Student Spotlight

Each month during the fall and spring semesters, the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus Council selects a student to be part of the Vice President and Provost Office's 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 2019

September

Soulafa HajHamad

Soulafa hajhamad

Ms. HajHamad, current vice chair of the Student Senate Activities Board, moved to the United States with her mother and three sisters from Kuwait when she was 17. During high school, her family faced economic difficulties and received help from multiple charitable organizations.

Once at MC, Ms. HajHamad spent her first two semesters giving back to the community that helped her family by packing “Manna Sacks” for families in need of food assistance, and by attending an “alternative spring break” trip organized by our Office of Student Life, where students spent their spring break building homes with Habitat for Humanity.

Ms. HajHamad has also supported the campus community, coordinating major events on campus such as the New Student Fair. She was also a participant in our iLead program, where students build leadership skills.

Below are Ms. HajHamad’s answers to the Student Spotlight Questionnaire:

1. What is your major?

General Engineering. My intended major after I transfer to a University is Aerospace Engineering.

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

May 2020.

3. What do you like most about Montgomery College?

What I like most about Montgomery College is the sense of community. Everywhere you go, there is someone reaching out to help you succeed. I also love that offices such as the Office of Student Life have given me and many others like me the confidence to participate in extracurricular activities.

4. What are some of your hobbies?

Listening to spoken word poetry and fashion.

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

I would love to say that my dream vacation is a simple trip to the beach, but even I know that I get tired of routines and simple experiences. I’d love to be dropped off in middle of a bustling country such as Morocco and left to explore.

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

A house for my mother.

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

I remember when I was a child my father would take my older sister and me to a local candy store and he would let us buy whatever we wanted. In hindsight I can see how that led to my frequent trips to the dentist, but regardless it is one of my fondest memories.

8. What was the last movie you watched?

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

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

I’m not a fan of sport, but my last concert was Russ.

10. What would be your dream job?

A successful engineer.

Spring 2019

May

Alfonso Vicencio

 

Alfonso "Fonz" Vicencio

Mr. Vicencio graduated this month with an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts, and was heavily recruited by the Tyler School of Art, the San Francisco School of Art, and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). After the schools competed for his enrollment with three rounds of increased financial aid offers, Mr. Vicencio decided to attend MICA, where he will begin this fall.    

Mr. Vicencio's first foray into art was tracing his favorite cartoon characters in elementary school, which he did by printing out pictures of the characters and wrapping them around his lampshade.  

“It was like a makeshift light table,” he said, chuckling at the memory. “I stuck with it and started drawing more in high school, then transferred to MC.”

Mr. Vicencio says he was not fully engaged when he first came to MC, as he did not yet know what he really wanted to do. At 24, he moved to Oakland, CA. Four years later, he decided he wanted to finish school and came back to Maryland to attend MC again.  

“That was the best decision I could’ve made. Through MC I’ve gained so many relationships, and not to mention the education,” Mr. Vicencio said. “I’m forever grateful to everyone at Montgomery College. It was challenging, and fun!"

Mr. Vicencio was particularly glad he got to meet and spend time with Lincoln Mudd, an MC art professor who passed away last year. 

“He was a great mentor, and friend. So many talks,” Mr. Vicencio said. 

In addition to his coursework, Mr. Vicencio worked as a lab assistant to the arts department, and interned at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. 

“He has shown a distinct amount of dedication and scholarship during his time here at MC, and will be headed to the prestigious Frogman’s Print Workshop this summer in Nebraska as a studio assistant,” said Jenny Walton, lab manager for Visual and Performing Arts. “Many of the recruiters saw his portfolio the night of our Fall 2018 Portfolio Night, and immediately started the recruitment process.”

In the picture above, Mr. Vicencio stands before one of his works, a sculpture made of rebar wire depicting a person tossed into a black hole. 

Mr. Vicencio also wanted to give special thanks to Professor Claudia Rousseau, PhD, but said, “Everyone was awesome honestly.” 

Below are his answers to the Spotlight Questionnaire:

1. What is your major?

Fine Arts.

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

May 2019. I’m transferring to Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).

3. What do you like most about Montgomery College?

Closeness of faculty with students. I’ve truly made some longtime friends! I’ll always remember them. (Rest in Paradise: Lincoln Mudd, he was my homie!)

4. What are some of your hobbies?

Reading, watching movies, Art museums; can’t get enough!

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

Tokyo, Japan Residency paid for a full year w/3 meals a day.

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

A Willem de Kooning painting.

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Taking apart computers and trying to put them back together again. My mom got mad a lot. Luckily, my uncle Dennis was a computer tech.

8. What was the last movie you watched?

Dazed and Confused.

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

Black Pink (k pop) with my little sister in Atlanta.

10. What would be your dream job?

I work for myself, and teach when I want. 

 April

Jennie Kamga

 Jennie Kamga

Ms. Kamga came to the U.S. from Cameroon in January 2017 to earn a college degree, with the goal of one day making enough money to enable her siblings to also pursue higher education. She did not know about MC before she came, but now says she would advise international students to head straight for MC. 

Ms. Kamga is one of nine siblings. She and her older sister, who recently graduated, are the first generation of their family to go to college. 

“My father has nine children and at some point it won’t be possible for him to support everyone. I want to be able to support my other siblings to be able to do what I am doing,” she said.

Ms. Kamga did not speak English in 2017, so the first thing she did was enroll in the Maryland English Institute at the University of Maryland, College Park. She assumed that once she passed the standardized language tests, she would enroll immediately at the University of Maryland. However, she says her high school transcripts from Cameroon did not to translate into the proper pre-requisites, and so the university suggested she try a community college first and then transfer. 

Ms. Kamga said she looked online for community colleges in the area and saw that MC had the best reviews, so she decided to come here. 

“I was sad at the beginning not to go to University of Maryland right after the English program, but right now I am really glad that I came here first. If my little sister comes here to go to school too, she will come through [MC] before going anywhere else,” Ms. Kamga said.

“Here, I’ve met people from several other cultures, people who speak my language, people from multiple other countries,” she continued. “The class sizes make it very easy to just talk to people. It’s like a community, like a family.”

In addition to her coursework, Ms. Kamga is a member of the Student Senate Activity Board, which organizes student events and volunteer work. She said the experience has increased her confidence and helped her come out of her shell.

“I have always been a shy type of person,” she said. “On the activity board, I experienced a part of me that I hadn’t had a chance to experience yet. Now I am not afraid to talk to people; or I still have that little fear, but I know I can do it.”

For example, when a professor recently asked Ms. Kamga to present at a workshop for international students, Ms. Kamga was happy to do so, even though two years ago she never would have felt comfortable speaking in front of people. Instead, she was able to participate, and in doing so she helped her fellow international students learn about how to do their taxes (which can be more complicated because of special requirements for international students). 

Ms. Kamga thinks the best advice she could give to any international student at MC is:

“Get involved. Don’t just stay in your comfort zone . . . You meet people who are willing to help you, like professors. There’s a lot of information you can get by just talking to people, so don’t be too shy.”

Here are her answers to the Spotlight Questionnaire:

1. What is your major?

Business.

2. When do you intend tograduate and/or transfer?

Summer 2019 to the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. 

3. What do you like mostabout Montgomery College?

What I like about MC is the environment, the diversity, the different events and the availability of the professor outside of the class.

4. What are some of your hobbies?

Traveling, watching African movies, and dancing.

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

My ideal dream vacation would be travelling to Dubai with all my siblings.

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

If I win a lottery, I will buy a nice house and open a business for my mom.

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

My favorite childhood memory is my siblings and I spending evenings playing cards, listening to music and laughing.

8. What was the last movie you watched?

Captain Marvel

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

It might be surprising, but I have never attended any sport or music concert. 

10. What would be your dream job?

I would like to open a Business in my country as a financial analyst.

March

Stephanie Hollman
Stephanie Hollmann

Ms. Hollmann, a D.C. resident who started at MC this semester, chose the College largely because she knew people who had graduated from MC and transferred, and they highly recommended the College for its transfer programs, clubs, and diverse campus community.

“They told me how great the College was, and I ended up liking it a lot,” she said. “My friends liked the diversity when they came here because they weren’t used to that, and I also wanted to see different cultures and meet people who speak other languages.”

Ms. Hollmann's parents are originally from Cartagena, Columbia. She and her siblings are bilingual and will be the first generation of their family to earn a college degree. Ms. Hollmann said she is finding MC to be everything she hoped, and that the classroom environment has helped her be more comfortable speaking in front of people.

“When I started college, I knew I should become more outspoken and participate more. That's been easy here,” she said. “In high school, I struggled with anxiety and public speaking. I think here, I definitely participate a lot and speak a lot and am not as anxious as I used to be. The environment of the classroom helps a lot because people are not judgmental.”

Just before coming to MC, Ms. Hollmann volunteered with the DC Youth Prevention Leadership Corps, which educates high school students about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. She is interested in public health and wants to turn that interest into a career where she can help others, particularly those struggling with mental illness.

“Growing up I always wanted to do something that involved helping people. Just knowing that there is such a stigma with people who have mental illnesses, I want people to know you’re not abnormal or ‘crazy.’ I knew I wanted to do something that would help.”

Below are her answers to the Student Spotlight Questionnaire:

1. What is your major?

I am currently doing General Studies but I am interested in Psychology and Public Health.

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

I intend to graduate in 2021.

3. What do you like most about Montgomery College?  

I like the environment, diversity, and programs.

4. What are some of your hobbies?

I like to read, hike, and draw.

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

My ideal vacation would be travelling throughout Europe.

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

I would buy a house for my parents.

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Travelling to Cartagena to spend time with my relatives.

8. What was the last movie you watched?

Jordan Peele’s Mystery/Thriller called “Us”

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

I went to see Colombian artist, J Balvin.

10. What would be your dream job?

My dream job would be a career that involves in helping others.

 

February

Jason Callejas
Jason Aron Lovo Callejas

Mr. Lovo Callejas is an intern in U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen’s Montgomery County office, and has a 4.0 GPA. He moved to the United States three years ago from El Salvador when he was 17. Below, he tells his story and answers the Student Spotlight Questionnaire:

I was born in the small city El Carmen, La Union. A town in the oriental zone of the country El Salvador. I grew up in a lovely family with my mother, grandparents, uncle, aunt and my cousin. I had the opportunity to come to the United States when I was 17 years old and the same year that I was about to graduate from high school in El Salvador.

When I came to America, not everything was as I had hoped. I had to deal with different obstacles including the passing of my dear grandfather, which was the most difficult hardship I had to deal with since I came to the United States. Not speaking the language and having just a few friends was one of the things that young people like me have to go through when in a new country.

First, I set the goal to learn English in a year to be able to apply to college. At that time, I did not know I was living just a few minutes away from one of the most diverse and fascinating colleges in the United States. Montgomery College is a unique college that opens to door to students willing to succeed in life. It is a college full of people passionate about helping others overcome obstacles.

At Montgomery College, I decided to major in Business, which I think is one the most fundamental studies nowadays. In my studies, I have been blessed with having a 4.0 GPA and A’s in all my recent classes.

I started thinking about opening even more doors in my path, and that is when I started to look for an internship. I am a person who likes politics and helping others as well, so I decided to look an internship in the Senate of the United States. I checked in the Senator Van Hollen’s website, with help of my former professor Diego Hernandez who is very supportive, and see there was an opportunity for Spring 2019, so I gathered all the information that was needed and start the process. Promptly, I was contacted for an interview, and a couple of weeks later I was noticed and offered the position for the internship in the State office. This experience has been so wonderful, and I am grateful for it. I am so grateful with God because He has given me a bunch of blessing and an awesome family.  

Below are his answers to the Student Spotlight Questionnaire:

1. What is your major?

I am majoring in business.

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

I plan to graduate from Montgomery College and transfer to the University of Maryland, College Park in Fall 2020 to study International Business and be finished by Spring 2022 with my bachelor’s degree.

3. What do you like most about Montgomery College?

The excellent professors, cultural diversity, and programs. 

4. What are some of your hobbies?

I like to study and analyze politics and its strategies, watch some good movies, and play football (soccer) or go to the gym to be fit, dance, and read.

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

My ideal dream vacation would be 5 weeks spending one week in each of the most interesting countries in the world, which are, in my opinion, England, Japan, France, Israel, and El Salvador.

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

The first thing I would buy if I won the lottery is great land in El Salvador to build small and decent houses for families who do not have one and do not have the means to build one.

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

My favorite childhood memory is spending time with my entire family at Christmas and traditional parties including my father, who I lost 3 years ago.

8. What was the last movie you watched?

The last movie I watched is Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

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

I have never gone to a concert or a sport event.

10. What would be your dream job?

My dream job would be a position from which I could help and support people.

Subugnin Bayala

January

Subugnin Bayala

Ms. Bayala moved to the United States from her home country of Burkina Faso in West Africa in 2015 when she was 17. She enrolled at Northwood High School, but because she did not speak any English, she had to spend a year in ESOL before she could complete an additional year of regular coursework to combine with her existing credits from back home and earn her diploma in May 2017.

That fall she enrolled at MC, and now she is president of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society, the official honor society for community college students recognizing those with a GPA of 3.5 or higher, and is set to graduate this May. Ms. Bayala says that although adjusting to a new country had its challenges, the diversity of the student body and dedication of the professors at MC helped her feel at home as she pursued her degree while working 30-hours a week to help support her family.

“I don’t feel alone here [at MC]. I feel like people here almost have the same history as me. Many of them are immigrants and I feel like they can understand me,” she said.

She remembers last December when she attended an event on campus that celebrated Caribbean and African nations and saw her nation’s flag among the decorations. 

“I felt proud,” she says. “Usually, people do not know of my country.”

Ms. Bayala says she chose MC because she did not want to start her college career in incredibly large classes where no one knows who you are and it is difficult to engage. She also worried that professors would be impatient with her accent.

“I love to ask questions,” she said. “Sometimes people will not let you finish your sentences. They will just cut you off because they can’t understand you. I didn’t want that. The professor’s here don’t do that at all. They are the best!” 

Ms. Bayala said that it is hard to find time to do as much volunteer work as she would like during the semester, but last summer, she returned to Burkina Faso and volunteered at an orphanage. She also interned at a bank while there to gain experience with financial analysis, which is what she wants to do as a career.

Ms. Bayala’s father won a visa lottery in 2008 that allowed him to move the United States and then bring his immediate family. Ms. Bayala’s mother and younger brother were able to move here in 2009, but Ms. Bayala’s identifying documents did not meet all the requirements, and this left her unable to prove she was eligible for a visa through her father. It took several years to sort out this paperwork problem, which is why she was not able to come until 2015. By this time, she had a new brother who had been born here.

Ms. Bayala is multilingual, speaking English, French, and Mooré, a regional language in Burkina Faso.

Below are her answers to the Student Spotlight Questionnaire:

1. What is your major?

Finance.

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

I will graduate in the spring 2019 and I hope to transfer to the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business.

3. What do you like most about Montgomery College?

Montgomery College has a warm and welcoming ambiance. The professors and staff are amazing and always make me feel important. They care about the career success of the students no matter their cultural background.

4. What are some of your hobbies?

Between school, work, and my family, I don’t really have time for myself.  However, I enjoy reading and going out to visit museums.

5. What would be your ideal dream vacation?

I love to travel to discover new places and cultures and to meet new people. I plan to explore many countries if I can.

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

I have never thought about playing lottery, let alone winning it. But if I win, I would give some to my parents and invest the rest into my personal projects.

7. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Playing in the mud with my friends when our parents were out.

8. What was the last movie you watched?

It was the recent movie with Jennifer Lopez called Second Act.

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

It was a tennis game in my senior year at Northwood High school.

10. What would be your dream job?

I would like to work as a financial analyst in a bank.

©