Santa Monica College has awarded its second annual Chui L. Tsang Transfer Scholarship to SMC student Sierra McDonald. The new Tsang Scholar – an independent student who has received no assistance from her parents, yet managed to put herself through college and transfer to a university – will start her studies this fall as a sophomore at Howard University in Washington, DC.
"I am so grateful and honored to receive the Tsang Transfer Scholarship,” said McDonald. “It gives me the chance to transfer and continue my education without worrying so much – like I have the past few years – about how I am going to feed myself or keep a roof over my head. Now, with this scholarship, I can focus more on my academic career and continue to dedicate myself to being a leading example for change. I thank SMC and Dr. Tsang for helping me to continue on this path of taking my dedication into the future.”
The annual scholarship – named for SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang – provides $15,000 a year for two years to support a student’s completion of a bachelor degree. The Tsang Transfer Scholarship is awarded based on a combination of academic achievement, financial need, and the student’s own academic and personal journey. Scholarship candidates are nominated by SMC faculty and staff members and reviewed by a campus committee, with the final selection made by Dr. Tsang.
“I’m so happy to award this year’s scholarship to Sierra McDonald,” Tsang said. “She is a focused, conscientious, and mature student who has stood out as a leader since she arrived here. Santa Monica College is deeply committed to ensuring our students get a strong baccalaureate education, and Sierra truly deserves our support in her continuing educational efforts.”
McDonald – who has overcome parental abuse and abandonment, extreme poverty, health issues, and other adverse circumstances to pursue her education – is majoring in journalism. “I have succeeded in overcoming my past by not letting it define me,” she said. “Instead, I learned from it and realized that change is possible both on a personal and societal level when education is involved. As a journalism major, I want to work toward making a difference in my community by building social awareness and keeping my voice relevant in various conversations in the Black community.”
McDonald is a former President’s Ambassador of Santa Monica College and has been serving her community as a volunteer and Commissioner of Community Service through the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and as a past board member of the Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society. While attending SMC, she has been a Supplemental Instruction Leader for English, helping students build and strengthen their reading and writing skills, and has written articles on topics such as “The Progression of Black Gangs in Los Angeles” and “The Growing Awareness of the Prison Industrial Complex and the African American Male in the Black Community.”
McDonald successfully completed SMC’s Promo Pathways Program, which allowed her to make important connections with top professionals in her field. Her position as Director of Publicity for SMC’s Black Collegians program helped her to develop the strong leadership skills she has put to use as an intern at companies such as “Tavis Smiley” on PBS, Dick Clark Productions, and Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” She continues to put these skills to use this summer with A&E Networks as an on-air marketing intern for Lifetime.
The establishment of the Tsang Transfer Scholarship comes as SMC celebrates the high number of its students accepted into prestigious universities for this fall. SMC has, for the past 25 years, been the No. 1 transfer institution to the UC system and a number of local private universities, including USC. SMC has also been for several years the leading transfer school to the UC-Cal State systems combined.