Fleeing Bullets, She Found a Diploma

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One alumna’s tale shows how Clark College transforms lives

Inva Begolli with her family and friends during graduation in 2011 when she was named the Presidental Scholarship winner.

Inva Begolli with her family and friends during graduation in 2011 when she was named the Presidental Scholarship winner.

Inva Begolli was living in her homeland of Albania when her country erupted into civil war in 1997. Her family was caught in the crossfire and Begolli’s 8-year-old brother was shot seven times in the leg. Begolli, then 7 years old, began to dream of a better life. A decade later, she traveled to the United States to study. She got her start of a better life at Clark College.

Each year, the Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges (TACTC) looks for the most compelling stories from students about how attending a Washington state community or technical college has transformed their lives. This year, Clark College alumna Begolli’s dramatic tale of fleeing the violence of war-torn Albania for a chance at the American dream earned her the TACTC’s Transforming Lives Award. She received her award at a special evening ceremony during the association’s annual Legislative Contact Conference in Olympia in late January.

Inva Begolli

Inva Begolli

Begolli, a resident of Woodland, enrolled at Clark College and quickly proved to be an exemplary student. She served as a student ambassador at the college and joined the honor society Phi Theta Kappa. She volunteered with the Red Cross, Word of Life Church, and Woodland Community Center. When she graduated with an associate of arts transfer degree in 2011, she received the coveted President’s Award, which provides one Clark graduate each year with a full two-year scholarship to Washington State University Vancouver. She is currently working to complete her bachelor’s degree and fulfill her dream of becoming a pharmacist who can help heal others.

“The support and encouragement … at Clark College gave me the financial means to continue my education and the inspiration and added commitment to achieve my long-term goal,” Begolli said.

“Inva Begolli exemplifies how higher education—and community colleges in particular—can transform lives,” wrote Clark College Trustee Jada Rupley in her nomination of Begolli for the Transforming Lives award.

Begolli was one of five students to receive a Transforming Lives award, which also includes a $500 cash award. The five recipients were chosen from a pool of 35 nominations from the state’s two-year colleges. This year, the award honors students and graduates who overcame barriers to pursue degrees and certificates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or other high-demand occupations.

“Winning this award gives me more confidence and encouragement to continue to believe that dreams do come true when you work hard,” said Begolli. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will treasure for the years to come.”

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