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Student Spotlight:
Ase Awari


His Fate Is Tied to PCCC

Posted May 4, 2018

“There are two defining decisions I’ve made in my life,” says Ase Awari, an articulate, enthusiastic honor student.  “The first was to come to PCCC. That was the greatest decision I ever made.”

An engineering major with a 3.8 GPA, Ase is a member of the Honors Program and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a NASA scholar, the Speaker of the Student Government Association, and the recipient of several scholarships, including the prestigious Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Award.  He also works at PCCC as a chemistry tutor.

Now preparing to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program in engineering, Ase has applied to seven top universities, four of them Ivy League. “It’s my dream to attend an Ivy,” said Ase who plans to minor in political science, with an eye on law school and government service someday. 

With those accomplishments, it’s hard to believe this star student did not always shine so brightly.
“I was a mediocre student from kindergarten to twelfth grade,” said Ase. “I was unmotivated and below par in every way.”

Yet, he knew a college education was important, so in his senior year at Wayne Hills High School, Ase followed the advice of some relatives who attended PCCC and applied.  “I liked that the tuition was low and PCCC really was my only option,” he explained.

But when Ase entered PCCC in September 2016, everything changed.  “Something just sparked in me here,” he said. “I loved the professors, the other students, the classes. I wanted to take every course.”

Thrilled by opportunities he never expected at PCCC, Ase raves about being selected last year for the prestigious NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program and attending a four-day workshop at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

“Having that incredible experience in my first year at PCCC was exactly what I needed at the time,”
he said. “I gained the confidence and motivation to set high goals for myself and work toward them.”
The other defining decision in his life, Ase says, was to join the Student Government Association (SGA).
“I work with the most amazing team of people,” said Ase who has served as senator and Speaker of SGA.  “I love that we work at the food pantry and on other projects that make a difference for others.
I wouldn’t trade my SGA experience for the world.”

Energized by the satisfaction and skills he gained through SGA, Ase proactively pursued and landed an internship last summer working for Governor Phil Murphy’s  campaign.

“I was the only community college student on the team,” he said. “I stuck out like a sore thumb.”
But while some of the other interns seemed blasé about the job, Ase was awed by the opportunity
and pursued his tasks with diligence.   

“I went to Hackensack every day to sign people up to vote,” he says. “I was willing to help wherever I could and stayed until the very end of the campaign, which some of the others did not do.”
Ultimately, his dedication paid off. “I was one of the few interns who was invited to the Inaugural Ball when Murphy won,” said Ase. He even received a personal thank-you from the Governor for his hard work on the campaign. 

Laughing, Ase confessed that during the internship, he “did some name dropping,” by mentioning the NASA experience he had at PCCC.   “There is so much misunderstanding about community college,” he said.  “I did that not just for me, but for every student at PCCC who might feel some people look down on them for going to community college.”

In fact, Ase suggests that all PCCC students and alumni should take responsibility for changing the stigma of  community college.  “It’s up to us. We are PCCC,” he said. “We need to go out there, do great, and show the world what a PCCC education looks like.”

College has strengthened the young progressive’s belief in the power of self-improvement, especially for those in positions of leadership.   “I think we should always keep learning,” said Ase who plans to return to PCCC in the future to take the free courses available to alumni.

 “Science, history, literature…they’re all important and should not be so separated,” he insists. “We need more people in government, more leaders in general who are well-rounded and can view issues from a broad perspective.”

Whether this altruist chooses a career in engineering, law, or government service, his primary goal is to work collaboratively for the common good.  He is excited by space exploration, “because of how it can improve life on earth,” and subscribes to the belief that “reluctant cooperation is better than friendly competition.”

Deeply appreciative of PCCC, Ase insists that even if he becomes an Ivy, he’ll never forget his roots at the College. “I will always be part of Passaic County Community College,” he affirms. “My fate is tied to PCCC.”