Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Student of note: Dedication pays off for Grossmont College student Riyam Mansoor

Riyam Mansoor
Grossmont College student Riyam Mansoor knew she eventually would be coming to America after leaving Iraq with her family for Turkey in 2008. Too young to work and unable to attend school, “I just stayed at home and watched a lot of English-speaking shows, listened to a lot of American songs and I tried to write only in English in my journal,” Mansoor said. “I wanted to be ready.”

 Her dedication has paid off. Mansoor served in the spring as president of the Grossmont College EOPS Club, vice president of the Inter Club Council and chair of a student government election committee. In June, Mansoor graduated with an associate of arts degree in University Studies: Social & Behavioral Sciences, racking up a 3.94 GPA along the way. She has been accepted to UC San Diego and plans to study political science at the La Jolla campus en route to a career in international humanitarian law.

Mansoor’s accomplishments earned her recent recognition as a Student of Note, a designation bestowed upon those who have overcome a plethora of challenges to reach their educational goals.

Associate Professor Todd Myers called Riyam an “exceedingly bright and inquisitive student.” She also speaks fluent French, Arabic and English. And she is dedicated to upholding the rights of the oppressed.

“At an early age, she has had to stand up for her parents and defend them from discrimination because they were not able to speak English,” wrote EOPS counselor Pearl Lopez.

Mansoor, 20, was born in Baghdad but left for the relative safety of Telesquf in the northern reaches of Iraq before the war began. When she was 14 years old, she left with her family for Turkey. Some 13 months later, the family was in El Cajon.

Mansoor enrolled at Grossmont High School as a sophomore and was placed in an advanced ESL class. By her senior year, she was taking AP courses.

The work was challenging. Because she enrolled as a sophomore, Mansoor had to finish in three years the classes that other students had four years to take. She also endured her share of abuse.

“A lot of people would say, `Go back to your country. We don’t want you here. And some people would shove you.’ ”

Eventually, she joined a campus organization called United Friends of America that brought various cultures and ethnicities together to meet and take part in activities.

When it came time for college, she eyed Grossmont, where she became involved with the EOPS program and found a strong network of support.

“Most of my success at Grossmont College was because of the EOPS program,” Mansoor said. “The counselors, everybody, really care about your well being.”

Grossmont College continues to play a key role for other members of the family. Mansoor’s mother is studying at the college while working as a clerk in the Tutoring Center, and a younger sister, who just graduated from Grossmont High School, has enrolled at Grossmont College for the fall semester.

“I really believe in Grossmont College,” Mansoor said. “I really feel that community colleges in general are underappreciated.”