Craven Community College (Craven CC) graduate San Bawi was selected from 75 applicants and is one of 10 community college students selected for the inaugural Goodnight Scholars Program transfer class of 2019. Bawi receives a scholarship of up to $19,500 per year to attend N.C. State University.
The Goodnight Scholars Program was started with a gift from SAS Corporation founder Dr. Jim Goodnight and his wife Ann. This program selects students from low- and middle-income households and who plan on studying a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field. In addition to the financial assistance, Bawi will participate in professional and leadership development as part of the program.
Bawi plans to study civil engineering. He said he was always good at math and never thought of any other career than engineering. “I am interested in sustainable infrastructure,” he said.
His biggest concern of going to college is cost. Bawi said he wasn’t confident that he would be chosen for the scholarship so he had called N.C. State’s financial aid office to inquire about loans. “When I received the email, I cried,” said Bawi. His award was the end of a highly involved and competitive application process that included writing essays, submitting application, waiting, being selected to interview, and then waiting.
Two other persons eagerly waiting for potential good news of Bawi’s selection were Jessica Cofield, biology instructor and Scholars in Engineering and Science (SEAS) program coordinator, and Nicole Mena, tutor coordinator. Cofield and Mena were valued mentors through the application process according to Bawi.
“I jumped up and down when I received the email,” said Cofield. She said that she knows how smart, driven and dedicated Bawi is. “I was very excited, but not surprised. He totally deserves it,” said Cofield.
Bawi, who is Burmese (Chin), said he is from a small village located in one of the most undeveloped areas of Myanmar. He left his country in 2007 to live in Malaysia where he learned English. Bawi arrived in the United States in 2010.
Bawi is a 2015 graduate of New Bern High School. He started taking Craven CC college classes while a senior through the College and Career Promise dual enrollment program. As soon as he was eligible, he applied for the college’s SEAS program. The SEAS scholarship, the Helmut and Carmen Weisser scholarship, and a scholarship from his employer, Purcell Foods, allowed him to focus on a career in his field of study.
Bawi said he is thankful for the support he has received from his family, the college, his church family and his high school teachers. “During my high school years, I had a lot of great and wonderful teachers who believed in me, truly cared for me and they made me feel special when I was so lost and without them, I wouldn’t be here,” said Bawi.
“There are a lot of kids like me who don’t usually continue their education after high school. Maybe my story will inspire some of them,” said Bawi.
Deborah Kania is the director of communications at Craven Community College.
Article originally appeared in New Bern Sun Journal.