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hometown, he was undeterred by his lack of
experience compared to his American counter-
“When I came here and saw the amount
of access to technology, I was like, ‘Yeah, I could
learn this.’ ” For him, “everything” was begin-
ning to take shape.
After his introduct ion to computer
programming during his sophomore year of
high school, Arama became involved with the
Black Data Processing Association and the
Youth Computer Training Program, which
teach advanced Web programming to high
school students, with a focus on minorities.
Not long after, Arama was competing at the
National Programming Competition where
he experienced the transformative nature of
working with a cohesive group of talented indi-
viduals. “I uncovered my potential by being
around students who had common passion
and drive, and together we won the National
Programming Competition,” he says.
Upon the recommendation of a club
mentor, Arama decided to apply for a comput-
er science scholarship which would soon
place him in a new group of students with a
common passion and drive. Even in the midst
of watching his parents’ divorce and his broth-
er’s diffcult adjustment to American culture,
he remained focused and fnished his appli-
cation. “I realized sitting around and feeling
bad about it wasn’t going to do me any good,”
he says. “I wanted to prove to my two broth-
Student James Arama could relate. A native
of Kenya, Africa, Arama has overcome pover-
ty, divorce, and geographic displacement in
pursuit of his dreams.
Arama is one of 12 recipients of presti-
gious academic scholarships awarded by Marist
College in spring 2010. The full scholarships,
sponsored by the National Science Foundation
(NSF), were designated for students expressing
fnancial need and planning to study comput-
er science or information technology systems.
The 12 frst-year students hailed from Hawaii,
California, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina,
Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York.
The NSF funding will carry this cohort of
students through their graduation in 2014.
“The signifcant amount of funding allows
Marist to recruit very talented and diverse
students from around the country, and to help
us increase the diversity of our college, which
is an integral element of our strategic plan,”
President Dennis J. Murray says.
The diversity of the NSF scholarship recipi-
ents has united them in a unique way. Associate
Professor of Computer Science Ron Coleman,
who serves as the students’ primary advisor
and their instructor in Computer Science I and
Computer Science II, says the amity amongst
the group is an interesting paradox. “They are
similar in diversity,” he says. “They are bonded
by the sheer fact that many of them are very
different from many of the students at Marist.
This is the most ethnically diverse class I’ve ever
had at Marist.” The NSF scholarship recipients
shared a four-day orientation course, a statistics
course, two introductory gaming design and
development courses, and the Self-Management
course. The nine men in the group also lived
near each other, on the ground foor of Leo
For Arama, living in a small dorm room
in Leo was until quite recently a deviation
from reality. As a child, he dreamed big, even
though his life was limited to a poverty-strick-
en community. “I wanted to do everything,”
he says. “I just wasn’t sure what ‘everything’
was.” When he was 14 years old, his family
won an immigration lottery and, with fnan-
cial assistance from his community in Kenya,
moved to the United States. They now live in
Rochester, Minn.
However, the Aramas would not make the
voyage to America together. Arama’s father
would leave frst and attempt to establish a
workable living situation. “It was diffcult not
having a father to see us grow up, but we got
over that,” Arama says. “And yes sometimes I
thought we would never come to America given
the cost it took to obtain a visa and a plane
ticket for a whole entire family in a govern-
ment flled with corruption.”
Arama’s father’s resilience inspired him to
be the best he could at whatever he chose to do,
a path that would reveal itself upon his entrance
to high school in America. Although technol-
ogy use was supremely limited in Arama’s
ers that if you work hard in life, great things
can happen.”
This past year, when he wasn’t busy with
course work or clubs, Arama and fellow schol-
arship recipients Jason Wong of Honolulu,
Hawaii, Martin Mena of Croydon, Pa., and
Justin Svegliato of Massapequa Park, N.Y.,
worked in the Web Development subdivision
of the Information Technology offce, where
they updated and enhanced the offcial Marist
Web site. Gates’s 10th rule, “Television is not
real life; in real life, people actually have to
leave the coffee shop and go to jobs,” also seems
to resonate with these students. “I chose to do
this job because it will provide valuable experi-
ence for when I apply for internships down the
road,” says Mena. All of the scholarship recipi-
ents are involved with the Computer Society,
and many also take part in activities not related
to computer science.
Arama, Wong, Mena, and Svegliato worked
for Melissa Egan, assistant director of enter-
prise computing–web. Although there was a
steep learning curve for the computer coding
aspect of the job, Egan says it wasn’t long before
these students were fnishing her sentences. “I
couldn’t have gotten luckier,” Egan says. “They
are anxious to program everything they can.”
Self-Management does not teach computer
programming or gaming design but as the class
begins, the camaraderie among the scholarship
awardees is discernible. “They are wonderful,”
Twelve first-year students fromacross the United States received prestigious full academic scholar-
ships fromMarist, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Clockwise, from top, areMorgan
MacHuta, Jason Wong, Gabriela Rosales, James Arama, Jonathan Shudra, Martin Mena, Justin
Svegliato, Mark Logan, De’Ron Billups, Garrett Sutcliffe, and Julio Cabrera. Not pictured is Stuti Bhatt.
A Common Passion