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Sena Dzirasa was just 17 when she enrolled at Essex County College in September of 2016, expecting the usual challenges any freshman may face. While not completely sold on her initial college major, Sena also realized her classmates viewed her as “the kid.”
Sena, who switched her major from Engineering to Mathematics, knew the first thing she had to do was excel in class. Then Sena, now 19, stopped being looked at as the youngest student to now when she proudly says, “I have a number of great friendships here.”
She also has an impressive list of campus organizations to which she belongs. Sena is Vice President of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Club, Vice President of Hallmarks in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and the tutoring office for the Math Club. “I really didn’t think I would be so involved in this many activities,” she said with a smile.
There is one more item to add to her impressive Essex résumé before she graduates this May 31 with her Associate in Science in Mathematics. Sena is one of the College’s 16 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Transfer Scholarship semi-finalists. The scholarships are for $120,000. This year’s recipients will be announced in April.
Essex has had 17 Cooke recipients since 2006, the most of any two year college in New Jersey and New York.
Sena’s top transfer choice is Princeton University where the Cooke Foundation award would certainly greatly help. She is also looking over several other universities as well.
To wherever she transfers, Sena plans to first earn a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. Depending on her future school, Sena wants to link math with finance. “I want to leave all my options open. I want to concentrate on the theoretical side of math which would potentially open a number of doors for me.”
It was an Engineering research project that led Sena to switch majors. “My step dad is an engineer which is why I started out with that major.” But when the project wasn’t going as planned, Sena, who grew up in Ghana, figured she would be much more comfortable majoring in her favorite subject area. And that has certainly come to pass as Sena currently has a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
Sena’s dedication to academics certainly has been noticed by Mathematics Assistant Professor Emmanuel Adepo.
“Sena brought a lot of creativity and initiative in her class work and was able to express her ideas by positive and intelligent reactions to questions asked in class,” said Professor Adepo.” Moreover, she was very well regarded by her classmates as she was recognized as showing great concern for the betterment of others.”
Sena, who lives in East Orange, visited the United States in 2012 before moving here in April of 2016. She took the placement test in order to enroll in Essex County College soon after she moved here.
One ECC organization that Sena especially enjoys is the SWE Club, especially when she learned it was much more than for engineering majors. The club was founded less than two years ago by Loretta Amaral, an Essex alumna who is now attending NJIT. Its goal has always been to get more women involved in the many STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) fields.
“Both Loretta and Professor Ines Figueiras told me about the club and if I would like to be involved in it.” Sena said she really enjoys the programs and the opportunity to go to conferences and meet with women professionals in the sciences and technology fields. “I also like the fundraising bake sales,” she laughed.