Ernest Dimbo, the Valedictorian for the Class of 2015, is the College’s latest recipient of the $120,000 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Transfer Scholarship. Ernest learned of the honor during the Essex County College Scholarship Awards Night program on May 18 when he was invited to introduce some of the top students of the Class of 2016.
But instead, Acting Dean Carlos Rivera (Business, Industry & Government) announced that Ernest is the recipient of the prestigious Cooke prize, offering $40,000 a year for three years. Essex has had 14 recipients since 2006 and 11 in the past five years. He is one of 75 recipients nationally out of more than 2,000 applicants.
“I’m so lucky,” said Ernest, who graduated at the top of his class with an Associate in Science in Biology, Pre-Medicine. “Essex County College has done so much for me,” added the 20-year-old Bloomfield resident who unsuccessfully applied for the scholarship last year.
Ernest was planning to attend Boston University this fall to study molecular and cell biology. He is still heading there, but with the knowledge that all his costs will be covered. “This changes everything; last week I was talking about student loans but now I have this wonderful scholarship.”
Since his Essex graduation, Ernest traveled to Spain for a stem cell conference, participated in the New Jersey Governor’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Scholars program, and tutored at the College. He is especially proud that two of the five high school students he mentored in the state program will attend Stanford and MIT respectively, this fall.
His career goals include earning a medical degree and his doctorate. He is particularly interested in stem cell research and how it can be applied to the development of organs for transplants. “By cultivating organs, people will not have to wait for months and even years for badly needed transplants.”
Dr. Alvin Williams, Acting Dean of STEM & Health Sciences at Essex, said Ernest has had an amazing journey from Valedictorian to Jack Kent Cooke scholar. “He is an outstanding credit to himself, his area of study and our College as a whole. The fact that he reapplied for the award shows his persistence in reaching his goals,” Dr. Williams said.
Ernest graduated from high school in Lagos, Nigeria when he was only 14. His family came to the United States seeking a better life. Taking advantage of the College’s opportunities, Ernest became a member and officer in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and participated in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program in conjunction with the National Science Foundation.
“This is a huge opportunity for me.” He noted there is no time limit for something good to happen and this award is a perfect example of that.
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.
“Many elite colleges and universities are reluctant to admit large numbers of transfer students from community colleges, even when these students have excellent grades and other qualifications,” said Cooke Foundation Executive Director Harold O. Levy. “This is unfair and unwise. The Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholars have a long record of success at the most selective colleges and graduate schools, such as the Ivy League in the United States and the University of Oxford in Great Britain. These extraordinary young people have proven repeatedly and conclusively that top community college students have the ability to thrive in top four-year colleges. They deserve equal educational opportunity.”