I love the fact that faculty members at Montgomery College make the students feel that MC is for them. 

4. What are some of your hobbies?

I love soccer. I am a huge Real Madrid fan. I even have a fan membership. I also love writing poems. I just finished my book of poems this week. Listening to music and watching sports are two of my favorite hobbies. 

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

My ideal dream vacation would be to spend 4 weeks in Hawaii on the beach during a summer with my friends and family around me while celebrating the beauty nature with music and dance.

6. What is the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?

The first thing that I would do if I won the lottery is to buy a house and a big field for my parents in my country of origin, Haiti. I feel that they deserve something like this after all of their work.

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

My favorite childhood memory is winning my High School intellectual championship during the last year I could have won it, after 3 consecutive years of failure.  

8. What was the last movie you watched?

The last movie that I watched was Infinity Wars.

9. What was the last sport or music concert or event you attended?

The last music event that I attended is a college carnival that I helped to organize in Haiti.

10. What would be your dream job?

My dream job would be to work as an information systems manager for either Hewlett-Packard or the CIA.


March

Ursan-for-Web

Ursan Njike

In March, Mr. Njike became a Coca-Cola Academic Team Bronze Scholar, a distinction that earned him a $1,000 scholarship award. Mr. Njike is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK) and became a candidate for the scholarship when the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus nominated him for recognition by PTK’s All-Maryland Community College Academic Team.

The Academic Team recognizes high achieving two-year college students who demonstrate academic excellence and intellectual rigor combined with leadership and service that extends their education beyond the classroom to benefit society. Mr. Njike has served in the Student Senate, been treasurer and vice president of the Math Club, and participated in the American Mathematics Association for Two-Year Colleges Competition. He has managed to maintain a 3.88 GPA while playing a pivotal role in these and other student activities and working 32 hours a week to help support himself.

While a member of the Student Senate, Mr. Njike increased their social media presence to help connect with more students, and was part of a program to improve recycling on campus. He also helped found the Great Minds Club in 2016, which achieved Club of the Year for the 2016-2017 academic year when he served as president.

Mr. Njike grew up in Cameroon and he is the first in his family to go to college after immigrating to the United States through a visa lottery. He had already decided to pursue a career in the sciences after his mother became sick with typhoid, and enrolled full time at Montgomery College within two months of his arrival in the U.S. after securing a job. Mr. Njike plans to one day earn a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering.

In addition to his other achievements, Mr. Njike is currently a semi-finalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Below are his answers to the Student Spotlight Questionnaire.

1. What is your major?

Mechanical Engineering and Physics

2. When do you intend to graduate and/or transfer?

Graduate and Transfer in Spring 2018

3. What do you like most about Montgomery College?

The Student Life of Takoma Park

4. What are some of your hobbies?

Watching Movies and Discussions

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

A week at a beach in Hawaii

6. What is the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?

A house

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Hanging out with my childhood friends

8. What was the last movie you watched?

God of War

9. What was the last sport or music concert or event you attended?

Stanley Enow, Cameroonian artist

10. What would be your dream job?

Researcher and Inventor


February

Azi

Azigza Hussen

Mr. Hussen’s short film, YewubDar, will be screened at the Washington, DC International Film Festival in April where it is nominated for “Best Short.” Below he tells his incredible story, talks about the film, and answers the spotlight questionnaire.

During the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1989, I was born in Asmara, Eritrea. My mother was a sixteen-year-old who earned her living by cooking for the soldiers. My father was a nineteen-year-old who was a soldier and worked as a servant to one of the generals. Because my parents’ side lost the war, they were forced to flee. They became separated from each other. They were in the desert for two weeks without food or water. My mom carried me in her arms. Eventually, she gave up and decided to leave me with one of the soldiers who was around. Thanks to him, I survived. After ten years, I got to meet my father again. I was 11 when he brought me to Sweden where he had made a life for himself. I learned Swedish, made friends, and I started to realize I wanted to be a filmmaker.

After a year of high school, I started experimenting with film. I documented my first trip to Ethiopia and the search for my mother, whom I hadn’t seen in sixteen years. The material ended up as my first documentary film Back to Mama. The film made me realize the power of visual media, and that's when I decided to become a filmmaker. While still in high school I was approached by the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts (STDH), who encouraged me to apply. Of the 280 candidates, I was one of the twelve who were admitted.  With the help of the head master of the high school, I had the opportunity to finish my senior year while at STDH. Unfortunately, I never finished because I had to work, and my mother became very ill. I regret not finishing, but I’m working on my education now.

The movie I am nominated for is about Lake Tana. It is the largest lake in Ethiopia and the second largest in Africa. Lake Tana is also the beginning of Nile River. In addition, Lake Tana is recognized by the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. However, recently this lake has been covered by water hyacinth, which is an aggressive invasive weed that grows on the surface of the water. This invasive weed has caused the fish to die and the water level to decrease. As a result, many farmers and fisherman who depended on the fish had to move to the city. When I first decided to do a short movie about this problem, I did some research and wrote a script. This was last fall. When I was on winter break, I traveled to Ethiopia and started to work on the movie. The main reason I wanted to do this movie is because I wanted to do something that can bring awareness to the people who really care about Lake Tana. I also wanted to make the movie because I wanted to submit it to film festivals so that I could connect with people who have the same interests as me. 

1. What is your major?

My major is Computer science, but I’m also considering Communications.

2. When do you intend to graduate and/or transfer?

Hopefully, I am going to transfer to a university in 2020. 

3. What do you like most about Montgomery College?

I really like the professors I have, and I also like the school environment and the diversity of students from different countries. 

4. What are some of your hobbies?

I have a few hobbies, such as watching movies, making movies, and discussing films.   Most of my hobbies are related to movies.

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

I would like to travel to Bora Bora with my girlfriend.

6. What is the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?

I think I would buy a house for my mother in Ethiopia.

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Playing soccer with my friends and coming home late.

8. What was the last movie you watched?

The Black Panther. Wakanda forever! Hehe.

9. What was the last sport or music concert or event you attended?

I don’t remember. I only see both sport and music concerts on TV. I like watching soccer on TV.

10. What would be your dream job?

My dream job is to be one of the best film directors ever. 


January

Rashani-Ward-Williamson-Vice-President 

Rashani Ward Williamson

Ms. Ward Williamson is the vice president of the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus Student Senate. She is a passionate advocate for social justice who works diligently to keep her fellow students engaged in their education. This semester, Ms. Ward Williamson recruited more than 20 students to participate in Student Senate activities as part of her mission to ensure her peers take advantage of all the opportunities MC has to offer. Ms. Ward Williamson also follows in her mother's footsteps as a second generation MC student. Her positive attitude and tireless dedication are a great example of how MC students not only build a brighter future for themselves, but for their community as well. Congratulations Rashani on being the subject of this month's student spotlight.

1. What is your major? 

General Studies STEM, double minor in Pan-African studies and Political Science. 

2. When do you intend to graduate and/or transfer? 

Spring 2019.  

3. What do you like most about Montgomery College?

The opportunities the college offers if you get involved and get to know the staff, faculty, and professors. 

4. What are some of your hobbies? 

I crochet, work on my Chevy Malibu, read, and swim.

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation? 

My ideal vacation would be four weeks with my whole family. One week in Egypt, one week in Japan, one week in Dubai, and the last week in India. 

6. What is the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?

A new house with nine rooms for all five of my siblings, my two god siblings, and two rooms for my parents. 

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

When my brother Craig and I lived in our hometown of Norwalk, CT with our grandmother and great grandmother. We use to watch Barney and jump on our bed with our dog; a boxer named Cameo.

8. What was the last movie you watched? 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi. 

9. What was the last sport or music concert or event you attended?

I go to a lot of baseball games during the season. I'm a METS fan! So I see them when they come to play the Nationals.  

10. What would be your dream job?

Secretary of Health  


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