Zack Shariff, Allen & Shariff Corporation
“Education is the gift of a lifetime and no one can ever take it away from you. I am so thankful for my education,” shares Zack Shariff, CEO of the Columbia-based Allen & Shariff Corporation. Beginning as a mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design firm, the company now designs, builds, and manages construction projects around the world.
“I come from a family of engineers and my dream was to pursue my education in the United States. My grandfather, father, and uncle pulled together to buy me a one way ticket to the United States, and the rest is history. I feel like I am living the American dream. This is the best gift they could have given me and I love sharing that gift with others.”
“I am so glad that we can play a role in helping to better the lives of the next generation,” says Shariff about Allen & Shariff’s support of the HCC Educational Foundation. In addition to sponsoring scholarship fundraising events, the company began the Allen and Shariff Stipulated Scholarship to provide assistance for students pursuing science, technology, engineering and math.
Mary Cannon, company president, serves on the HCC Educational Foundation’s board of directors and Shariff took a leadership role as the chair of the HCC 5K Challenge Race. The race strives to build healthy communities by bringing together local businesses and organizations for weekly trainings leading up to a 5K race. Shariff challenges fellow leaders in the community to get involved. “You lead by example and it is extremely important for leaders to understand this,” he says. “And, as leaders, we can promote a culture of healthier lifestyles for our staff. The weekly trainings and race gives us all something to look forward to. Plus, from the business standpoint, the weekly trainings allow us to grow our circle of friends by spending time with local professionals in a new setting.”
“I understand first hand the cost of higher education and that is why I believe HCC is such a great option for students. I see many students at HCC who were just like me. When I came to the U.S. from Pakistan I started my education at Oklahoma State University. Like many students, the cost was too high so I had to look at other schools. I ended up finding a program at the University of Texas I could attend for almost a third of what I was paying.”
When asked what advice he would give to students who were in a similar position to him, Shariff responds, “ I would encourage them to make friends in the local community where there are great opportunities to become who you want to be. I went to school full time in the day and worked odd jobs at night, I was determined to succeed but I really did not know anyone. I was lucky enough to be ‘adopted’ by a family who became a big part of my success. We still talk today.” Shariff adds, “ I encourage everyone to support the HCC Educational Foundation by contributing to student scholarships and by mentoring a student. Our future and our nation’s future depends on young, bright minds.”