by Rebecca Rhodin
A wrong turn into a microbiology classroom changed the course of Michael Guarini’s life. His simple plan to fulfill a science requirement morphed into a biology major, which in turn led to a full scholarship at a four-year school.
“Basically I came upon bio by accident,” says Guarini, 22, who graduated from Montgomery County Community College in May.
“I had to take a lab course and signed up for physics. But I went to the wrong room. I was given a lab book, a collection of lab documents, and I saw one that was really cool. So I took Intro to Bio. And I found out that it really interested me.”
Guarini, who promptly switched majors from Liberal Studies, says biology’s allure is “the complexity of it all.” It offers students greater mysteries to ponder than other, drier sciences but doesn’t make them wait until upper-level courses to do so, he explains.
“There is so much in biology that isn’t known yet,” he says. “It’s like the last scientific frontier that doesn’t require a phD and major expensive equipment.”
Guarini will continue his studies this fall at Bucknell University as a Community College Scholar. At the Lewisburg, Pa., school, he will start as a junior with a major in biochemistry.
In Bucknell’s program, community college students take summer courses at the campus for six weeks, and if they are successful, receive mentoring as they apply for undergraduate admission. They must maintain a 3.5 grade point average and display leadership skills.
Guarini took statistics and sociology there last year and felt fairly sure he would win admission. But after it became official, he joyously emailed, “Oh yes I did! I got in!”
“I feel incredibly honored to be extended this offer. I feel like I’ve been given a great opportunity to learn and grow as a person,” says the Plymouth Meeting resident, who is also involved with the Student Government Association. “And all of this wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t decided to go to Montco.”
He observes that “One of the best things I got at Montco was a sense of purpose.”
Guarini never felt reluctance to enter MCCC after graduating from a technical high school in 2009. But some of his friends were skeptical, viewing community college as a place “where if you screw up, you end up.”
“Some of them laughed, but I’m certainly not deep in debt with a major I don’t like,” Guarini notes.
He had mulled finding a part-time job, but in the depths of the Great Recession, youth unemployment was soaring. In addition, he says, he knew he needed to acquire better math and writing skills.
MCCC proved to be a good next step, particularly after he made a wrong turn into the right science.
Guarini describes the Montco biology program as “one of the best deals you can ever get,” with small classes, hands-on learning, decent tuition, a reasonable commute and nice people.
“In the lecture room there were 20 kids and a professor with a phD,” he says. “I know all my professors on a first-name basis and it has really strengthened my interest. A good number of them are invested in me doing well.”