Cooke Transfer Scholar Spotlights: Hispanic Heritage Month
National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 – October 15 every year. The Latin American countries Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica celebrate their independence from Spain on September 15, and shortly after, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and 18.
In case you missed it, check out these stories in our Roots series about Cooke College Scholar Frank Garcia and his passion for mariachi music, and Cooke Transfer Scholar and freestyle rapper Eduardo Hernandez.
In further recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, here are some more Latino and Hispanic Cooke Transfer Scholars that we are celebrating all year round.
This year, a Cooke Scholar became the first Mexican-born woman to go to space! Katya Echazaretta received the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship in 2016 when she was attending San Diego City College. She used her scholarship to transfer to UCLA where she was one of the only Latinas in the electrical engineering program.
Since Katya participated in this “Meet our Scholars” video before her first semester at UCLA, she has brought new meaning to the phrase “shoot for the stars.” This year, Katya was selected out of thousand of applicants to fly to space on a Blue Origin space mission. This feat landed her on the cover of Vogue México this month – read the story in Spanish here. Katya is currently pursuing her master’s degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University as a Cooke Graduate Scholar.
Angel Sanchez received the Cooke Transfer Scholarship in 2014. His story stands out because he completed his GED and made the decision to pursue a higher education while he was incarcerated. After being convicted for his involvement in a gang-related shooting, Angel decided to change the course of his life and dedicate himself to studying.
He studied in the law library in prison while also preparing for the GED and was able to earn a reduced sentence. He enrolled at Valencia Community College, applied for the Cooke Transfer Scholarship, and transferred to University of Central Florida in 2014 to study political science. After graduation, he became a Cooke Graduate Scholar and completed his J.D. at the University of Miami. This fall, he passed the Washington, DC Bar and in a serendipitous ceremony, was sworn in at the same courthouse where he was convicted in 1999.
Angel served as the keynote speaker at the Cooke Foundation’s annual Scholars Weekend conference in August. He inspired his fellow Cooke Scholars and Alumni in a speech about perseverance and pursing your dreams no matter your current circumstances.
In 2016, Karla Lopez-Sanchez transferred from East Los Angeles College to UCLA as a Cooke Transfer Scholar and became a classmate of Katya in the electrical engineering department. She was often one of few, if not the only, women of color in her classes – Katya and Karla supported each other through the gender and racial bias they experienced and studied and planned their schedules together.
Last year, Karla wrote this reflection on her experiences as a first-generation college student and Latina in STEM. Since the article was published, Karla has graduated with her master’s degree in electrical engineering from University of Southern California. She wants other students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds to know that education is the most powerful tool when it comes to beating the odds and having their voices heard.