Cooke Scholar Sharalyn Sentinella Featured in The Bellingham Herald

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Former drop-out solving life’s puzzles at Whatcom Community College

By Wilson Criscione

Sharalyn Sentinella likes solving puzzles.

In some ways, her own life has been a puzzle. From growing up training horses in Montana, to dropping out of school to build websites, and now graduating from Whatcom Community College, the stages of her life never seemed to fit together.

But Sentinella, 30, finally has a goal that may fit her: working as a cancer researcher.

Sentinella grew up without electricity or Internet for most of her youth in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana, where she wasn’t too worried about getting a good education. College was seen as some “crazy thing,” she said, so she dropped out of school at age 16.

Fourteen years later, she finds herself blossoming at Whatcom Community College.

“I see the world sort of like a puzzle, I guess,” Sentinella said. “I like to put chaotic puzzles together, and I didn’t really realize that correlated with math and science until I got into school.”

Sentinella is graduating with an associate’s degree and is one of two people in Washington state to earn an up-to-$40,000 scholarship per year for three years from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. She was selected for the scholarship out of 2,061 applicants in the nation. She’ll use it as she furthers her education at the University of Portland next year.

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