Diego Cruz-Burbano

When Diego Cruz-Burbano graduated from Essex County College in 2013, the Engineering major was awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Transfer Scholarship. He used that award (at the time worth $90,000), among several additional scholarships he received, and transferred to George Tech where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering.


Now Diego, who works for Clark Construction Group, Washington, DC, has received more good news from the Foundation. He is the recipient of the Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship, worth $75,000.


“My plan is to go to graduate school for Business and Management. I’m looking into some programs but there are two programs in Spain that I am really interested in. Hopefully it all works out,” said Diego.


But with his excellent academic, and now work record, Diego should continue to excel, said several of his former Essex professors.


“Diego was a truly exceptional student here and a role model for our students,” said Mathematics Professor Chengwen Wang. “Diego was also an excellent officer in our Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society chapter and it’s outstanding that he will be able to continue his education,” said Biology faculty member Lynn Wilson.


At his “day job,” Diego recently was assigned to work on Washington’s ambitious CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel. That project is a crucial part of the east coast’s railroad network, and is designed to help ease traffic congestion in the area.


Diego’s other job, much more a labor of love, is the non-profit Africa Strong he co-founded in 2016 with the goal of giving the children of Livingstone, Zambia an opportunity to learn. “This is something very close to my heart and it’s gratifying that we were able to create it from scratch. We want to give the children an opportunity to learn.” He recently returned from Zambia and plans to return in late spring before getting ready for graduate school.


Africa Strong was born from a trip Diego made several years ago through another non-profit, African Impact. “I volunteered in Livingstone building classrooms, tutoring the students in English and math, and doing whatever else needed to be done. I can attest that it was a life-changing experience and I really want to do more.” That desire led him to team up with several other volunteers to create Africa Strong.


When Diego received the Cooke award back in 2013, he said, “As an engineering major, I liken my educational career to a building’s construction. The foundation was put in place when I was accepted into Essex County College’s Honors Program in Fall 2011. Now this scholarship is helping me to ‘build’ the first floor. It is giving me more options.”


And it’s safe to say, Diego’s options continue as he moves forward.

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