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Former Harford Community College student Kara Parks, who is majoring in mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama, was one of two transfer students to receive The Outstanding Transfer Student Award for having made extraordinary contributions to UA through her academic and extracurricular activities. Recipients must also demonstrate character, scholarship, leadership, passion, ambition, and commitment to the betterment of UA.
Kara, who grew up in the Jarrettsville area, decided to begin her college education at a community college because she was determined to save money. Her goal is to be debt free or nearly debt free when she finishes college. “It made a lot of sense for me to go to Harford Community College because most first-year college courses for any major are offered at the community college level, are easily transferable to four-year schools, and are very inexpensive compared to four-year schools.”
Kara was surprised at the quality of education she received at Harford. “When I came to Alabama I felt I had a much better base in engineering topics because I had learned them in the smaller, one-on-one environment Harford provides.” Through HCC she obtained an engineering co-op at J.M. Huber Corporation in Havre de Grace. “It was truly a great experience to work on solving problems in a real-life manufacturing plant. The internship at J.M. Huber has really set me ahead of my peers, because I obtained it after just one year of schooling. It is typical for engineering majors to get an internship after at least two or three years of schooling. I find my internship has made it is easier for me to understand material in classes, and enabled me to be better at applying theories and concepts to problems I come across in the variety of design teams I participate in at The University of Alabama. Not to mention that it makes me much more marketable for other companies hiring engineers, since J.M. Huber is an international company and the manufacturing plant I have experience with is GMP certified.”
She said she would recommend HCC to others because it is inexpensive, has good professors, and allows students to adjust to college-level courses. “It may not be as flashy as going to a four-year school right off the bat, but if you stick to your plan you’ll make it to that big university to finish your degree and you’ll have saved a lot of money in the process.”
To say that Kara is involved would be an understatement. At UA, she is a member of Tuska UAV team that designs drones to aid in disaster relief efforts; Crimson Racing: Formula SAE team that designs and builds a formula car from scratch to compete at a competition in Michigan; Yellow Hammer Rocketry in which students build their own rocket to receive level 1 rocket certification; RocketSAT, a design team that creates level 2 rockets and above that fulfill certain mission requirements; co-hosts the Houndstooth and Hardhats radio show, an engineering talk show that features engineering teams and faculty as well as notable guests; and she is senior editor of Launch, a magazine about space technologies. She is also a member of the UA Honors College, Students for Exploration and Development of Space, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, The Society of Women Engineers, and The Society of Automotive Engineers. Kara was named the Most Outstanding New Member of Alabama’s Formula SAE Team, and she and her co-host received the Best Radio Award for 2014-2015.
She attributes her success to her drive, hard work, and compassion for others. She is fueled by others who tell her that she can’t do something and loves to show them that she can succeed at anything she chooses. “My friends always ask me what the secret is to how I can do so much. The answer is plainly hard work. I study, go to classes, machine formula parts in the workshop, design drone components, host a radio show, organize and carry out work for all my other commitments, and then still have time to go out or relax with friends. To many this schedule seems like an exhausting amount of commitments, but I don’t see it that way because I enjoy every minute of it. I genuinely am passionate about each project and the people who work on each project with me.”
Being compassionate has opened many doors for Kara. She has a network of friends, colleagues, and professionals at UA who have provided her with new projects, jobs, and opportunities she never imagined. In addition, she has learned to be a leader and a mentor to others. Kara added, “I hope that one day I am successful enough to inspire students who are in community college to keep pursuing their goals. I enjoyed meeting a variety of people at Harford, and I wish them the best of luck in their endeavors.”
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