Tao Hong came to the U.S. three years ago from China. He faced many hurdles, including the fact that he spoke no English and was a primary caretaker for a seriously ill family member.
With everything going on in his life, he wasn’t sure what path to take. Eventually, he enrolled at Queensborough Community College in New York, where his path to success began as a budding scientist.
This spring, Hong — who earned an associate degree in engineering technology — was one of 55 community college students from across the country to receive the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship — which is worth up to $40,000 — to complete his baccalaureate. Hong is attending Cornell University this fall, where he is studying chemical engineering.
Some 3,000 students apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship each year. Aside from financial need, applicants must have strong records of academic achievement as shown by grades, leadership skills, awards, extraordinary service to others and perseverance in the face of adversity. The scholarship is intended to cover a significant share of a student’s educational expenses – including tuition, living expenses, books and required fees – for the final two to three years necessary to achieve a bachelor’s degree.
Since 2000, the foundation has provided more than $152 million in scholarships to nearly 2,200 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive counseling and other support services.
“Community college students are more likely than students at four-year schools to come from families with low and moderate incomes. Yet they are just as likely to possess the capacity and drive to succeed at our most elite colleges and universities,” said Cooke Foundation Executive Director Harold O. Levy. “If a high-achieving community college student wants to transfer to a four-year institution, we want to remove financial need as a barrier to their success.”
More than just academics
Kiana Estime also received the prestigious national transfer scholarship which will help her financially transfer from Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts to Mount Holyoke College to study anthropology. The 20-year-old is the fourth HCC student to receive the scholarship since 2008.
Estime credited her HCC adviser and the college’s Pathways Program — which helps low-income, first-generation college students transfer to competitive four-year schools — for helping her through the transfer and application process.
“These support systems here at HCC — this just changes lives,” Estime said. “I feel like a great weight has just been lifted from me. As a first-generation, low-income college student, being able to have $40,000 a year for higher education will really allow me to achieve my dreams, as cheesy as that sounds.”
In addition to her stellar academic record, Estime was deeply involved in programs and projects on the HCC campus and in the community, serving on the HCC Committed Club and the Latino International Students Association Club, as well as co-founding the campus activist group Resist Oppression Act Responsibly.
This summer, Estime had an internship with the Railroad Street Youth Project, where she helped to develop a college scholarship program for local youth.
October 24 is the deadline to apply for the next round of Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarships.
This article originally appeared in CC Daily.