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Santa Monica College Awards 2014 Transfer Scholarship

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By Lookout Staff

July 7, 2014 -- Sierra McDonald -- a journalism major who plans to probe pressing issues in the black community -- has received Santa Monica College’s second annual Chui L. Tsang Transfer Scholarship.

A Compton resident, McDonald will transfer this fall to Howard University, one of the top historically black universities in the country. She is working this summer as an on-air marketing intern for Lifetime on A&E Networks.

“My time at Santa Monica College has been one of the best experiences of my life,” McDonald said in an interview that appeared in the SMC graduation program. “I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I grew as a person and as a student.”

The annual scholarship, named after SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang, provides $15,000 a year for two years to support a student’s completion of a bachelor degree.

“I’m so happy to award this year’s scholarship to Sierra McDonald,” Tsang said. “She is a focused, conscientious, and mature student who has stood out as a leader since she arrived here.

“Santa Monica College is deeply committed to ensuring our students get a strong baccalaureate education, and Sierra truly deserves our support in her continuing educational efforts.”

The Scholarship is awarded based on a combination of academic achievement, financial need, and the student’s own academic and personal journey.

Scholarship candidates are nominated by SMC faculty and staff members and reviewed by a campus committee, with the final selection made by Dr. Tsang.

McDonald is a former President’s Ambassador of Santa Monica College, a volunteer and Commissioner of Community Service through the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and a past board member of the Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society. 

McDonald successfully completed SMC’s Promo Pathways Program, which allowed her to make important connections with top professionals in her field.

Her position as Director of Publicity for SMC’s Black Collegians program helped her to develop the strong leadership skills she has put to use as an intern at productions such as “Tavis Smiley” on PBS, Dick Clark Productions, and Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” according to school officials. 

Her hope, McDonald says, is “to ignite and promote new perspectives that dispel the myths and stereotypes related to women and people of color and empower everyday people like myself with the knowledge necessary to make informed choices.

“I come from Compton and grew up in this whole gang area and environment,” says McDonald, who wrote a research paper titled “The Progression of Black Gangs in Los Angeles. “There are social issues to why people commit crimes, but people don’t want to know that.”

Growing up in New Jersey, McDonald was introduced to journalism by her father, who had her read out loud from the newspaper and write down her impressions. They also listened to the morning newscasts on the radio together.

“I have succeeded in overcoming my past by not letting it define me,” she said. “Instead, I learned from it and realized that change is possible both on a personal and societal level when education is involved.”

She added, “As a journalism major, I want to work toward making a difference in my community by building social awareness and keeping my voice relevant in various conversations in the Black community.”


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