International students thrive at Hinds

PEARL – For four Hinds Community College graduates this semester, their Hinds Experience is part and parcel of their developing American Dream.

Muammar Saeed, Zaid Qasem, Azzam Goraee, Abdulaziz Yafai (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

Muammar Saeed, Azzam Goraee, Zaid Qasem and Abdulaziz Yafai each earned an Associate of Applied Science degree Friday, a first step in each’s goal of majoring in engineering at a four-year university.

“Being an engineer in the future, you also have to know about many things in life,” said Qasem, 22, who, like his three fellow native Yemeni students, attended Hinds as part of the federal F-1 student visa program. “I found something special about my journey in life being in the Honors program.”

The Honors Institute at Hinds affords high-achieving students a chance at challenging coursework and community service opportunities. Generally, incoming freshman students and current Hinds students may enter the program with a 3.5 GPA, composite ACT score or instructor recommendation.

“When I first came to Hinds, I felt a little isolated and didn’t really interact with others,” Saeed said. “But in the Honors program, they do lots of activities to get you involved. I can say being in the program helped me a lot to help me communicate with others.”

In five ceremonies May 10, 11 and 13, Hinds awarded 1,839 degrees and certificates to 1,319 people, with some people receiving multiple credentials in academic, career or technical programs. This is the largest number of credentials Hinds has ever awarded for one graduation season.

Including summer 2017 and fall 2017 ceremonies, the college will have awarded more than 3,900 credentials, a 12 percent increase over last year and an 85 percent increase over five years ago.

Of the 1,319 spring graduates, 265 achieved cum laude, which is a 3.2 to 3.59 grade point average; 204 achieved magna cum laude, a 3.6 to 3.99 GPA and 137 achieved summa cum laude, a 4.0 grade point average. Nearly 900 are expected to participate in one of the five ceremonies.

Zaid Qasem, Abdullah Mansour, Azzam Goraee, Abdulaziz Yafai, Muammar Saeed (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

The four students, related only by their Hinds experience, participated in community service projects such as the Hinds County Relay for Life, held on the Raymond Campus, recycling efforts to build awareness about a healthy environment and a trip to England to work with Bridgwater University, with which Hinds has a student exchange program.

“I listened to people with inspirational stories about surviving cancer,” Goraee said.

Yafai, 21, has achieved U.S. citizenship and learned as much about culture and language to round out his education. He visited England with fellow Honors students as part of international studies classes and enjoyed it immensely.

“I’ve lived in New York for a little while before coming to Mississippi,” he said. “If you learn a language without knowing the culture, it’s just empty words.”

His instructors shared his enthusiasm.

“These young men earned top grades and gave back to the local community through service projects while they were with us,” said Debbie McCollum, dean of the Honors Institute at the Raymond Campus. “Our program and our students’ lives were enriched by having them in the Honors Program.”

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