June 2024 Newsletter

As another academic year comes to a close, we are glad to see so many Cooke Scholars proudly wearing their caps and gowns and reflecting on all they’ve learned while completing their degrees. I am excited to see the diverse paths our graduating Scholars will choose as they head out into the world – their career trajectories will likely be as varied and dynamic as the Scholars themselves. Past graduates have shown this to be true, pursuing careers that showcase the boundless potential of their ambitions and talents.

Joscelyn Garcia—a 2007 Young Scholar, 2012 College Scholar, and 2019 Graduate Scholar—recently celebrated her first anniversary as a special assistant in the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for example. 2018 Cooke College Scholar and Yale graduate Maile Harris, meanwhile, contributes to groundbreaking work at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, where she works as part of the lab’s Human-Machine Engineering Group.

Gustavo Diaz Galeas, a 2017 Undergraduate Transfer and graduate of the University of Central Florida, works as an embedded systems engineer at Connected Wise, an AI startup involved in the research and development of transportation engineering solutions. Ziz Simoens—a 2005 Young Scholar, 2010 College Scholar, and 2014 Graduate Scholar—transitioned from a career as a dancer and choreographer to one as a Senior Game Designer at Rare Ltd., the company behind classic video games such as Donkey Kong Country and GoldenEye 007.

Cooke Scholars are also well represented in the legal realm. Earlier this year, Cooke Alum Jasmine Yoon became Virginia’s first Asian American federal judge. A University of Virginia graduate, Jasmine’s appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March, following recommendations by Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. She’ll take the bench next month, continuing her trailblazing law career. Viviana Andazola Marquez, a 2014 Cooke College Scholar and Stanford Law graduate, was recently hired as an associate at Waymaker, a law firm in California. Cooke Alum Ryan Liu, a Yale and Oxford graduate, currently serves as an attorney at Cooley LLP in Los Angeles. Ryan was also recently elected as a Governing Board Member for his community college alma mater, Pasadena City College, and works as an advocate on behalf of other community college and transfer students.

Another Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Alum making a difference is Richael Young, who recently assumed the role of Senior Director of the Water for the Future Program at Sustainable Conservation. Richael provides strategic guidance and support to further the organization’s mission to achieve long-term water sustainability in California.

The Foundation is deeply committed to preparing our Scholars for these diverse careers. That’s why we offer stipends for traveling to and attending conferences, host Scholars Weekends with robust networking and career programming, and support internship opportunities. Remarkably, more than 80 percent of our graduating seniors participated in an internship or other career preparation activities this past year.

This proactive approach to career preparation manifests not only in our Scholars’ career choices but also in their entrepreneurial drive. An unusually high proportion of Scholars have ventured into entrepreneurship, creating new and innovative services, products, and companies all their own.

Whatever path our Scholars choose, we remain dedicated to bolstering their ambitions and celebrating their successes. As we cheer on our graduating class, we eagerly anticipate the remarkable contributions they will make to their communities and chosen industries. Their futures promise to be as exciting as those of the Cooke Alumni who have gone before them.  Congratulations, Class of 2024!

Warm regards,

Seppy Basili


Cooke Foundation Highlights

  • On May 9, we announced the selection of 60 community college students as recipients of the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which allows students to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year institutions with minimal financial burden. Despite research showing transfer pathways from community colleges significantly contribute to enrollment and diversity at four-year institutions, a lack of scholarship opportunities and other obstacles keep bachelor’s degree completion rates low. Nearly 1,700 applications were received this year from over 380 community colleges, with recipients evaluated on academics, financial need, persistence, and leadership qualities.
  • A record-breaking number of applications were received this year for the Cooke College Scholarship! Sixty graduating high school seniors were awarded the scholarship, which provides financial support to exceptional students attending top universities. Scholars receive academic coaching, career advising, and access to a network of peers, as well as opportunities for internships, study abroad, and graduate school funding. Scholars were selected based on academics, financial need, persistence, and leadership. These 60 Scholars join the 58 current Cooke Young Scholars to form the 2024 cohort of 118 Cooke College Scholars.
  • Read about the Cooke Foundation’s new CFO & Treasurer, Ricardo DeLeon. Ricardo has an extensive background in both nonprofit and corporate settings, including the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and more than 25 years at Procter & Gamble. His background as a Princeton graduate who came from a low-income family makes him a great fit for the Cooke Foundation’s mission and work.

News for High-Achieving Students

  • A new report from Strada, titled “Building Better Internships” explores students’ reasons for seeking internships, the barriers they face, the quality of their experiences, and how those experiences connect to their career goals. A survey featured in the report found that 96 percent of students aim to connect their education with career opportunities through internships and that 74 percent of students were highly satisfied with their internship experiences, citing factors like mentorship opportunities and skill development as contributing to their satisfaction.
  • In early May, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it was dedicating $50 million to help students complete the newly revamped Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Although many college commitment deadlines have already passed, completion of the form remains down 20 percent over last year. The funding will be distributed among school districts, state agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations focused on helping students overcome barriers to FAFSA completion.
  • OpenAI unveiled ChatGPT Edu, a new version of its AI chatbot tailored for use by colleges and universities. The news follows OpenAI’s recent partnerships with a number of higher education institutions, and the company says the tool will be free for students to access. Rather than relying on the open-sourced and public version of ChatGPT, ChatGPT Edu will allow universities to create personalized large language models that can support services such as tutoring and writing assistance.

What We’re Reading

The Hechinger Report‘First aid kit’ for tough classes

Education WeekWhat’s More Important to Students and Employers: Skills or Credentials? 

Forbes After A Daunting Year For College Students, Here Are 3 Lessons For The Class Of 2024 

ForbesColleges Reinstating The ACT/SAT Should Add A Program Like This Too

University BusinessColleges have a responsibility to support students with intellectual disabilities