Dan Nechita is a student at the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College better known as NOVA.  He is majoring in Computer Science and Psychology. The 25 year old says starting at a community college that is for two years instead of a four-year university has been rewarding.  ?The first reason why I chose Northern Virginia Community College is because it was very close to me and because it seem cheap.  That was the reason I actually went there to see it, but I can definitely say that over time I seen a lot of good things at Northern Virginia Community College that I came to realize basically that it is not just a cheap school without any value.  I came to realize after seeing my wife go to George Washington University to compare the two schools and I realize that even for a community college, NOVA, is what we call it over here, is one of the very best schools in the area,? he says.

?Some of the things that I came to appreciate coming from a different culture I had some expectations about what education should be and I realize that some of my expectations were wrong.  I actually got to enjoy talking to my professors, going to classes, interacting with other students, these were all things that I came to discover at NOVA.? 

When it comes to the professors, Dan says he was surprised at the level of dedication, knowledge and interest they show towards helping students learn.  ?Now, as far as school experiences I can say that the teachers over there, to be honest it was not shocking, but surprising to see that the teachers over there are all very knowledgeable, very dedicated to helping students succeed,? he says.

?I would have assumed and it was my first assumption that teachers over there just do their job for a decent salary, but that?s not the case.  They actually have professors who go there after quitting higher paid jobs just because they want to go and teach so that was the overall feeling that I got from this school,? he adds.  ?I think that is one of the best strengths of a community college that the professors over there don?t do research, they don?t need to get [articles, published] print, they don?t need to lecture to five hundred students in a huge hall so I would say that some of the teachers that I have encountered at NOVA are even better than what I know of a university professor to be.?

So just where is Dan from?  ?Well, I am originally from Romania.  From the city of Cluj-Napoca which is the cultural capital of Transylvania.  [And] Northern Virginia Community College is a wonderful school and NOVA especially this campus that I am attending in Alexandria is a really, really multi-cultural campus.  We have students from I think 143 countries I am not sure, but it is really, really diverse and I think that is a beneficial experience for everybody,? he says.  ?You can see people speaking French in the cafeteria, speaking Arabic or Chinese and they all blend together very well with a traditional Virginia raised student.  I would say that is really, really multi-cultural.? 

Since attending the college, Dan has won a highly competitive award called Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship.  The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship provides about 38 students from around the country with a transfer scholarship to a four year institution amounting to thirty thousand dollars a year as needed, but usually the award can go up to thirty thousand dollars a year and it is an award that takes into consideration many factors,? he says.

?It takes academic ability and I consider myself to be academically able, but it also takes into account a dream. A desire to succeed.  A wish to do good.  I would say that that specific award is half being knowledgeable and being able to be a very good scholar in terms of education, but also in terms of wanting to do something for everybody else and I think I do possess some of these qualities that they were looking for in a scholar,? he says.  ?It is one of the most prestigious awards in the country and I am really proud of getting it.? 

Dan has completed his studies at Northern Virginia Community College and will transfer into Columbia University in New York starting January 2007.