Two Families is Better Than One for Meramec Grad
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
St. Louis Community College will celebrate commencement Sunday, May 21, at Chaifetz Arena on the campus of Saint Louis University, marking both small and monumental accomplishments for graduating students. There are as many stories as there are graduates, and with this special series, we celebrate all of our 2023 graduates with stories about six students who demonstrate in their own way what it takes to earn a degree. A new story will publish each day the week of May 15-19, leading up to STLCC's commencement ceremony. This is the second story in the series.
It is said that family isn’t anything—it’s everything. That means whether you have the support of your biological family or a chosen family, it’s paramount to have a support system with which to connect. Aymane Bouhazzama has both types of families.
If not for his biological family support, he would have never made it to St. Louis Community College at Meramec in the first place. And without the support of his chosen family, TRIO, he would not be graduating this weekend.
It started two years ago in Morocco for Bouhazzama, when he was preparing to apply to colleges. His parents called him into the room and his entire family was there to surprise him.
“Everyone there was looking at me—my aunts, my cousins, everyone was looking at me, but I didn’t know what was going on,” he said.
It was at that point that his father revealed to him that he had the opportunity to go to college in the United States.
“When they explained it, I was so happy I started jumping around,” he said. “I told them this is a dream coming true.”
Bouhazzama said that going to college in the United States seemed unattainable, as it was too expensive of an option for him and his family—especially considering all the additional costs outside of tuition. But without him knowing, his family found a way to make it happen.
Bouhazzama’s cousin, Ayoub Benzzine, was already in St. Louis and had attended STLCC before transferring to Washington University. He worked with Bouhazzama’s parents behind the scenes to coordinate details—such as living arrangements, getting him acclimated and making sure he could settle in to be a successful student in a new country.
“If it wasn’t for him, I’d never be here,” Bouhazzama said. “My cousin and family have been the greatest!”
But even with his cousin’s support, Bouhazzama had a big learning curve when starting college. Even though he already knew multiple languages (and multiple dialects) before coming to the United States, he still encountered language barriers at first.
“At the beginning, I started from nothing,” Bouhazzama said. “I had bad English and had a hard time understanding others. But TRIO was really helpful.”
He said that TRIO offered help with his classes, filling out applications, doing research and much more—including emotional support.
“They were always supporting me in any way possible.” Bouhazzama said. “It’s like a second family!”
In addition to working with TRIO, Bouhazzama found himself immersed in campus functions. He joined both the Campus Activities Board and Student Government Association so he could support other students through activities to help them relieve stress and be successful with their studies.
Despite his extracurricular involvement, Bouhazzama carries a 3.84 GPA going into his last round of finals before graduation. Up next, Bouhazzama will be transferring to Webster University where he will study computer science.
“Meramec is a campus with a lot of different people, ethnicities, religions,” Bouhazzama said, when asked what he will remember about the Meramec campus. “I think people should try to discover other people on campus and build connections. It will help you in the future.”
Bouhazzama hails from the city El Jadida, Morocco, which means “The New,” because it was rebuilt from scratch in the early 19th century. But with the support of his family and STLCC, he had a strong foundation throughout his time at STLCC. And although he was facing a lot of new things, he had both of his families supporting him through it all.