Richland student places in top twenty of USA Today’s Academic First Team

d4-copy.jpgRichland College (RLC) student, Dharmesh Patel, was one of 20 students named to USA Today’s All-USA Community College Academic First Team last week, which recognizes outstanding two-year college students. Patel received a $2,500 cash award and received trophies during a ceremony Monday at the American Association of Community Colleges convention in Philadelphia. He is only one of three students in RLC’s history to receive such an honor. Additionally, his application was judged Best in Texas and he will receive an additional $2,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola as a New Century Scholar.

More than 1,500 students from 849 community colleges in 50 states and beyond were nominated for the USA Today award. Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges that encourages academic excellence and promotes community service, administers the selection process.

Patel, 27, arrived in the U.S. from Zimbabwe as a Green Card Lottery winner. Each year the U.S. grants 50,000 permanent resident visas, drawn randomly from a selection of eligible residents from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. With only $50 in his possession, Patel left his family and moved to Dallas.

“It was the first time I was away from home. Initially, what I wanted to do was to go back,” Patel said.

But he decided to stay and this spring he will graduate from Richland, where he has maintained superior grades while working full time. He is one of nine of the USA Today First Team recipients to have a 4.0 grade-point average.

Among his academic accomplishments, he volunteers as a Big Brother, participates in Keep Dallas Beautiful, and was instrumental in bringing Mike Jacobs, a Holocaust survivor, as a guest speaker to RLC. Additionally, he has revived the RLC Justice Club and has successfully recruited more than 75 students to the organization.

Because of Patel’s academic excellence, community service, and participation in Phi Theta Kappa programs, he was awarded the Guistwhite Scholarship and received an additional $5,000.

Patel will either attend the University of Texas at Austin, SMU, Cornell, or TCU and major in finance. His long-term goal is to pursue an M.B.A. and become a consultant.

“Our society is financially imprisoned through lack of knowledge and I want to acquire this knowledge and help families prepare for college tuition and educate them about staying debt free as a financial advisor,” Patel says.

For more information, contact Anitra Cotton at 972-238-6022 or To view the USA Today story in which Patel appeared, click here.