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Meet Fadhil Al Salihi

As an Iraqi refugee, Fadhil Al Salihi has been eager to get the training he needs to become a software engineer to support his growing family. With the degrees he earns from MiraCosta College, Al Salihi is well on his way to his new career.

“MiraCosta College changed my life,” Al Salihi said. “The way they train the students is the perfect way. They always put you on target. If you don’t understand, they will support you.”

Al Salihi’s outstanding academics during his time at MiraCosta College, with a 3.89 grade point average out of 4, has led to his selection as a semifinalist for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Award, which funds three years of university education for outstanding community college students across the country. He is one of four MiraCosta College students selected as semifinalists for the award.

Al Salihi and his family – his mother, wife, son and sister – fled Iraq in 2014 after his father was shot to death at his home. They came to San Diego County, where another sister lived.

At first, it was a challenge to learn the English language. He failed the written exam on his driver’s test on his first try. He read and studied before passing it a few months later. Al Salihi, who had worked in a computer repair shop in Iraq, said he wanted to get an education as soon as he arrived in San Diego.

“Right away, I asked my sister, ‘How is the college?” She said, ‘You can start when you are ready. Put everything in its place, and you can move when you are ready,’” Al Salihi said.

He worked in a grocery store and began attending Cuyamaca College in 2016, earning a certificate as a computer support technician two years later.

Al Salihi and his family moved to Oceanside, and he got a job selling audio and video equipment. When the company shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, Al Salihi decided it was time to return to his education and enrolled at MiraCosta College in late 2020.

He got support for his schooling from programs such as EOPS, CalWORKS and CARE that provided him with scholarships, food, and necessities.

“I used all the resources that MiraCosta College gave me,” Al Salihi said. “Those programs are very helpful. Every time they had a workshop or any event, I was there.”

With his excellent grades, Al Salihi was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society. He served as project coordinator and then vice president for scholarships, which led him to learn about the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship.

“I’m very excited and happy” to learn he was selected as a semifinalist.

Al Salihi will graduate from MiraCosta College this spring with associate degrees in software development, computer science, and liberal arts, as well as a certificate in software development. He has been accepted at CSU San Marcos, where he plans to earn a degree to work as a software engineer.

Now with three sons, aged 10, 8 and a month-old baby, Al Salihi is looking forward to having a good-paying job in a field he enjoys.

“It will give me a good life and a chance to put my family in a good area and support them,” he said. “The difference is from zero to 180. It’s huge.”

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