The world beckoned to Jessica Lowenstein, 19, of Abington, when she was a girl coping with family tension. Travel, she said, gave her a sense of herself, of independence, and of escape.
“I was accepted to a school in London as a freshman and really wanted to go,” Lowenstein said. But the tuition was expensive, and she considered taking out “enormous sums of money in loans” to pay for school.
“I toyed with taking a gap year and working, but I knew I would never be able to earn enough without a degree. Then I found out about the Honors Program at Montgomery County Community College, that offers small seminar-style classes, an honors club, and a full tuition scholarship.”
Lowenstein is pursuing an associate’s degree in Liberal Studies and a certificate in International Studies at Montgomery County Community College, and expects to graduate in May.
It turned out that close-to-home higher education is helping her to gain the credentials she needs to travel the world.
“My most significant community college endeavor is just beginning,” she wrote in her scholarship application. “As part of my international certificate program, I am doing an independent study on Israeli Foreign Relations and the U.S.”
The research phase consists of research and readings on the Arab minority in Israel, the formation of the State of Israel, the Palestinian Territories, history of the Middle East, history of the religious city of Jerusalem, Israeli foreign policy, and the U.S. involvement with Israel.
“In the future, I would like to work for the U.S. government or a non-govermental organization such as the United Nations, in a job that will allow me to help people and to travel and get to meet and understand them.”
After graduation, Lowenstein plans to transfer to a four-year institution; she has applied to Dickinson, Penn, Columbia, and American University, as well as to West Chester and Bloomsburg. There, she intends to pursue a baccalaureate degree in International Relations or Middle Eastern Studies.
Lowenstein is heavily involved in the Honors Club at the College. She is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and attends Adventure Club and Environmental Club meetings/activities when possible.
“The Honors Program scholarship made all the difference in my decision to attend Montgomery County Community College. I probably would have taken a year or two off from my education had I not been given this scholarship. The scholarship covers the full cost of my tuition and a Pell grant helps me to cover expenses such as food, books, and gas,” she said.
The All-PA Academic Team is an award for students nominated by their community colleges.
“I think it’s also really great that community college students have an opportunity to get this kind of recognition and award. I feel that the public has a really negative image of most community college students,” she said.
Phi Theta Kappa, two-year college presidents, and community college state associations co-sponsor All-State Academic Team recognition programs in 32 states. Each two-year college in Pennsylvania may nominate two students per campus to the All-USA Academic Team. Nominations are based on outstanding academic performance and service to the college and community.
The College’s nominees to the All USA Academic Team are named to the All Pennsylvania Academic Team and may be awarded a scholarship that may be used at any one of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education institutions.
~ Neree Aron-Sando