The Elms STEM scholarship program was perfect for the science-loving Karam brothers, Hussein, 18, and Abdullah, 19, Baghdad natives who arrived in Chicopee three years ago from Cairo.

Hussein and Abdullah Karam

Biology majors Hussein and Abdullah Karam, both in the Class of 2019, found the new Elms STEM scholarships to be "a perfect opportunity for us."

Brothers Are Passionate About Science

The Elms College ElmSTEM scholarship program was perfect for the science-loving Karam brothers, Hussein, 18, and Abdullah, 19. The Baghdad natives arrived in Chicopee three years ago from Cairo.

The ElmSTEM program, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, awards funds to students who attend Elms College full-time and major in STEM (science, technology and mathematics) fields. The scholarships range from $3,800 to $10,000 a year until graduation, and provide opportunities for lab and field research, science and technology internships, and networking with industry professionals, among other advantages.

Although a year apart in age, the Karam brothers are both members of the Class of 2019 because Hussein, first in his class academically, graduated from high school a year early. Both are biology majors with minors in chemistry, although Abdullah, who graduated third in his high school class, is thinking of double-majoring in biology and chemistry.

The STEM scholarships were perfect for the brothers, because both are passionate about science and hope to one day conduct research in a lab setting. "We saw it's a great opportunity for us," Hussein said. They were also happy to discover that the scholarships are available to them each year, "if we stay in a science major and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher," Hussein added. "Maintaining those target GPAs under the scholarship is helped by the fact that, here, faculty help students instead of requiring them to hire private tutors."

"In Egypt, I loved the science, but I didn't understand it," Abdullah said. "Here, [the teachers] don't move on unless you understand the whole thing."

Elms College was also a comfortable choice for the brothers. "What made us come here is that Elms is a small college," said Abdullah. Also, several teachers at the brothers' high school, Springfield High School of Science and Technology, were Elms alumni, and they recommended the college. The fact that they literally live down the street allowed them to familiarize themselves with the grounds of the college before coming to take a tour.

Hussein and Abdullah were 8 and 9, respectively, when in 2006 they left Iraq for Egypt with their parents and older sister, Maryam, then 11. They don't have many memories of life under Saddam Hussein. The revolution in Egypt began in 2011, and in 2012 -- after their matriarch, Hanaa, became ill -- the Karam family applied to emigrate to the U.S. Hanaa now receives dialysis regularly and is on the list for a kidney transplant.

The brothers are eager to get the most out of their college experience. They have applied to serve as volunteers in the chemistry labs, and have also joined the International Club.

"Our parents keep saying, 'It's an opportunity here -- don't waste it,' " Abdullah said. "So we're trying our best here."

For more information about the ElmSTEM program, visit the ElmSTEM page.