Foreign students celebrate milestone
The Arizona Republic
May. 12, 2006
Immigrants learn skills, improve their English through services offered by
Two or three years ago, many of them spoke little, if any, English.
But today dozens of international students will don their graduation caps and
gowns at Phoenix community colleges to celebrate a milestone on their road to
assimilation in the United States.
"When I think about how I spoke no English, and I'm now getting my degree, it's
a little bit emotional," said Gaetano "Nino" Langella, a 37-year-old former
construction worker who earned his associate's degree in manufacturing at
GateWay Community College. "God is good." advertisement
Gaetano, who emigrated from Naples, Italy, joins more than 2,200 students at
Maricopa Community Colleges' four Phoenix campuses earning associate's degrees
today. Another 2,150 will earn certificates in various disciplines from Phoenix
College, GateWay, South Mountain or Paradise Valley community colleges.
Among them are dozens of international students drawn to the community college
system because of smaller classrooms, specialized services, including tutoring
and advanced English as a second language offerings, and especially affordable
"As foreign students, we pay so much more in tuition rates compared to in-state
students," said 24-year-old Dusan Ivanovic, who is from Bosnia and earned his
associate's degree in graphic design from Phoenix College. "So you're talking
many thousands saved. Otherwise, I probably would've gone straight to the
Savings can be quite substantial. For example, international students pay about
four times the $4,400 tuition costs of in-state students attending Arizona State
Students learning to acclimate to a new culture also respond favorably to the
additional one-on-one offered by community college instructors who have smaller
student loads, the schools' evening and weekend courses and additional services,
such as assistance with housing and immigration issues, said Ken Bus, Glendale
Community College's director of international education.
"A student wanting to assimilate to life here can feel lost on large university
campuses or in their auditorium-type classrooms," he said. "But community
colleges are smaller and more personal, and you need that when everything around
you is new and foreign."
Every year, more than 222,000 students enroll in credit or non-credit courses at
the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges campuses. Of those, about 8 percent are
international students or those who are not U.S. citizens or permanent
Maricopa Community Colleges is one of the largest and most diverse
higher-education districts in the nation, with students speaking more than 50
languages, including Spanish, Arabic, Navajo, French, Italian and Farsi.
International students thrive on that diverse mix, and the more than 9,900
courses offered throughout the district, said MCC spokeswoman Nicole Greason.
"I'm often so impressed by our international students," she said. "These are the
type of students I would have loved to hang out with as a 20-year-old."
Students, such as former construction worker Langella, recently hired by
Honeywell as a machinist.
Having a wife and three children to support won't sideline his career goal of
becoming an engineer.
"They sacrifice a lot so that I can pursue this dream," said Langella, who
recently passed his U.S. citizenship test. "And they're proud of me, so I won't
let them down."
Ivanovic is already making his mark. Last year, he won the OneBookAZ poster
design competition and he recently snared the Grand Prix award at a digital
video festival in California for his short film Journey to the Center of the
Ivanovic, who learned English in Bosnia, said nothing will stand in the way of a
career in graphic design or desktop publishing.
"That's my passion," he said.
South Mountain Community College graduate Bonfils Niameogo, 20, earned an
associate's degree in civil engineering and aims to complete engineering
bachelor's and master's degrees at ASU.
He emigrated in 2004 from Burkina Faso in West Africa, fluent only in French.
He'll return home someday as a bilingual engineer/developer.
"I know that might sound ambitious to some people, but if you work hard, you can
accomplish anything," he said. "I received the foundation that I needed at SMCC.
Now the rest is up to me."