Archive for Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Dreaming of speed

August 3, 2005

Sean Marawi dreams of speed. He's studying to get his degree in engineering from the University of Kansas, with the eventual goal of designing Formula One racing engines.

His fascination with small, powerful engines isn't limited to racing purposes.

Lansing residents who know Marawi from his job as manager at the Phillip 66 Q Shop at 506 N. Main St. might be surprised both at how far and how fast he's come since moving to the United States from Syria with few English skills, and how much farther he intends to go.

"I think about how to get a 1,000-horsepower engine in a street car," Marawi said, but admitted that the day may never come. To this end, Marawi intends to pursue a master's degree in automotive design after graduating in December.

"Since I was a kid I was always good at mechanical things and math," he said. Marawi's family encouraged him, he said, by buying him Lego and other mechanical construction play sets.

Marawi's family moved five years ago to Kansas City, Kan., after spending about seven months in Detroit. Marawi's father, Zuhair Marawi, owned a farm implement wholesale business in Damascus, where the son sometimes helped at in the office. There, Marawi said, he learned business, which "is the same everywhere." The family first moved to Detroit, which has the largest Arabic community in the United States.

After a stint in the manufacturing sector, Marawi worked as a cook in Kansas City-area Mediterranean restaurants, then ran his own mobile auto mechanic service business, and eventually struck a partnership with a used car dealership to buy cars with failed engines or transmissions, repair them and sell them for a profit. During that time, Marawi attended English classes at the Johnson County Library in Shawnee before enrolling at Johnson County Community College.

Name: Sean Marawi

Address: Kansas City, Kan.

Occupation: Manager, Phillips 66 Q-Shop, 506 N. Main St.

Family: Father, Zuhair; Mother, Fatima; sisters Rose, Hunada, Rania, Rima

What brought you to Lansing? My father bought this store in April. We moved to Kansas from Damascus, Syria, in May 1999.

What do you like most about Lansing? It's peaceful and it's very safe.

What do you do for fun? I've played soccer all my life. I go to Worlds of Fun; I just went to Oceans of Fun. : I hang out with friends and see movies.

What would surprise people about you? A lot of things: that I have been here six years. When I first came I couldn't speak English. : Also, how much we work here: Tony and I each average about 56 hours a week.

What's the best advice you've received? From my psychology professor at KU: "Life is a game. You just have to know how to play it." School, work, everything became a lot easier after that. You just have to figure how to deal with it, and nothing's impossible.

To what organizations or clubs do you belong? I play in an All American Indoor Sports soccer league; I'm the captain of my team. I have my "league of friends."

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