“It’s rewarding to help others who are going through various challenges,” Tareen said. “I probably get as much out of it as anyone.”
Tareen’s dedication to helping others while herself overcoming an array of challenges – all while working part time, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, and taking part in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society – led the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Community Colleges to award her a Jack McAuley Memorial Scholarship as she prepares to continue her educational journey she hopes will lead to a Ph.D. in psychology. She was among the students honored during a Feb. 11 event at Grossmont College for their academic accomplishments.
“Tareen is a motivated, inspiring, hard-working young woman who does so much in serving her community and the community at large,” said Sylvia Montejano, an EOPS counselor/professor who has known the Mekany family for years and who sang at Tareen’s First Communion. “She is just an outstanding individual who represents the best of Grossmont College.”
A first-generation American, Tareen’s parents fled Iraq following the 1990 Gulf War. “It was just too dangerous for them to continue living there,” Tareen said. “My mom always talked about how difficult it was even after the war, about how they would be asleep and hear the bombs going off. So they left for Jordan with hopes of coming to the United States.”
It wasn’t easy. Tareen’s parents and an older brother, who was 2 at the time, lived in Amman until Tareen’s father could move in with relatives in El Cajon. Tareen’s mother and brother, however, had to stay behind for three years until they could finally secure a visa to join him.
The hardships were many.
“They had to leave everything behind, they couldn’t bring any of their belongings with them,” Tareen said. “We had nothing when I was growing up.
“It’s difficult for people to grasp the challenges that refugees and immigrants have to face, not the least of which is trying to find your way in a totally different culture,” Tareen said. “You basically have to start from zero.”
Both parents, however, were determined. Tareen’s mother enrolled at Cuyamaca College, earned an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, then a master’s degree in environmental engineering from National University, and now works as an environmental specialist at SDG&E. Tareen’s father took a similar route, enrolling at Grossmont College (where he worked with Montejano as a student in the EOPS office) before transferring to San Diego State University for his business degree.
The lesson for Tareen was clear. Education is the key, and Grossmont College was a gateway to a better life. Tareen will graduate from Grossmont College this spring, and plans to transfer to San Diego State University next fall. She wants to either work as a clinical psychologist or as a school counselor.
“I can’t say enough about Grossmont College,” she said. “And as much as I’d love to, I can’t take total credit for the grades that I’m getting because I wouldn’t have succeeded if it weren’t for the awesome support I’ve received. Grossmont helped me discover who I am and the people here let me know that whatever I wanted to do and whatever I field I wanted to study, they would be there for me.”