Yasar Barakzai, a 22-year-old mechanical engineering major at Orange Coast College, was killed on March 19 in a collision in the intersection of Fairview Road and Adams Avenue.
Barakzai, a refugee from Afghanistan, was part of OCC’s aviation maintenance and pilots program, and was working to gain a certification to work on and fly planes. Friends said he hoped to graduate in 2021 and continue his career in aviation as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.
“He was the embodiment of the American dream. A kid from Afghanistan coming to the United States to better his community and hometown,” his friend Anthony Mansfield, a 26-year-old psychology and criminology major said.
Barakzai — who went by Mark to his friends — was also fascinated by history and politics and loved to have lengthy political discussions with friends. He recently joined OCC’s College Republicans club and had become one of the club’s most popular and involved members.
He discussed running for club president in the fall.
Alex Loniak, president of the College Republicans, described Barakzai as “wise beyond his years,” adding that he took comfort in his faith in Islam, was close to his large extended family and was positive and thoughtful.
“That’s the kind of guy he was — always there for people and tried to help others. He thought of more than himself,” Loniak, a 20-year-old business administration major said.
The College Republicans will host a memorial for Barakzai at their next club meeting today at 4:20 p.m. in Literature and Languages Room 146.
The club also hosted an off-campus memorial service for Barakzai on March 21 that was attended by College Republicans members throughout Southern California.
“He was the kind of guy who wouldn’t have wanted his friends and family to mourn his loss,” Tyler Brett, a 25-year-old business major said. “His cousin told me ‘Do not tell me “I’m sorry for your loss” because he wouldn’t want that.’”