MacArthur High School seniors Denisse Córdova and Stephanie Niño de Rivera are among 106 students selected from a pool of more than 5,000 applicants across the nation who will be awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship, which rewards excellence by supporting high-achieving high school seniors in financial need. The scholarship award (per recipient) is up to $40,000 per year for undergraduate studies of the award winner’s choice.
The JKC Foundation Scholarship application wasn’t easy. The process requires several essays in addition to two teacher recommendation letters. Other sections included their family’s financial information.
In addition to the monetary award, Denisse and Stephanie and other recipients will receive educational advising from foundation personnel to guide them in transitioning to college and preparing for their careers.
“High-achieving students with financial need are often deterred from applying to elite colleges and universities,” said Harold O. Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “And yet, the research clearly shows that when they are able to enroll in selective institutions, lower-income students are just as likely as their wealthier peers to be academically successful and graduate. We look forward to supporting Cooke College Scholars as they matriculate to universities such as Stanford, Yale, and Harvard.”
Since 2000, the Cooke Foundation has awarded more than $175 million in scholarships from eighth-grade students to those in graduate school.
Stephanie is also a Gates Scholar. The Gates Scholarship is a highly selective, full scholarship for exceptional, Pell-eligible, minority, high school seniors. Launched this year, the new program from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will award its first full scholarships to 300 students in 2018. The support will include not just tuition, but also cover fees, housing, books and other costs. The intent is to promote their academic excellence through college graduation, and providing them the opportunity to reach their full potential.
In 1999, the foundation launched the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, a $1.6 billion effort administered by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The program stopped accepting students in 2016 and will end in 2028-29.
In all, the Gates scholars program has helped 20,050 low-income students of color, 35 percent of them identified as Hispanic or Latino, said Larry Griffith, a vice president at the UNCF.
One of the major differences between the two Gates-funded scholarship programs is that participants in the Gates Millennium Scholars Program have the option of graduate school funding in seven selected areas, while the new program supports undergraduate studies only.
Both programs, however, provide further support to students as they pursue their college careers and work with colleges and universities to ensure student success.
On getting the scholarships, both Denisse and Stephanie see doors opening for them as well as a chance to focus on their studies and their future without a financial worry hanging over them.
“Getting the scholarship means freedom,” said Denisse. “When I go to college, it means I will be able to take on research positions that maybe don’t pay me but will give me the experience to become a physicist.
“It means I can take internships that I want without having to worry about not getting paid. It means I’ll be able to go down any path that I may want and take on opportunities that I want without having to worry about paying for housing or for food.”
“I am grateful for the opportunities these scholarships will provide,” said Stephanie. “It means that my parents won’t have to worry about paying for my school.
“Paying for college won’t be a burden on my family and I won’t be stressed about it. Thanks to the scholarships I can focus on my studies.”
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