Valerie Topacio, one of this year's commencement speakers, is the recipient of a national Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which provides up to $30,000 per year to each of about 50 deserving students selected annually, and is the largest private scholarship for two-year and community college transfer students in the country.
Topacio, who earned her Associate of Arts degree at Edmonds CC, will attend Gonzaga University this fall to pursue studies in environmental law and politics, and plans to go to law school after she finishes her undergraduate degree.
Valerie Topacio, recipient of a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship
LANSDOWNE, VA —The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation continues to find diamonds in the rough – including some non-traditional students who for various personal or financial reasons delayed college and began their academic journey at the community college level. The 40 latest “diamonds” were found at two-year institutions in 17 states and comprise the 2010 class of Undergraduate Transfer Scholars which the Foundation announced today. The quotes above are from two of those students who, like their fellow Scholars, are preparing to give back to society.
The Foundation will provide each student a scholarship worth up to $30,000 a year for up to three years which will allow them to transfer to four-year colleges and universities and complete their undergraduate degrees.
The 40 Undergraduate Transfer Scholars have residences in 18 different states (California leads with 12) and 18 of the Scholars were born in foreign nations (six from Mexico, two from Jamaica and one each from Belarus, China, Colombia, India, Iran, Lebanon, Nepal Peru, Philippines and Tunisia).
In the fall of 2010, the Scholars will matriculate at some of the nation’s most highly competitive universities including many Ivy League schools as well as Stanford, Duke, New York University and the University of California, Berkeley. A large percentage of the 40 Scholars will be majoring in the sciences and pre-medicine, with the engineering disciplines a close second. Other majors include economics, political science, natural resources, social work, education, film, and photography.
“Since it was established, the Foundation has recognized the importance of community colleges and their value to American society,” said Dr. Lawrence Kutner, the Foundation’s executive director. “What we’ve also realized is that many top-notch students at these two-year colleges need financial help to get to the next level.”
Since the Undergraduate Transfer program was instituted in 2002, over 365 students have benefited from scholarships from the Foundation. That represents more than $13 million in scholarship dollars which have been distributed through this Foundation program alone.
All 40 Scholars have distinguished themselves both in and out of the classroom, performing valuable community and public service, while in many cases having to also hold down full-time jobs. Among the 2010 Scholars are these remarkable individuals:
Ehren Bentz and Thomas Aguilar, both veteran Marines with a combined five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both returned home with a desire to better their lives and their communities. Thomas, who came to the US from Mexico, has an interest in both engineering and law. Ehren loves the outdoors and hopes to become a zoologist.
Alicia Violeta Juarez Crow and Aldo Garcia, both graduated with honors from California’s Cañada College and both will be attending the University of Southern California. A coincidence? Not exactly, as both students are from the same city in Mexico and came north within a few months of each other. Alicia and Aldo were recognized by college officials, the local community and various Bay Area media outlets for their selfless contributions to campus life and the surrounding communities during their time as students.
About the Foundation
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private foundation dedicated to helping young people of exception promise reach their full potential through education. The Foundation provides challenging opportunities to high achievers from lower-income families through its Young Scholars Program, generous scholarships for undergraduate and graduate study, and grants to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions.