When Bara Zalloum was surprised with a $5,000 scholarship at a computer science fair he was judging, he was “at a loss for words.”

“I was not expecting it at all,” Bara said. “To hear my friends at the event rooting for me was heartwarming… it was surreal.”

Like Bara, many of those friends are a part of Wright College’s Engineering Pathways program, which, among other benefits, boasts guaranteed admission to the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Bara’s participation in the program also made him eligible for the $5,000 scholarship—an award that is sure to ease the financial burden of earning his bachelor’s degree.

Funding for the award was made possible by the Transit Capital Partners’ (TCP) generous donation to the TCP/CTA/City Colleges of Chicago Partners Scholarship. The partnership is designed to support current or graduating CCC students who are majoring in a STEM-related field of study as they transfer to a four-year institution in the state of Illinois.

For Bara, the transition to UIUC will be bittersweet, as he will miss the community at Wright College that he’s formed over the last two years. In fact, he and his twin sister decided to attend City Colleges after their high school graduation because they felt it would be the easiest transition from both a support and financial standpoint. It also helped that Wright is close to the family’s home in Chicago’s Dunning neighborhood, and their dad was a former ‘Wright Ram’ himself.

During Bara’s first semester at Wright, he met the president of the college’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). The organization seemed like a great opportunity join various workshops and social events, and, ultimately, find his niche at the school.

“I was so excited to join,” he said. “Opportunities like these help build your resume, and they’re also a great way to build relationships and friendships.”

Members of SHPE quickly introduced Bara to the Engineering Pathways program, which he applied for the next semester. Among other benefits, the program offers qualified students guaranteed admission to the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Armour College of Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

As Bara looks forward to graduating with his associate degree in engineering science this spring, he said he feels prepared to transfer to UIUC and then start his future in the computer science industry, possibly writing code for virtual reality applications.

“Change is weird, but this is such a great change, and I’m excited,” he said. “Being born in Chicago, going to high school here, and starting my college journey at Wright was such a good opportunity.”

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