MERIDIAN — Special to The Star
For the fourth year in a row, outstanding transfer students from Meridian Community College as well as three other area community colleges were recently recognized at a scholarship reception at MSU-Meridian.
Among the 64 students recognized was Enrique Lois Abada of Meridian. Abada and the rest of the recipients were awarded the Riley Next Step Scholarship and will receive over $396,400 in scholarship money, made possible through a grant from The Riley Foundation and other generous benefactors. Riley Scholars receive full tuition and fees for two years (or four semesters) at MSU-Meridian. Since its inception in fall 2010, 252 individuals have received the Riley Next Step Scholarship.
A native of the Philippines, Abada moved to Mississippi two years ago at the age of 18 when his parents got jobs at East Mississippi State Hospital. He has two sisters, one who lives in New York and a younger sister who currently attends MCC.
“It was an adjustment – moving to the States,” he said. “In some ways, like school, I had an easier time of it; but socially, it was really hard the first few months.”
In the Philippines, students graduate high school at age 16, so by the time Abada moved to Mississippi, he had already completed two years of college. Unfortunately the higher education system varies so much from country to country that he had to start over and enroll at Meridian Community College before he could transfer to a university.
“A full-time student in the Philippines carries a load of about 22 or 23 credits, and school is set-up similar to high school – it starts at 8 a.m. and might not finish until 6 or 7 at night so I like the way college is set up in Mississippi – it was far easier to adjust,” Abada said.
"But as far as talking to people at MCC those first few months – well, I kept pretty much to myself. Not only was the English language different than my native tongue, but it was hard for me to tell by people’s tone and words whether they were joking or being sarcastic or serious, and I was worried I might accidently offend someone.”
In the Philippines, Abada was pursuing a degree in physical therapy. But he has chosen to major in psychology at MSU-Meridian.
“I’ve been interested in the field since my Introduction to psychology class my first year in college in the Philippines," he said. "I like to know what people think in different contexts and what people do and the reasons behind it.
“The classes I’m taking right now are all very interesting and I’m finding out so much about what’s happening in the world and the reasons behind it. Once I graduate, I’m thinking I might still pursue physical therapy, or possibly clinical psychology or counseling. I’m still figuring it all out, but I know I’d really like to eventually work in a nursing home or hospital,” he added.
Whatever his future plans entail, Abada said he is grateful to have received the Riley Next Step Scholarship to help fund his undergraduate degree.
“Since my sister is also in college right now, this scholarship is of great help financially,” he said. “Receiving it is inspiring me to strive harder in order to keep the scholarship and is helping me to push myself to be excelling academically.”
In addition to his studies, Abada has also found time to express himself artistically. His most recent endeavor was playing the role of Sundeep Padamadan and Carlos in "Legally Blonde – The Musical" at Meridian Little Theatre. He is also a member of MCC’s show group the Dimensions.
“I enjoy performing on stage because it is always such a thrill to see people enjoy my performance,” Abada said. “I’ve also discovered that elements of psychology can be incorporated in acting. I internalize certain people and think about how they act or how they might react to certain situations. It’s also very interesting to meet fellow performers and mingle with them and see how they differ from me in terms of acting or performing. It was really fun to see and do all of that in 'Legally Blonde.'”
Following is a list of Riley Next Step Scholarship recipients from local and area campuses: