Scholarship Aids Science Students

Arpee Markarian

Math, science, engineering, and technology majors wondering where they can get help with the cost of school don’t have to search any further.

Students from these disciplines now have a chance to apply for the Math and Science Transfer, Excellence and Retention (MASTER) Scholarship Program, a grant that awards up to $1,500 per year to financially disadvantaged students who plan to transfer to a four-year university.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) an independent agency of the federal government that funds educational institutions has given $500,000 to GCC for the next five years, in order to award up to 70 scholarships per year to students who maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average, demonstrate a financial need, are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, are enrolled in 12 units or more each semester, and plan to pursue higher education.

Sid Kolpas, professor of mathematics, runs the program and is in charge of selecting applicants.

“It’s an amazing scholarship,” Kolpas said, “All it asks of the student is to pass the classes and take advantage of all the things the scholarship offers,” referring to the other advantages of the program, including access to a faculty mentor, an email newsletter, and the summer bridge/academic enrichment program.

This four-week curriculum starts June 30, and takes place in one of the classrooms on campus. It is open to all grant recipients. There are only 29 spots available, however, and admission is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Kolpas, along with a former scholarship student, teach Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They cover algebra, trigonometry, and beginning calculus in-depth, “deeper than one can ever do in a regular class,” Kolpas said.

Those enrolled receive a TI calculator and bookstore voucher, both valued at $150, and can park free in the campus lots.

For fun and further learning experiences, the students take field trips each Friday. Past outings have included visits to the California Science Center, the Getty Museum, Griffith Park, or Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “Students get to bond, talk about future goals, and form a learning community,” said Kolpas.

After the four weeks, students meet with either counselor Greg Perkins or Kevin Messa to devise a student educational plan, if they don’t already have one, and they get priority registration for the following semester.

“It’s all to encourage them to be good students and to complete their degree,” Kolpas said.

Fifteen students have already been accepted for the MASTER Scholarship program, leaving 55 spots open to those who want to apply. The deadline is May 16, with an extension to May 30.

To be considered for the scholarship, students must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form online, if they haven’t already done so, and submit an application.

After these forms have been reviewed, winners will by notified by mail the first week of June.

A recipient of this award last fall was Karla Acosta Diaz, current math major who plans to transfer to UC Berkley.

“I felt like everything I was working hard for was paying off,” Diaz said. “It felt like a great achievement because it’s funded by the National Science Foundation. So I thought, wow, I can call myself a scientist now.”

She said one of the most valuable things of the scholarship, in addition to the mentoring she received, was the money. It allowed work only two days a week instead of the 25 hours she was putting in.

Another former recipient was Herire Golnazarian, biology major, who transferred to USC this spring.

“It felt great to win an academic award,” he said. “It gives you more passion for pursuing your career.”

Like Diaz, he also benefitted by gaining more time to study and focus on school instead of trying to increase his hours at work, and by working with a mentor.

“This is a great program to be a part of,” Golnazarian said. “Everyone in this program, especially Dr. Kolpas, is really caring about the students and does something positive to help students move on.”

For an application and more information, visit or contact Sid Kolpas at [email protected]