Jehan plans a career as an electrical engineer, hopes to work at NASA, and eventually would like to become an astronaut. “PCCC was the foundation of my career and of my life.”
January 13, 2020

Spotlight on the Class of Winter 2020: Jehan Shalabi – Future Astronaut Prepares to Launch

When Jehan Shalabi receives her Associate in Science Degree in Electrical Engineering at the Winter 2020 Commencement, the 18-year-old will graduate from PCCC at the age most students enter the College.

“That’s an interesting story,” said the Paterson resident who had attended a local public high school where she was a straight-A student. “By the end of my sophomore year, I felt bored and wanted more challenge,” said Jehan.

One of her brothers suggested she take the GED (high school equivalency) test and enroll in PCCC. Jehan took her brother’s advice and started her PCCC career at age 16. “I’m so glad I came to PCCC,” she says. “It’s much more than I expected, and I really learned what I wanted to do with my life here.”

Jehan plans a career as an electrical engineer, hopes to work at NASA, and eventually would like to become an astronaut, a path that was influenced by her 10-week internship last summer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

“It was a life-changing experience,” says Jehan, who was one of nine PCCC students to receive the internship through PCCC’s STEM department.

She worked on projects that evaluated data and spacecraft components to measure the risk factor of components in new designs and to ensure safety. “It was intense and challenging, but I enjoyed the experience and the teamwork at NASA.”

Growing up with 10 siblings, Jehan is accustomed to collaborating with others. “It was never boring,” she joked about living in a large family. In fact, her family perspective broadened when Jehan was a pre-teen and, with some of her siblings, traveled to Palestine to live with other relatives for a few years.

“My mother wanted us to experience our cultural background,” said Jehan. “I really liked it there. I learned a lot about where we came from, and I became fluent in Arabic.” However, she felt that education was much better in the U.S. and looked forward to returning to school here.

Jehan has made the most of her opportunities at PCCC, building an impressive resume of both academic and extra-curricular accomplishments. A member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, she is also in the Honors Program, taking classes designed to provide high-achieving students with a more rigorous academic experience. “I really liked the smaller size of the honors classes and the in-depth discussions we had, especially in history “ says Jehan.

She was named a 2019 Research and Development Council of New Jersey Merit Scholar and completed the 2018 PCCC STEM Summer Scholars Program where she attended workshops to provide students with skills needed to succeed in STEM fields.

Jehan was part of a team that placed third in the 2018 Hackathon at Morris County College for the Java/Python program they built. She also served as a flight simulation instructor in PCCC’s new avionics lab, helping students learn to fly, taxi, and land airplanes safely.

A member of the Student Government Association’s Student Programming Committee, where she helped to plan and execute College events, Jehan also participated in the North Jersey Robotics Competition, and assisted in building a 12-inch Dobsonian telescope with the PCCC Astronomy Club.

A believer in being well-rounded, Jehan is experienced in martial arts, played on PCCC’s women’s volleyball team and was part of the 2018-19 women’s basketball championship team.

“There are so many people at PCCC that I appreciate, I can’t name them all,” said Jehan. But she did reserve special thanks for “everyone at the STEM department” and for “my coaches and teammates in the Athletics department.”

“I also want to give a huge thank you to my parents,” said Jehan. “They always supported me, and I think they are even more excited than I am about my graduation.”

Later this month, as a PCCC alumna, Jehan will enter New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) to continue her studies toward a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. “I know NJIT will be demanding, but I’m very excited and think it will be a great place for me.”

Jehan leaves PCCC with gratitude for all that she gained here. “PCCC was the foundation of my career and of my life,” she said. “I would tell anyone who is considering a PCCC education to take advantage of every opportunity offered here and build all the relationships you can. They will be very important to your success.”

Article and photo by Linda Telesco