Has won more than $100,000 in grants


August 01, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

One National Merit scholar takes a down-to-earth view of his good fortune. He calls winning more than $100,000 in college scholarships a "little embarrassing."

"I am happy that I am gifted, but I try not to think about it," said Sean Y. Kassim, 18, who graduated from Westminster High School.

Sean empathizes with students who don't have the money to continue their educations, and he decries the high cost of earning a degree.

"Education is something we all deserve," said Sean, one of about 2,000 students nationwide to achieve National Merit status. "It's unfortunate so many kids can't afford to go, and it's disgusting that an education costs so much."

His scholastic standing, in the top half of 1 percent of all high school seniors in the country, guaranteed him entry into many of the nation's most prestigious universities.

"Harvard did turn me down, but that was because I applied too late," he said.

Sean has accepted a full scholarship to University of Maryland Baltimore County. He will be following his three older sisters to the campus, which, he says, has one of the strongest science departments on the East Coast. The scholarship covers tuition, room and board.

After graduating from the eighth grade at St. John Catholic Elementary, he decided to go to Westminster High, which he called a "wonderful choice."

He served as editor of the school magazine for two years and was a member of the Key Club and the School Improvement Team. He earned 19 advanced placement credits through his high school courses.

Because "my religion is important to me," he had wanted to continue his education at a Catholic school. He had considered the University of Scranton and was offered a partial scholarship at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

"I tried hard to work it out, but the remaining costs were way too much," he said.

This summer, he said, he is "taking life easy" and helping his mother, Barbara Ismail, around the house.

"I am a fairly good handyman," he said.

At UMBC, he plans a double major: biochemistry and English literature.

"Maybe I will be able to write understandable science papers and bring science to people who don't understand it," Sean said.

He also is interested in research in disease prevention.

"I look around and see horrible diseases and wonder if I can make people's lives easier," he said.

His father died in Malaysia, two months before Sean was born there. His mother moved to Carroll County with four children shortly afterward.

He calls Westminster the "best place in the world to grow up." Still, he says he wants to get out and see the world.

@4 "I want to do that whole travel thing," he said.

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