June 2023 Newsletter

Photo caption: The new cohort of 2023 Cooke Young Scholars enjoy Welcome Weekend in Chicago.

This week, Cooke Foundation Staff just returned from an exhilarating Welcome Weekend – a tradition where we host new Cooke Young Scholars and one of their parents or chaperones for a weekend full of helpful orientation programming, learning opportunities, and fun. This event was held in person for the first time in four years, and we did not take our time with Scholars and families for granted. Parents and chaperones have traveled back home now, but Young Scholars will stay at Northwestern University for First Summer, a three-week academic and project-focused enrichment program, until mid-July.

In addition to supporting over 1200 current Cooke Scholars like the Young Scholars mentioned above, the Foundation also has a grants program in which, to date, we have provided over $131 million in grants to organizations that serve students like our Scholars.

Earlier this month, the Foundation announced it was awarding two $1 million grants to the University of California, Merced and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County—two public research universities with demonstrated records in advancing the success of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. These grants are part of a $7 million commitment to supporting underrepresented student success in STEM fields. To date, the Foundation has granted $1 million to each of the following: Alabama A&M University (2021), Florida A&M University (2021), Morgan State University (2022), Norfolk State University (2021), and North Carolina A&T State University (2021). A recent report from the National Science Foundation suggests that, despite notable gains in the last decade, Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska Native students remain markedly underrepresented among bachelor’s degree recipients in the STEM fields.

Both the University of California, Merced and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County have been recognized nationally for their innovative practices that encourage the participation and success of underrepresented students in STEM fields. The new grants will establish two funds at each respective university. The first will help ensure more students with financial need that are currently enrolled in college will advance to graduation. The second will establish endowed scholarship programs to increase each institution’s long-term ability to meet the financial needs of their students.

We were also pleased to announce that we are awarding over $1.7 million in new grant funding to support nine local and national organizations dedicated to providing opportunities and creating strong pathways to college for exceptionally promising students with financial need. These grants will allow these organizations to continue to expand the number of students they serve, as well as deepen the programming they offer.

During Mental Health Awareness Month in May, we took a moment to reflect on how the Foundation supports the emotional well-being of our Scholars. Through our decades of working with students, we know there is an important connection between mental health and academic success, and we know that on-campus support can make all the difference. Forty percent of undergraduate students are frequently experiencing emotional stress, according to one recent survey. And half of students living with a mental health condition have never used any counseling services on campus.

To help bridge the gap between those students who need mental health support and those asking for help, the Foundation announced last month that it was awarding $1,745,000 in new grant funding to better address the mental health needs of young people in both high schools and postsecondary institutions. These new grants will support the work of Active Minds, Inc., the Steve Fund, and The Jed Foundation. The three organizations will use the funds to evaluate current services, implement mental health training through professional speakers, destigmatize the conversation around mental health, increase student participation in programs, and more.

These grant announcements are part of our larger commitment to supporting students well beyond the direct scholarship funding we provide each year.

Warm regards,

Seppy Basili


Cooke Foundation Highlights

  • In May we celebrated Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American Heritage Month. In the blog post below, 2018 Cooke Young Scholar and current Cooke College Scholar Michelle To shared her experiences as an Asian-American student from the Bay Area. Michelle is looking forward to beginning her college journey at Stanford University this fall, a decision rooted in the diversity and strong sense of community she has found on the West Coast. You can read more about her story here.
  • In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Foundation shared a blog featuring actionable steps students can take towards bettering their mental health. It includes ways in which you can support yourself and your mental health, along with information about other impactful foundations and organizations that are dedicated to helping those struggling.
  • This month is Pride Month – a time for the world to celebrate the diversity and significance of the LGBTQ+ community. In this blog post, new Cooke College Scholar Safara Malone talks about her experience as a transgender Black woman from Texas. She has been deeply involved in student activism throughout her high school years, and plans to further pursue that passion in college. Safara will attend Harvard this fall as one of the first openly transgender Black women to become a student there.


News for High-Achieving Students

  • As part of negotiations surrounding the bipartisan bill to raise the debt ceiling, President Biden made the decision to end the pause on federal student loans that began in March 2020. Payments are now set to resume on August 29. The Biden administration is currently developing a new approach to income-based repayment plans. Although it has yet to be finalized, the most recent draft of the plan included provisions that could reduce borrowers payments by 50 percent or more and help to speed up student loan forgiveness.
  • New research from the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions cited several benefits to participating in college internships. Those who were able to engage in at least one paid internship, for instance, had the highest rate of employment after graduation. Students included in the study noted their top reasons for pursuing internships were to explore career opportunities or to develop their professional networks.
  • In a hearing on June 14, the House discussed ways to spur innovation in higher education. This hearing comes at a time where college enrollment is decreasing. Members of the House talked through efforts to help students succeed at higher rates, create more focused programs on community college campuses, and increase dual enrollment in high school to help lower the cost of attending a college or university.


What We’re Reading

Inside Higher EdFrom Community College to Yale (an OpEd by Cooke Alum Ryan Liu)

Georgia Public BroadcastingAnh Ho of Lawrenceville is an award-winning percussionist. He’s 16

The Hechinger ReporterRenowned HBCU creates a ‘safe haven’ for Black feminist and queer studies

The Chronicle of Higher EducationCaught Off Guard by AI: Professors scrambled to react to ChatGPT this spring —and started planning for the fall

Higher Ed DiveAn Ohio experiment boosted graduation rates and earnings for community college students. Here’s how.

ForbesHow Employers Can Create Equitable And Effective Internships