NJIT will award Oscar Tapia, Clifton, a first-generation former Mexican immigrant, the university’s highest honor for earning a perfect grade point average (GPA). The honor will be bestowed upon the Dover High School graduate tomorrow at 9 a.m. during NJIT’s 2008 commencement at the Prudential Center. Tapia shares the honor with information technology major Amy A. Steed, of Lakewood, and biological sciences major Krystian Jarosz, of Colonia, who all earned a 4.0. Tapia, who lives with his wife Susana, a medical student and their two young children, became a US citizen in 2003.
In November, Tapia, who majored in computer engineering, received a $5,000 Hispanic College Fund Scholarship sponsored by Google. The scholarship is given yearly to Hispanic students who have overcome obstacles and done excellent work in computer science. Winners must demonstrate a commitment to improving their community.
(ATTENTION EDITORS: To set up an interview with Tapia, Steed or Jarosz, contact Sheryl Weinstein at 973-596-3436 or on her cell phone at 973-650-6489.
Tapia certainly has met those requirements. Not only has this husband and father of two young boys earned excellent grades, but he has also spent countless hours mentoring mostly first-generation students considering college.
Tapia, who is soft-spoken and humble, is grateful for these many honors. “I place a high value on education,” he said. “When I came to America at age 13, I saw first-hand that life without an education could be harsh. My relatives wanted better things for themselves and their families, but they were limited by their lack of an education.”
Although Tapia has had to work—either part time or full time—to pay for his classes, he has still maintained a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. He’s also remained a tremendous educational proponent.
Not that getting a college education has been easy for this first-generation immigrant. When Tapia graduated from high school, he wasn’t able to afford college and worked years to save money. Eventually he could buy a computer—the first he had ever owned. The technology captivated him. He'd log on and teach himself whatever he could. One night, staring into the computer screen, he saw his future.
“I can't tell you how much time Oscar spends talking to people about the value and importance of education,” said his wife Susana, herself a medical student. “He's worked hard to get an education and he wants others to have the same.” Susana, like Tapia, also gives back to the community. She volunteers at a health center in Newark.
Prior to attending NJIT, Tapia earned a technical degree and went on to Passaic County College where he was able to take advantage of the articulation agreement with NJIT. Tapia’s mother Belen Tapia, resides in Dover. Other siblings are enrolled in the local public schools.