Scholarships totalling more than $81,000 were awarded September 10 to 135 Grossmont and Cuyamaca College students at the fall scholarship banquet held by the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges. Every student has a compelling story about the impact that community college has had on their life. Here's one student's story.
To call Meron Cholagh ambitious is a bit of an understatement.
Fluent in four languages, the Iraqi immigrant, honors student and financial aid ambassador at Grossmont College is set to graduate with three associate degrees and two certificates before transferring to San Diego State University next fall as he pursues a career in international business.
He has earned a Community Service Award from state Sen. Joel Anderson. He volunteers regularly at his church. He has been on the Honor Roll at Grossmont High School and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society at Grossmont College. And he does not believe in barriers, as evidenced by his participation with the Grossmont College chapter of the Hispanic Organization for Latino Awareness (HOLA) Club, which promotes educational and cultural awareness of the invaluable contribution that Latino cultures have provided.
Those accomplishments and more yielded a $1,000 Griffin Award of Excellence, which was presented at a Sept. 10 scholarship banquet sponsored by the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges.
“Meron is a natural leader who I know will continue to do great things for our community,” said Barbara Gallegos, who is Meron’s supervisor at the Grossmont College Financial Aid Office.
Meron downplays his accomplishments. He says the real heroes are his parents.
“They faced the biggest struggle,” he said. “They came to a new country and had to start all over again with nothing. They didn’t know the language. They didn’t have work. They didn’t know anybody. But somehow, they made it.”
Meron was 12 when he moved with his family to El Cajon. He was 11 when the family fled to Turkey. And he didn’t know any English either. That changed in a hurry, though.
“It was easier for me because I was younger,” said Meron. “I would read an English dictionary when we were in Turkey and was able to pick up a few things.”
By his second year at Grossmont High School, he was already enrolled in AP classes.
“Meron has worked hard during his four years at Grossmont, and his accomplishments validate that,” wrote Grossmont High School teacher LeAnne D. Ginn in a letter of recommendation posted on Meron’s website. “He has become involved in school‐sponsored activities such as G‐Crew, an organization of upperclassmen who organize activities to get our incoming freshmen involved in clubs and sports. He was also a Member of United Friends of America, a club organized specifically to bring our American and foreign students closer to understanding and working with one another. A member of CSF, academics are obviously important to Meron, and he works hard to maintain good grades. Outside school, he also volunteers at St. Michael’s Church.
Graduating with a 3.9 grade point average, Meron was hoping to enroll at San Diego State University but was not accepted. It turned out to be the proverbial blessing in disguise.
“I was expecting to be accepted to SDSU, and, to be honest, I was a little disappointed. But when I went to Grossmont College, it was the best thing to happen to me. I was able to get a better perspective on things, learn more about time management, meet new people who were really looking out for me and wanted to support me. Grossmont College has helped me grow. Now, when I go to SDSU, I’ll be more prepared, and I’ll have completed a lot of my classes already.”