Transfer Student Credits GCC for Academic Success

El Vaquero Staff Writer

To many students, GCC feels like a home away from home. But for Maher Abdel-Sattar, GCC was more than a home.

Abdel-Sattar, a former GCC student who has transferred to UCLA with a GPA of 4.0 in the fall of 2005, said the years he spent at GCC are worth a lifetime.

Abdel-Sattar moved to California from Lebanon in 2003 to start a new life by pursuing higher education, majoring in biology at GCC.
He was born on Feb. 26, 1985 and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. He attended one of the best high schools in Beirut known as the International College. His parents and two younger sisters are still in Lebanon.

Abdel-Sattar was born speaking to an Arabic speakin houshold. He was French educated and learned subjects such as math, science, literature, history and geography and other subjects in French.
He took the National Baccalaureate exams (12 subjects with a four hour exam for each) and got an impressive score. “This definitely gave me a very good background in all types of subjects and provided me with knowledge or skills that proved to be very helpful in many situations,” said Abdel-Sattar.

Shortly after Abdel-Sattar graduated from high school, he received his Green Card and moved permanently to La Crescenta.

Immediately after he arrived to California in August 2003, he applied to GCC and took all necessary exams to enroll in classes.
“My life at GCC was a little tough at first, but I adapted to my new environment in no time,” said Abdel-Sattar.

“I had no car, so I had to take the bus everyday to commute,” recalled Abdel-Sattar. “I had all night classes for my first quarter and I had to take the bus at 10 or sometimes at 11 pm and that was kind of creepy, especially when it rained.”

Abdel-Sattar lived with his maternal grandparents for 2 years while he was attending classes at GCC. “My grandparents had a very tiny place with one bedroom and a living room only.”

His grandfather is 93 and grandmother is 73 and is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. “I aided my grandparents as much as possible while taking 16 to 19 units per semester,” he said.

As of spring 2004, Abdel-Sattar had started his first footsteps in being a little more active on campus by joining the Alpha Gamma Sigma honors club, and by becoming a Math 103 (calculus 1) and Chemistry 101 (general chemistry) tutor at the learning center.

As a biology major at GCC, Abdel-Sattar was taking difficult science classes with long lab hours for each, and took 9 GEs as well, before he transferred to UCLA.

Despite his busy schedule, Abdel-Sattar managed to start a new club in campus known as the Mediterranean Social Club.

As the president of the club, he had to attend IOC meetings and learned about all the different groups and activities on campus.
Then in the spring of 2005, he became an SI leader for Dr. Javier Gago’s Biology 101 class. “Being an SI leader really made me grow, because this position rids you from any fear of public speaking and radically improves your speech skills.”

This may be the reason why Abdel-Sattar thinks of being a teaching assistant upon graduation and perhaps become a professor later on in life. “That’s one of the reasons why I don’t want just a Pharm Degree but a Pharm D/PHD instead.”

He also tutored organic chemistry, general chemistry and math while he was studying for his own classes. “Some days I literally was on campus from 8 am to 10 pm.”

When it was time for Abdel-Sattar to transfer to a university, it was GCC’s Transfer Center that helped him decide and choose a campus for the next two years of his life.

“I went to visit all northern UC campuses by taking the awesome free tours that the Transfer Center offers,” he said. “I applied to UCLA, Berkley, and UCSD and got into all those, but chose UCLA.”
Upon his graduation form GCC, Abdel-Sattar received a scholarship from GCC, the Annual Faculty Award for students who maintain a grade point average of 4.0. He also received two other scholarships from UCLA, the Regents Scholarship and the Alumni Scholarship which again are given to the students with the highest GPAs.

Abdel-Sattar is majoring in Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology (MCDB) and is a minor in Human Complex Systems.

He recently got into the Mortar Board National Senior Honor Society, a society that only offers its membership to the 41 most impressive UCLA seniors who best demonstrate scholarship, leadership, and other service to the new students.

He voluntarily participated in the UCLA dance marathon that raised a quarter of a million dollars for pediatric AIDS research, and is planning to get involved in a program which encourages children from disadvantaged families to seek higher education.

According to Abdel-Sattar, the secret to a successful life and a good career lies in the choices we make during our student years.
“I learned most of the material taught at GCC by being very attentive in class,” he said. “I was always a very good listener and never skipped classes.”

As Abdel-Sattar explains, group studying is one the best ways to learn the assigned material. “Group studying makes the whole process of learning more enjoyable and prevents everyone in the group from getting bored and tired of studying.”

“There are billions of things you can do on campus at GCC,” he said. “All you need is the initiative to go out there and look for them.”

“I seriously believe that being involved on campus makes you grow as a person, helps you acquire leadership skills, teaches you how to deal with people, and trains you how to manage your time efficiently between club works, activities, studying, and other things,” said Abdel-Sattar.

Abdel-Sattar believes that in a two-year university, the limited time and the crowded classrooms take the opportunity away from students to interact more efficiently with their professors. He thinks that GCC creates the best atmosphere for both students and professors to interact with each other.

He also recalled some of his professors at GCC such as Dr. Javier Gago and Dr. Larry Byrd.

“Dr. Byrd is an inspiring teacher that I’ll never forget, and Dr. Gago was one of the most amazing professors I had at GCC,” said Abdel-Sattar. “Dr. Gago is one of my role models because he is both an amazing professor and an incredible person as well.”

According to Abdel-Sattar, professors at GCC do not only teach the subject materials but they teach the essential keys of happiness in life. “Dr. Gago has time for his students, but also gives priority to his family-he seems to be able to maintain a perfect balance between the things he has to do, and the things he wants to do.”

He added, “Dr. Gago is a great speaker, he jokes around, he’s very passionate about everything he teaches, he’s very helpful and very knowledgeable- I have a lot of respect for this guy!”

“Maher was one of the best students I have ever had-he is beyond a student whose GPA is 4.0,” said Gago. “He is a truthful, respectful and a sensible human being-plus he is very energetic.”

One of the other programs that has inspired Abdel-Sattar the most is the Baja Field Study program. “It was like an adventure-It really throws you out there in the wild and introduces you to the beauties of an untouched world.”

Abdel-Sattar is planning to transfer to UC San Francisco upon graduation and complete the PhD program there.

He also is going to take the last few required classes to graduate from GCC with an associate of arts degree, “Just because I love that college so much.