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Thomas Steven L. Riebs

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Thomas Riebs had many reasons to give up on his dreams of a college education. But the UCLA-bound, Whittier resident never let them expire.

Born an American citizen in Denmark, where he was raised, Riebs lost his father before he graduated high school; his mother died shortly after he started college. Left with no other viable option, he put his dreams on hold to support himself and his younger sister.

Finally, in 2001, Riebs fulfilled a lifelong dream of moving to America, where he took a job in California working as a salesman for a packaging company. “I arrived carrying my dream of an education checked in my luggage without knowing anyone other than the people I would be working for,” he said.

Two years later, he “met the love of my life.” He also began taking college classes at night while continuing to work full time. When he was let go by his company, Riebs hit another fork in the road: a new job versus pursuing his “dearest dream.”

Riebs and his wife chose education. He enrolled at Cypress College as a full-time student in January, 2007. Since then, he’s made the President’s Honor Roll and has been selected to apply for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

He helped start the Cypress College Anthropology Club, and was involved with the Honors Program, the Transfer Center and community service both on campus and through his church.

In the fall, Riebs will continue his education at UCLA with an eye on completing Harvard Law School by 2013. “I intend to use my extensive knowledge of languages and different cultures to work for a law firm with international reach, or for a major international corporation as in-house counsel,” he said.

“Many students attend college to get a degree,” said David Halahmy, chair of the History Department at Cypress College. “Thomas attends college to earn an education. He truly loves to learn. I have no doubt that a generation from now, when people ask Thomas where he went to college and he replies Cypress College, our reputation as an institution of education will be greatly enhanced.”