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Santa Monica College Student Wins Prestigious Scholarship

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Lookout Staff

May 7, 2019 -- Santa Monica College student Hesham Jarmakani, who volunteered to aid his fellow Syrians while the country was under siege, is this year's winner of the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

Jarmakani is the fifth SMC student in the past decade to win the nation’s largest private scholarship for transfer students from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF), college officials said.

The scholarship will provide him with as much as $40,000 a year for up to three years to complete his bachelor’s degree.

Jarmakani was one of the 61 JKCF scholarship winners chosen from a pool of nearly 1,500 applicants, officials said.

He plans to use the money to study law at UC Berkeley, UCLA or Columbia University in New York.

“After the first wave of speechlessness, I just feel blessed, honored, and I’m still at a loss for words,” Jarmakani, an Economics major with a minor in Political Science, said when he learned of the award.

“SMC helped develop my character to make me a more competitive person for the scholarship."

Part of the SMC Public Policy Institute, Jarmakani is currently vice president for SMC’s Associated Students, which he said has "provided me with a lot of leadership opportunities."

While Syria was under siege, he worked as a grocery store cashier in the United Arab Emirates and volunteered for an internship with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent

As a volunteer, he provided "basic medical service (to) ease the suffering of his fellow Syrians," school officials said.

After arriving in the U.S., he worked as an usher at The Broad Stage at the SMC Performing Arts Center.

Jarmakani shared some advice with other SMC students after winning the award.

“Don’t focus on the end goal, just transferring and getting out,” he told them. “The path is a lot more important than the journey in my opinion.

"Focus on doing whatever you have today," he said. "Do it for the sake of doing it, don’t do it for the sake of putting it on your resume or getting a GPA boost. Be true to yourself, be honest, and just work hard.”

Nancy Grass, SMC’s Associate Dean of Student Life, said Jarmakani "takes each of his roles very seriously, but always brightens a room with his smile and his encouragement.

"He is an exceptional young man that we can all be proud of,” she said.

English professor Mario Padilla, who like Grass wrote a letter of recommendation for Jarmakani, called him "the paradigm of ‘scholar.’

"And he’s a nice person -- one of the nicest I’ve had the privilege to teach.”

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