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Montgomery College Student Success Stories

Molinolo Named to All-USA Academic First Team
Insights, Spring '05

Gabriela MolinoloTo those in the Montgomery College community who know Gabriela Molinolo, it wasn’t surprising that the 24-year-old honors student has been recognized for her academic excellence by being named to the First Team of the 2005 All-USA Community and Junior College Academic Team. Only 20 students a year receive this honor, which includes a cash award of $2,500. Molinolo’s achievement was announced in Boston, Mass., at the April convention of the American Association of Community Colleges. Sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges, USA Today, and the American Association of Community Colleges, the annual award recognizes a handful of outstanding two-year college students nationwide.

“As educators in the community college environment, we have the great privilege of working with students who have a passion for learning, a desire to succeed, and perhaps most notably, the willingness to give back to the College and the community,” said Montgomery College President Charlene R. Nunley, who was on hand for the award ceremony. “Our mission states that we are in the business of changing lives -and that we do - but extraordinary students like Gabby Molinolo remind all of us how the wonderful stories and accomplishments of our students affect us, as well.” Beyond her 4.0 grade point average, Molinolo has demonstrated stand-out leadership in student life and as a community volunteer. She has worked as the assistant to the International Student Coordinators at the College’s Rockville Campus and served as president of the Rockville Campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. Molinolo was nominated for the prestigious award by her Phi Theta Kappa adviser, Professor Sue Adler.

“I have gotten to know deans, department chairpersons, professors, and counselors,” Molinolo said. “It’s been an incredible experience. I have advocated for changes in services for international students and for permanent office space for the Honor Society. How can I attend a school that is giving me so much and not give at least a little back? How could I not help someone when it is in my grasp to do so?” Math Professor Debra Poese was among several faculty and staff who recommended Molinolo for the award, writing: “Gabby is a warm, enthusiastic young woman who skillfully balances a hefty academic load, her work in the International Student Office, and her commitment to service in a wide variety of venues.”

Molinolo’s parents first brought her to the United States from Buenos Aires, Argentina, when she was five years old. She said she was “raised in a house full of books and knowledge,” by parents who encouraged intellectual curiosity and research. “I knew I had excellent people skills, and I wanted to help people,” said Molinolo, “but most of all, I enjoyed learning.” After her parents completed their postdoctoral work at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, and she had completed third grade, they returned to Buenos Aires. She excelled in school continually, but quit university at 19 for a full-time job at a fragrance factory. She also worked as an on-air personality for a national radio show.

In 2002, Molinolo came back to the United States permanently with her family and enrolled at Montgomery College. After graduating this May, Molinolo will attend the prestigious Smith College in Northampton, Mass. Prior to receiving the All-USA Academic Team honor, she learned she had been accepted into Smith’s Ada Comstock Scholars program for nontraditional students. The college also awarded her almost $35,000 toward her education. Molinolo was also named Maryland’s 2005 New Century Scholar, for which she will receive a $2,000 scholarship, presented by the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. Each state’s highest-scoring nominee for the All-USA Academic Team is chosen a New Century Scholar, according to Phi Theta Kappa. “I hope to excel at Smith, and give as much there as I have given Montgomery College, or more,” said Molinolo, who is engaged to Jean-Baptiste Sankara, an MC alumnus and former president of the College’s MC International Student Network - a student organization she helped launch. Molinolo is one of three Maryland community college students named to the All-USA First Team this year. MC had last placed a student on the First Team in 1996, when Maureen Harrigan earned the recognition.