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:
Meridian Community College
Enrique Lois Abada of Meridian, psychology; Stanyelle Lynnette Billie of Philadelphia, undeclared; James Michael Boland of Cuba, Ala., business administration; Jessica Hope Bouder of Marion, business administration; Ashley Nichol Coleman of Meridian, accounting; James Michael Dover of Meridian, criminology; Lewis Dudley Eldridge of DeKalb, accounting; Eric Hilburn Ferguson of Meridian, marketing; Ashley Olivia Garrett of Meridian, elementary education; Jessica Carey Griffin of Meridian, accounting; Janae M. Hardy of Chunky, elementary education; Megan Lynn Henderson of Meridian, secondary education; Lisa Herrmann of Meridian, social work; Rebecca Elizabeth Hodge of Meridian, psychology; Jessica Ann Jarman of Meridian, elementary education; Winnie Dolly Elizabeth Jones of Daleville, elementary education; Donna Raeshel Landrum of Meridian, elementary education; Vanessa Joy Lee of Collinsville, elementary education; Robert Steven Lummus of Meridian, elementary education; Justin Reese Marks of Meridian, business administration; Danielle M. Moulds of Meridian, psychology; Audrey Ann O’Neil of Quitman, elementary education; Adrian Perry of Meridian, elementary education; Alyson Kate Price of Toomsuba, psychology; Jacob Ryan Ramage of Meridian, accounting; Mikhail Sapelin of Collinsville, psychology; Jerra Leigh Smith of Meridian, psychology; Christopher Mac Stewart of Meridian, information systems; Victoria Thornhill of Collinsville, healthcare administration; Savannah Joy Welch of Ethel, criminology; Amber Dawn Wood of Collinsville, elementary education; and Caleb Matthew Wright of Quitman, history.
East Central Community College
William Chandler Barfoot of Philadelphia, business administration; Edward Joseph Boudreaux of Decatur, special education; Casey Shea Bryant of Lake, psychology; Haley Nicole Chaney of Hickory, secondary education; Megan Olivia Everett of Forest, secondary education; Tanner Jacob Fortenberry of Union, special education; Tarra Elise Gibson of Bailey, elementary education; Kati Ann Gill of Carthage, elementary education; Jessica Haleigh Graham of Union, business administration; Bridgett Marie Hitt of Little Rock, business administration; Robert Darrell Jones of Louisville, undeclared; Emily D. Lucy of Newton, elementary education; Brittany Danielle Mallory of Philadelphia, secondary education; Bobbi Jo Schwebel of Philadelphia, elementary education; Tiffany Nicole Watkins of Lawrence, elementary education.
East Mississippi Community College
Michael Ventura Costa of Toomsuba, history; Taylor Anne McKee of DeKalb, social work; Leslie Jane Pevey of DeKalb, English; Haley Elizabeth Pierce of Union, special education; Cheyanne Ambria Simpson of Scooba, social work; Alexandra Kathryn Smith of Toomsuba, secondary education; Hunter Morgan Worrell of Louisville, elementary education.
Jones County Junior College
Jeremy Young Grant of Laurel, accounting; Tori Paige Holifield of Laurel, English; Akeya Tonshe Kittler of Waynesboro, undeclared; Aaron Christian Smith of Laurel, elementary education; Kendall Phillips Starbuck of Bay Springs, elementary education; Cheryl Ann Stringer of Ellisville, accounting; Bethany Paige Volking of Quitman, business administration; and Selah Lindsey Weems of Laurel, psychology.
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