Six current Essex County College students and one recent alumnus have been selected semi-finalists for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which carries an award of $40,000 a year for up to three years at a four-year
college or university.
Essex’s semi-finalists include Karen Correa Faro (Environmental Science), Eniola Kolawole (Biology, Pre-Medicine), Natacha Lima (Liberal Arts), John Nwankwo (Engineering), Dereck Retana (Liberal Arts), and Leonardo Ruales (Mathematics). In addition, Diego Neira, Class of 2017 with an Associate in Science in Music, is also a Cooke semi-finalist.
“This is a true testament to the high quality of our students, and faculty and staff. Clearly an outstanding effort. Essex County College continues to make a tremendous difference each and every day,” said President Dr. Anthony E. Munroe. Fifteen Essex graduates have received the Cooke award since 2006, the most of any two-year school in the state.
“Becoming a semi-finalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship feels as I am one step closer to reaching my dreams. Potentially, not having to worry about my financial circumstances for at least three years is a significant amount of weight taken off my shoulders,” said Karen. She plans to transfer to Colorado College where she wants to major in organismal biology & ecology with an eye toward becoming a wildlife biologist.
Eniola is looking toward transferring to the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University-New Brunswick to pursue a doctorate in pharmacy. “Being a semi-finalist is such an honor and I do not take it for granted. I initially did not want to apply because I know that there are so many qualified and well deserving candidates that would be applying. That is why being considered a semi-finalist is so important to me because my confidence has improved greatly and it will help me when it comes to pursuing my goals in the future,” she said.
“Being a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship semi-finalist ties in with my future plans. My passion lies in education which is why I plan on becoming an educator myself (specifically college level),” said Natacha, who is a DACA recipient. “My parents migrated here so that I can go to school and make something of myself (something that would not be possible in my home country. Words can’t even describe how grateful I feel. This means I am one step closer to doing what I came to America to do-get an education and make something of myself.”
“Being awarded this scholarship would avail me the opportunity of getting into the university of my choice with the possibility of earning a Master of Science in engineering,” said John. Currently the College’s President of the Student Government Association, John said he wants to transfer to the University of Pennsylvania in order to pursue a career in electrical and automation engineering. He is interested in working on various engineering research projects.
“I feel very thankful to have the honor of being semi-finalist,” said Dereck. “I had my doubts whether I would make it this far, not because of my own personal abilities but rather because I think there are a lot of well deserving people at Essex who deserve this honor just as much as anyone else. But they picked me for a reason, so now I just have to continue working hard and focusing on my success. I’m hopeful that it will all pay off.” Dereck plans to switch his major to biology upon transferring and is interested in a career in clinical health while pursuing a doctorate.
“Being part of the group of semi-finalists for the scholarship is an incredible honor, and encourages me to continue working harder,” said Leonardo (Leo).”I now know that the sky is not the limit. Above all, I am grateful for the community of students and faculty that I have found at Essex County College.” He plans to transfer to either Stony Brook University, Stevens Institute of Technology, or MIT with the intent of majoring in physics and minoring in computer engineering. “My ultimate goal is to obtain a Ph.D. in Astrophysics and work either in cosmology or high energy particles.”
Diego graduated with Highest Honors in earning his degree in Music. While he has not yet transferred to a four-year school, Diego said that is still well within his career plans. He works as a private music teacher for electric guitar, piano and drums. He has also been a math tutor at Essex.
The scholarships will be awarded this coming April. The Foundation received more than 2,400 applications and the semi-finalists represent the top 20 percent of all applicants.
The Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is the largest private scholarship in the nation for students transferring from two-year community colleges to four-year institutions that award bachelor’s degrees.