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Student encourages high school seniors to 'Go Public!'

10/16/2013

When Jerry Kiahon '14, of Worcester, Mass., arrived at MCLA three years ago, he decided to major in biology because he loves science. While his initial goal was to become a physician assistant, his MCLA experience has caused him to aim even higher: he now plans to become a doctor.

"Although being a physician assistant would be a good job, it was not a job that I now feel would reflect my full potential. Looking back, I wanted to become a physician assistant because I lacked confidence in myself," Kiahon said.

After taking numerous science courses and working "tirelessly" every semester to earn the excellent grades he has achieved, Kiahon proved to himself that he is capable of being successful in medical school.

"The great access to tutors, teacher's assistants, and to my professors all played a major factor in my academic success at MCLA," he said.

His hard work and dedication made Kiahon the perfect student to represent MCLA recently as an ambassador for public higher education's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs when he spoke about the benefits of public colleges with Massachusetts Education Secretary Matthew Malone at the "Go Public!" rally in Springfield, Mass.

He, along with students who attend other public universities in the state, shared their experiences with an audience of 450 honors and AP students from three Springfield high schools, talking to them about STEM careers and the advantages of attending a public institution like MCLA.

At the rally, Kiahon challenged the high school seniors to prepare for college and STEM careers by taking the harder courses in math and the sciences, and spoke about the STEM majors, certificate programs and the many internship opportunities available to them at MCLA.

Kiahon also shared with the students his struggle with a particular class he took during his freshman year of college, and how he overcame the obstacles that faced him in that course.

"I advised them to continue to work hard, and to follow their dream like I am doing," he said. "I told them they should not be afraid to come to college, and that after several days or weeks it will start to feel like a second home."

"I loved it!" he said of the rally. "I felt like I made a difference in the lives of the students I talked to. I would definitely do it all over again - in a heartbeat. Also, I would recommend that more college students go out and talk to high school, middle school - or even elementary school - students about the importance of a college education."

He added, "I like that MCLA is a small school. It's a great fit to me because I'm in an environment that guarantees me better access to my professors. I have loved my experience here. I made a few great friends, and we've been through a lot of struggles to reach the point of academic success that we've achieved now.

"Having such wonderful friends makes living on campus feel like a second home," he continued. "Also, I've been blessed with numerous professors who have helped me learn topics and concepts that at first I thought were impossible to fully understand."

The Springfield event was co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and GEAR UP, a federally funded program that serves more than 7,000 students throughout the Commonwealth in seven high poverty districts, with the goal of improving high school graduation rates and increasing enrollment and success in college.