Advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need

2008 Undergraduate Transfer Scholars Announced



Country’s Largest Undergraduate Transfer Scholarships Announced; 
Up to $30,000 per Year to Complete Bachelor’s Degrees

Lansdowne, VA —The gateway to the top American colleges is often closed to the roughly six million students who attend America’s two-year and community colleges – nearly half of all undergraduates. Just this year, Harvard University shut its doors to transfer students for the next two years, citing lack of adequate housing. Princeton University has a longstanding policy against admitting transfer students. Even Yale, which accepts transfers, admits only about 30 such students each year, very few of whom started at two-year colleges. 
Yet a highly motivated, exceptionally promising group of community college students from lower-income backgrounds is pushing the doors open to some of the nation’s top four-year universities, transferring to such institutions as Stanford, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania with the help of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, a nonprofit champion of high-achieving lower-income students.
Each year the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation works to identify the best community college students in the nation to receive its prestigious Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which awards up to $30,000 per year for up to three years, making it the country’s largest, most competitive undergraduate transfer scholarship. This year, 46 students were chosen from an applicant pool of over 700 students. 
“At the top of our community college classes is a tremendous talent pool, largely untapped by elite colleges,” said Joshua Wyner, executive vice president of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “Many of these students attend community college not because they lack the academic talent for a four-year institution, but because they lack the financial resources. While some top institutions – from Amherst College to UC-Berkeley– have caught on, others are missing out. The reality is that community college transfer students are often the most determined, high-achieving students on four-year campuses. What’s more, they bring much needed diversity to our most selective higher education institutions.”
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship makes it possible for the country’s most promising community college students to transfer to and complete their bachelor’s degrees at elite four-year colleges and universities. This year’s 46 scholarship recipients will attend some of the best public and private colleges and universities in the nation, including Columbia University, Georgetown University, and New York University. 
The 2008 Undergraduate Transfer Scholars hail from 19 states and 13 foreign countries, including Belarus, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Peru and Russia. More than half speak at least two languages. They range in age from 19 to 52. Some are parents returning to school after a decade or more outside the classroom. Nearly one third are the first in their family to attend college. Most are members of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of two-year colleges. 
Among the notable 2008 Undergraduate Transfer Scholars:

  • Alex Haley-Liu, a twice-decorated Marine who completed two combat tours in Iraq and was wounded in action, will study economics and international relations at New York University.
  • Nahiris Bahamon Fernandez, forced to interrupt her medical studies in Colombia and flee the country for her family’s safety, will attend the University of Wisconsin - Madison and hopes to one day join Doctors Without Borders.
  • Ahmad Ali Lewis, a former rap star whose single, Back in the Day, went to #2 on the Billboard rap chart, will attend Stanford University and aspires to be a university professor.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation awards Undergraduate Transfer Scholarships to approximately 50 deserving students annually. Each award is intended to cover a significant share of the 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. Awards vary by individual, based on the cost of tuition as well as other grants or scholarships he or she may receive. With this year’s recipients, the total number of Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarships awarded now totals 295 since the inception of the program. 
Through its Community College Transfer Initiative, the Foundation has also awarded grants totaling $6.78 million to eight selective four-year institutions that will enable more than 1,100 low- to moderate-income community college students to transfer to highly selective four-year institutions. The Foundation has created partnerships with these colleges and universities that will result in a collective investment of nearly $28 million. 
The 2008 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship winners are:
Chelsea Allen, Hanceville, Alabama
Kiran Alvi, Pomona, California
Nahiris Bahamon Fernandez, Oswego, Illinois
Candice Bickett, El Cajon, California    
Gerard Boucher, Worcester, Massachusetts
Rachel Brewer, Windsor, Canada
Mikal Brotnov, Kamiah, Idaho
Maile Burkhalter, Galveston, Texas
Joseph Burnett, Burien, Washington
Juan (Joe) Cadena, Strathmore, California
Tsvetelina Churalska, Midland, Texas
Jad Costandi, Portland, Oregon
Katelynn DeLuca, Riverhead, New York
Aaron Dowden, East Hartford, Connecticut
David Dutton, Bealeton, Virginia
Elizabeth Farrell, Chesterhill, Ohio
Grady Fox, Springvale, Maine
Donna Gosbee, Cheyenne, Wyoming
Alex Haley-Liu, Sacramento, California
Sarah Holland, Sanford, Florida
Ramona Indrebo, Colorado Springs, Colorado
David Kariuki, Newark, New Jersey
Becca Kuhn, Nottingham, Maryland
Amanda Lassetter, Abbott, Texas
Ahmad Lewis, Los Angeles, California
Christine Lucas, Rochester, New York
Candice Lynch, Trenton, Georgia
Rose Lynch, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Fidel Malena, Bronx, New York
Paola Mariselli, Lauderdale Lakes, Florida
Anton Martynenko, Irkutsk, Russia
Tiffany Mathis, Okeechobee, Florida
Erin McDonald, Osceola, Wisconsin
Christine McHone, Dayton, Ohio
Bertheleau Ngakam, Ebolowa, Cameroon
Nasra Nimaga, Nairobi, Kenya
Jessica Odell, Manchester, Connecticut
Candace Payne, Boca Raton, Florida
Katsiaryna Pleshankova, Rochester, New York
Deeneaus Polk, Pascagoula, Mississippi
Stephanie Randolph, Winston, Oregon
Mark Sandberg, Madison, Wisconsin
Sarah Santos, Coral Springs, Florida
Alexandra Swidergal, Valley, Washington
Sarah Vazquez, West Springfield, Massachusetts
Kojo Wallace, Bronx, New York

Complete biographies of the 2008 Undergraduate Transfer Scholars are available at


The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation dedicated to helping young people of exceptional promise reach their full potential through education. Established in 2000 by the estate of self-made billionaire Jack Kent Cooke, the Foundation focuses on high-achieving lower-income students from middle school through graduate school. Headquartered in northern Virginia, the Foundation has helped thousands of students nationally since opening its doors through individualized direct service programs, generous scholarships, and grants to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. With an endowment of $700 million, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is one of the 100 largest private foundations in the US. For more information please visit






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