Seeking Global Solutions
Born and raised in what she calls "the tormented years of the communist era" in Romania, Cristina Mihailescu was inspired by her mother, who died early but set an unforgettable example by raising her and her sister as a single mother while also caring for her own parents amid food shortages, electrical outages and poverty. "There was no freedom of choice. We lived in fear," she recalls.
She began learning English — and the compulsory Russian ("which was forced, so I'm not good at it") — in middle school, as she also began searching for a way out. In 1989, as a bloody revolution ousted the dictatorship, she remembers "running in the streets with other students, despite our parents' pleading to not go out. But it started with the younger generation that couldn't take it anymore."
Then she finally got a passport, signed on with an American cruise line, traveled the world and, eventually, made her way to the United States. She started a family — her daughters are 7 and 10 — before enrolling at LaGuardia Community College in 2011. Despite being older than many students (she's now 40), she threw herself into campus life, participating in the Model U.N., joining in the CUNY challenge to find ways of reducing child mortality rates and being on the student honor advisory committee.
Mihailescu is graduating in Spring 2014, having proceeded at a slow 12 credits a semester because that's all the tuition she could afford after losing her status as a resident and having to become an international student at far higher tuition. She has been accepted by Baruch College and is waiting to hear from private universities.
However, now she won't have to worry about the cost of her baccalaureate, thanks to a 2014 Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship. This highly competitive, privately funded scholarship provides 85 of the nation's top community college students with as much as $30,000 a year for up to three years of baccalaureate study.
She intends to study economics "because the socioeconomic events of my childhood have had a great impression on me. It's such a cliché, but I want to make the world a better place — finding a solution that will help all the nations reach economic prosperity while promoting social responsibility and protecting the environment for future generations. We have to gather globally to find solutions for global problems."
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