44th Annual Commencement

Spotlight on Our Graduates

Rasha Shahin

Associate in Applied Science Degree in Information Technology/Web Design

Awards and Honors
  • Valedictorian, Morning Ceremony
  • Graduates with Highest Honors
  • Phi Theta Kappa
  • Honors Program
 

Watch Rasha’s valedictory
speech here.

She Dreamed of Earning Her Degree in the United States

 
When Rasha Shahin was a little girl growing up in Jordan, she knew she wanted to enter the technology field. She also had another dream. “I wrote in my diary that I wanted to go the United States and earn a degree there,” she said. 
 
That dream was fulfilled on May 19 when Rasha received her A.A.S. Degree in Information Technology/Web Design at the 44th Annual Commencement, but the dream turned out to be even better than she had hoped.
 

 “I wasn’t expecting this,” said the Clifton resident, who was “completely surprised” when she learned she would deliver the valedictory address at the morning commencement ceremony. “I was shaking at the podium” she said a few days after making her inspiring and heartfelt speech.
 
“This day is not just mine, it’s yours, too,” she told her fellow graduates. “And we all deserve to hear the sound of cheering for our achievement.”
 
Rasha’s valedictory moment was experienced not only by the crowd packed into the PCCC gymnasium, but also by her family and friends in various parts of the world who watched the livestream broadcast.
“After the ceremony, I checked my phone and had over 30 messages of congratulations,” she said. “My father was very proud.”
 
The central message of her speech, “always set goals and work hard to achieve them,” is one that Rasha has lived throughout her life.
 
The oldest of eight siblings, Rasha graduated from Sahab High School in Amman. “My parents believed strongly in education,” she explained. “But with eight children, they could not afford to send us to a four-year college. To make it fair to all of us, they sent us to community college.”
 
Rasha earned her first associate’s degree in Information Technology at the Amman Training Center.
 
“It was very tough,” she said. “We didn’t get to choose our courses; they were chosen for us.”  She carried a 20-credit load and said there was “one big final exam that covered all seven of my courses.”

After graduating, she worked as a graphic designer for a carpeting company, but aspired to become a web designer. “That’s what I really want to do,” she explained.
 
In 2007, Rasha came to the U.S. with her husband Abdel. Though she had studied in English in Jordan, the new immigrant was not yet fluent enough for college studies in her new country. She enrolled in PCCC as an ESL student only three years ago. Soon after, she began studies toward her American associate’s degree.
 
By then, she also had a young son and daughter. “It was a struggle,” she said of trying to balance her studies with being a mom, a point she made in her valedictory speech. “The struggle didn’t stop me, and the years paid off.”
 
There was an added benefit to that struggle. “I want to be a role model for my children,” Rasha explained. “I want to plant in them the desire to set goals and work hard to reach them, so when they saw me studying, they understood better.”
 
Like Rasha, her son and daughter have discerned their future vocations while still in childhood.
Rami is only 7, but wants to be an orthopedic doctor. “He’s very interested in how the body works,” said his mother.  Lina, 5, enjoys going to the dentist and wants to become one. 
 
When asked how she would describe her PCCC experience, the honor student answered in one word, “Awesome.”  In her commencement speech, Rasha said, “The rich diversity at PCCC opened the door to the entire world without me traveling anywhere.” 

For anyone who may aspire to becoming a valedictorian, Rasha  revealed in her speech a secret to her academic success. “In each class, I looked for the students with the highest grades and competed with them, without their knowledge.”  This, she said, “motivated me and pushed me to study harder.”
 
Rasha found her PCCC professors helpful and supportive, particularly Professor Eric Cameron of the Computer Information Sciences Department. “He cares about his students very much,” she said complimenting him for establishing a Linked-In group where the CIS students can network. “How many professors would think of doing that?” she asked.
 
In fact, the CIS students at PCCC are a tight-knit group.  Last year, Tiffany Daniels, another Clifton woman who earned a degree in Information Technology, was also a valedictorian. “Tiffany texted me congratulations when she found out I was going to be this year’s valedictorian,” said Rasha.
 
The new graduate plans to continue her studies toward a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology at Montclair State University in September.  “I feel prepared,” she said. “I got everything I need from PCCC and will take it there with me.”