Instructor talking to students in the Lab

Maryam Ishak – Class of 2011       


Maryam Ishak

Maryam Ishak plans to become a dentist, but she could have a career as a diplomat.  “In high school I was good at bringing different cliques together,” she said. “A lot of my friends met each other that way.”  An honors student and 2009 graduate of Manchester High School in Haledon, Maryam entered PCCC through the NJ Stars program, which funds tuition for those who graduate in the top 15 per cent of their class, if they elect to attend the community college in their county.

 “The scholarship is wonderful,” said Maryam. “Students who receive it can focus on doing well in their classes and getting involved instead of worrying about how to pay for tuition,” she added. 

Maryam was encouraged to attend PCCC by her father, who had attended the college previously, later earned his master’s degree, and now teaches special education at Manchester Regional High School. “My uncle, who’s now a chiropractor and a few of my cousins also attended this College,” said Maryam. “Because of my family’s experience here, I knew I could get a quality education and fulfill my basic course requirements at PCCC.” 

To prepare for a career in dentistry, Maryam is majoring in pre-professional science. Though she has a preference for science courses, she especially enjoys art, history and political science and has high regard for humanities Professor Ed Moseley. “On the first day of class, when I told him I planned to become a dentist, he told me he had respect for me choosing a profession that was male dominated,” she said. “He’s a wonderful professor and it’s a great feeling to know that he believes in me.”


Maryam helps out at the Great Falls
cleanup to commemorate 9-11

An Advocate for School and Community Service

Though a hard-working student who took honors and AP classes in high school, Maryam also pursued an active extracurricular life. “I was very involved. I played sports every chance I could get,” said Maryam, who played softball, soccer, volleyball, and track and field. She was also involved in drama and acted in the school play for several years. Some of the clubs she was involved in were the French Club, Science Club, and Interact, a volunteer service program. “I’ve always tried to be as involved as possible. I love interacting with people and trying new things,” she said.”It has made my high school experience really memorable and I met a lot of truly wonderful people that way.”

That same spirit continues to drive her at PCCC where Maryam is an active member of the Science Club as well as  Vice President of the Student Government Association. “I like being politically informed,” she said. “I believe it’s important for students to stand up for what they believe in.”  Maryam is proud of a recent rally the SGA sponsored to defend college education. “The purpose of that event was to fight for more accessible higher education,” she explained. “College students are the smallest population in America. It’s important to have our voices heard and our needs met, especially now because of cutbacks that affect education.”

Family and Social Life

Devoted to her family, Maryam enjoys spending most of her down time with them. She also cherishes her Syrian and Circassian ethnic heritage and is actively involved with the Circassian Benevolent Association in Wayne. “It’s a very tight knit social community,” she explains. “We have educational programs, Sunday school, a mosque, and places where kids can hang out with their friends.” 

Listing travel as one of her passions, Maryam, who speaks French, Arabic, and some Circassian, tells about her trip two years ago to London, Jordan, Syria, and Dubai. “It was really eye opening,” she recalled. “Visiting Syria was especially amazing. The people were so hospitable and generous.” A recent trip to Washington, D.C. with other members of the SGA was another highlight of her travels. “It was a great experience, and we made a lot of friends.”

Finding Her Passion

A self-taught pianist, Maryam is now teaching herself to play the violin on an instrument she purchased in Syria. She also studied guitar, flute, and drums in high school. “My dad always encouraged me to try as many things as possible to see what my passions are,” she explained. Her strongest passion? “I think it’s helping people,” replied Maryam.

The multi-talented young woman said her career choice of dentistry was inspired by her own family dentist. “Dentists are generally stereotyped as being scary, but my dentist is very gentle,” she explained. “I would like to make that difference for others.”   Maryam hopes one day to travel to impoverished countries to volunteer her dental services. “I’d like to make my life very fulfilling and meaningful,” she said.

PCCC and Her College Experience

Her immediate goal, though, is to continue her education towards her bachelor’s degree and eventually enter dental school.  “I want to go to Rutgers (University) or William Paterson (University),” she said.

Though excited about her future, Maryam says leaving PCCC will be bittersweet. “I love the diverse atmosphere at PCCC. The professors are great, I met a lot of ambitious people, and I was able to try many things I never thought were possible. Being at a small school gives you an opportunity to have more of an impact.”


Maryam makes a slithery friend
at the Science Club Reptile Talk

What advice would she give to others who are just entering college? “The college experience is what you make of it,” she declared. “If you want college to be just a facility where you take classes that’s what it will be. Every student has the power to make it more than that by reaching out and getting involved in the community.”

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