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From Syria to the United States, MC Alumna Earns Full Scholarship to Maryland

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Category: Accolades

Published: Jun 10 2009 9:06AM

Oula Alnashar Alrifai, 22, is a 2009 Montgomery College graduate and a member of Phi Theta Kappa. Alrifai is currently attending the University of Maryland, College Park, and was recently awarded a Transfer Academic Excellence Scholarship that will cover four full semesters of tuition.

As a student, Alrifai spent time teaching Arabic to students at Sligo Creek Elementary School in Silver Spring. She currently works part-time at Chevy Chase Bank as a customer service representative.

Born and raised in Damascus, Syria, Alrifai and her family moved to the United States in September 2005 to "start a new life in the land of opportunity."

"In Syria, we have been under dictatorship for 40 years," says Alrifai, a government and politics major. "The reason we had to leave the country is because we are some of the few people who are looking forward to making a change, a real change and real difference in Syria."

In Damascus in 2001, Alrifai's parents founded the "Tharwa Foundation," a non-government organization (NGO) that promotes democracy and change. They were eventually forced to shut down the organization because of increasing government pressure. Alrifai says she and her family are considered political refugees. Her parents now run the Tharwa Foundation from Washington, D.C.

Alrifai has been working at Tharwa Foundation since 2004 and was recently the co-host of "The First Step," a television program that discusses democracy in Syria. In 2006, Alrifai participated in Leadership Training for American Activists of Middle Eastern Background and served as an intern at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington.

"Without the great opportunity that I had by attending Montgomery College, I would not have accomplished the things I have to this point in my life," she says, "I am very happy and honored to be a Montgomery College graduate, a school that opened my eyes and is helping me accomplish my dreams."

Alrifai says she wants to be an active member of the Montgomery College Alumni Association and would like to some day give back to the school that "opened the doors, welcomed me, and gave me outstanding support." She thanks Professors Raymond Gonzales, Shuping Wan, and Karen King for their wonderful leadership and support.

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