PRESS RELEASE - MARCH 27, 2015

New Century Scholar, Miss Lelia Mona Chang
ASCC fall 2014 graduate Miss Lelia Mona Chang was recently chosen as a New Century Scholar through a program sponsored by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Phi Theta Kappa, and the American Association of Community Colleges. Miss Chang, currently working for a semester, will begin classes at UH Manoa this fall towards her Bachelors degree in Biology. (Photo: Katrina Garcia)

ASCC Graduate Chosen as New Century Scholar

March 27, 2015

By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer

Fifty community college students from the United States and American Samoa have been named 2015 New Century Scholars – receiving a total of $100,000 in scholarships. The New Century Scholars Program is sponsored by the Coca-Cola Foundation, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Phi Theta Kappa, and the American Association of Community Colleges. The New Century Scholars program and All-USA Community College Academic Team, which is sponsored by Follett Higher Education Group and presented by USA TODAY and Phi Theta Kappa, share a common application and together recognize outstanding community college students. More than 1,700 students from more than 1,000 community colleges were nominated for this recognition.

Among the factors considered by the judges for the scholarship were each nominee’s grades, leadership, activities, and most importantly, how they extend their intellectual talents beyond the classroom. The student from American Samoa deemed to best fit this criteria is ASCC fall 2014 graduate Miss Leli’a Mona Chang, who is currently spending a semester working for the College in its Financial Aid Office before she begins classes this fall at UH Manoa towards a Bachelors degree in Biology.

Miss Chang, 23, who is of Samoan, Tongan, Chinese and Niuean ancestry, hails from American Samoa and attended Manumalo Baptist Academy, but completed high school on the island of Vava’u in Tonga. After high school, she came very close to beginning college in New Zealand before fate, in the form of her passport, directed her back to American Samoa. “I was offered a full-ride scholarship to the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand because I caught their attention with my Biology Research Paper, ‘The Effect of Phototropism on Mung Beans,’" she explained, “but I found out that I wasn't eligible for it because I had an American passport and the scholarship was only for Tongan passport holders. So instead, I returned to American Samoa and enrolled in ASCC.”

Canterbury’s loss proved to be ASCC’s gain, as Miss Chang soon distinguished herself as a dynamic student leader deeply involved in the academic and social activities offered by ASCC. She competed for the title of Miss ASCC in fall 2011, and although that honor went to another contestant, that same semester Miss Chang also joined the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and was eventually voted into the role of its President for 2014. Concurrently, she volunteered as a Math tutor with Student Support Services and later became a Biology tutor under the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program at ASCC. Miss Chang’s active involvement in science led her to summer internships in Arkansas in 2013 and Hawaii in 2014, and also to her representing ASCC at the 2014 Island Sustainability Conference in Guam and the 8th Annual Islands of Opportunity Alliance Student Conference in Hawaii.

When applying to become a New Century Scholar, Miss Chang mentioned that her ultimate career choice is to become a veterinarian. “Our island is in dire need of a vet,” she stated. Reflecting on her choice to begin her college career at ASCC, she pointed out how the College has given her a solid base to build further upon in the future. “There are many advantages to attending ASCC,” she said, “including affordability of tuition and its proximity to home and family. It's also a great stepping stone in terms of transitioning from being a high school student to becoming an independent college student.”

Each New Century Scholar will receive a $2,000 scholarship and recognition at the American Association of College Presidents Convention in San Antonio, TX. “We appreciate the support of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and the Coca-Cola Foundation to recognize the outstanding academic achievement and leadership accomplishments of these outstanding community college students,” said Phi Theta Kappa’s Executive Director, Dr. Rod Risley. “These scholarships provided by organizations like Coca-Cola make the goal of college completion possible – especially during these challenging economic times.”

The Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, headquartered in Jackson, is the largest honor society in American higher education with more than 1,285 chapters on two-year and community college campuses in all 50 of the United States, Canada, Germany, Peru, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the British Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates and U.S. territorial possessions. More than three million students have been inducted since its founding in 1918, with approximately 134,000 students inducted annually.

For more information on the Society, visit their web page at: www.ptk.org.