In high school, the Ellicott City resident began taking Arabic language classes on campus as part of HCC’s dual enrollment program.
“Since my sophomore year, I knew I wanted to come to HCC,” she said. “I just fell in love with the campus. I loved the professors and the resources, and the campus is close to home so I knew that this would be the pathway for me.”
But in the fall of 2020, her vision of college life quickly changed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of her first semester classes were online.
“I’m a first-generation college student,” said Pakeeza, who is also Pakistani-American. “Because everything was online, it was very hard for me to go to college by myself.”
HCC’s Silas Craft Collegians program came to the rescue, offering Pakeeza online tutoring and regular mentor meetings to help keep her academics on track.
Pakeeza also received financial support through the Alice Conn Scholarship for Silas Craft Collegians and the Howard Community College Educational Foundation (HCCEF) Silas Craft Collegians Endowment.
“Silas Craft and its scholarships played a huge part in my success,” she said. “The staff and mentors really helped me navigate my first year of college.”
So much so that Pakeeza – now in her second year – has an internship where she mentors first-year Silas Craft Collegians. Under the direction of Candace dePass, assistant director of the Silas Craft Collegians program, and Angela Phillips, coordinator of Silas Craft Collegians program, Pakeeza said she has learned how to motivate fellow students and support them on their college journeys.
“I’ve found that a lot of students can relate to me,” she said. “I am not afraid to say that in high school, I was not that great of an academic student. I tell them it’s possible to work hard, try again and not be afraid by the past.”
Pakeeza was recently inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of two-year colleges. After earning her associate degree in social sciences this spring, she plans to study political science at UMBC. She has a long-term goal of pursuing a master’s degree in public policy.