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De Anza College News Release

June 22, 2007

Marisa Spatafore

Lois Jenkins

President's Awards Winners, Yale-Bound Bosnian Woman Among College's Remarkable Students

CUPERTINO--De Anza College's 40th annual commencement will be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 30, at the college's Outdoor Events Arena. State Assemblymember Anna M. Caballero will serve as keynote speaker.

"Assemblymember Caballero has long focused on working families and education," said De Anza President Brian Murphy. "She will be an inspiration to our diverse graduates as we herald their passage to new careers or further education at a four-year institution."

Caballero, who was born to a family of copper miners, was elected in 2006 to represent the 28th Assembly district, consisting of portions of Santa Clara, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties and all of San Benito County. A founding partner in an award-winning law firm dedicated to serving working families, she became involved in public service more than 15 years ago and was first elected mayor of Salinas in 1998, going on to serve four terms in office. In the Assembly, she serves as chair of the Committee on Local Government and is a member of the committees on Appropriations; Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy; Water, Parks and Wildlife; and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. She also chairs the Select Committee on Youth Violence Prevention, a topic on which she has long focused.

About 1,250 students will graduate from De Anza College with degrees and certificates this year, among them President's Scholarship Award winners Yosief Hailemichael and Rehana Rehman. Winners of the annual award must have overcome significant adversity or obstacles and shown great perseverance in seeking an education at De Anza College. They are personally selected by the college president.

"Both Yosief and Rehana are simply remarkable," said Murphy. "Their determination to succeed--against what must at times have seemed almost insurmountable odds--is awe-inspiring. I am deeply proud that De Anza College could provide opportunities for these dedicated students, at the same time benefiting greatly from their presence and contributions to our community."

Yoseif Hailemichael
Yosief Hailemichael

Born in the small East African country of Eritrea, Yosief Hailemichael was raised by his grandmother after he was abandoned by his parents at the age of 2. His grandmother, a widowed retired nurse, struggled to provide for Hailemichael, who persisted in going to school and trying to make life better for his grandmother. In high school he worked part time to help out and in 2002 came to the United States. Working full time as a security guard while attending De Anza allowed him to buy a house for his grandmother. He maintained a 3.266 GPA and will be transferring to San José State University in the fall. Hailemichael wants to earn a Ph.D. in economics and teach so he can give back to the community. He resides in San José.

Because of her parents' failing business, Rehana Rehman was forced to drop out of college when she was 17 years old to work more than 40 hours a week. Soon after she became engaged to a man who turned out to be emotionally and physically abusive. In 1998 she left her former life behind and struck out on her own, only to learn that a full-time retail job limited her options. She knew an education was the key to opportunity. She met her future husband who encouraged her to return to school in 2002, but an unplanned pregnancy delayed her education again. Eventually Rehman enrolled at De Anza, majoring in Language Arts and maintaining a 3.769 GPA. She also was active in the South Asian Student Alliance, Students for Justice, the Honors Program and Phi Theta Kappa honor society, all while caring for her daughter. Rehana plans to be a teacher and is transferring to UC Berkeley this fall. She is a resident of Sunnyvale.

Sabina Mehmedovich
Sabina Mehmedovic

Another remarkable De Anza College transfer student is Cupertino resident Sabina Mehmedovic, who came to the United States in 2005 after finding De Anza on the Internet and being impressed with the college's faculty. Originally from Bosnia, Mehmedovic's family left the war-torn country for Sweden in the early 1990s. According to Mehmedovic, De Anza College is the first place she's ever felt at home; she deeply appreciated the diversity at the campus, particularly after feeling isolated by language and cultural barriers as a refugee in Sweden. A sociology major, Mehmedovic has received a scholarship to attend Yale University in the fall. She says she may return to Bosnia eventually to work for the development of a stable society there.

"Sabina is one of the most gifted students I have ever encountered," said Murphy, a longtime professor of political science who met Mehmedovich while serving as a guest lecturer in her class. "She has an incredible mind and will be a terrific student at Yale. That she chose De Anza College through an Internet search, emigrated to the United States in order to enroll, and has succeeded so magnificently are all emblematic of her drive and determination."

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