November 2021 Newsletter

At the Cooke Foundation, our vision is to meet Scholars’ full financial need, enabling them to take advantage of the entire academic experience. We also know the cost of college is just one of many barriers our Scholars face as they not only work toward a degree but toward a rewarding career and fulfilling professional life. We believe in providing additional support through other avenues like our summer Internship Stipend program.

Internships are a critical component of a student’s journey, allowing them to gain practical experience in their chosen field, exposure to a work environment, and networking contacts for the future. Unfortunately, an estimated 40 percent of internships are unpaid— which presents a real challenge in ensuring that students have equitable access to opportunity. Students with less financial means must often work to support themselves, meaning unpaid internships are typically not an option. 

We created our Internship Stipend program for our Cooke Undergraduate Scholars. They are invited to apply for a stipend of up to $6,000 to pursue an unpaid summer internship at a non-profit or government organization. This stipend has supported our Scholars’ pursuit of crucial internships that enrich their education and, ultimately, create pathways to graduate school or a career. I’m so inspired by how many of our Scholars are putting those stipends to work. 

Last summer, Jose Cevallos, a Cooke Scholar at Drew University, interned at the Drew Summer Science Institute. Jose practiced dissection techniques on laboratory rats, cultured embryonic cells, and created Alzheimer’s models to test a possible drug therapy for the disease. Those experiments led to a soon-to-be-published scientific paper that will also serve as his honor’s thesis project. Jose now looks forward to conducting more research on Alzheimer’s disease when he attends graduate school on his way to earning his M.D.

Leonardo Dulanto Falcon, a Scholar at the University of South Florida, interned at the Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services, where he helped create and update features on the organization’s website. Leo was able to work alongside and learn from great software developers — all in service of immigration reform and immigrant rights. He also connected with a great mentor who, as a DACA recipient, has shared his experiences and insights. 

As an intern at the Consulate General of Pakistan, Hassan Javed, a Scholar at Columbia University, researched and reported on Pakistani-American students. His two-month-long survey provided Pakistan’s government with a figure on how many Pakistani students studied in America, a number that was not fully known before he completed his work. Hassan gathered information on what the students are studying and what issues they face, providing new insights into how the government can provide stronger support. Following his internship, he was appointed a student ambassador to Pakistani dignitaries visiting New York. Hassan is now considering a career in foreign service. 

Meanwhile, Sarra Hayoune, a Cooke Scholar at Stevens Institute of Technology, was exploring black holes across several galaxies over the summer. Through her internship at the American Museum of Natural History, Sarra collected data through an advanced cosmological simulation. The results helped confirm earlier predictions that massive black holes are not always at the center of particular dwarf galaxies. The experience solidified her interest in astronomy — the coevolution of massive black holes and their host galaxies, in particular — and she is now working on her first-authored paper.

We are proud to offer opportunities for transfer students and traditional college students alike to access unpaid internship experience like Jose, Leo, Hassan, and Sarra. The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship application is now open until January 10, 2022. Our College Scholarship application period ended on November 18, and the finalists will be announced in April of next year.

We look forward to receiving these applications — and continuing to find ways to support our Scholars at every stage of their academic journey. 

Warm regards, 

Seppy Basili


Cooke Foundation Highlights

Former Cooke Young Artist Award winner, Anthony Trionfo, will perform  at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Nov. 18. Trionfo, who began studying the flute at age 11, was praised by the New York Times in May 2019 after his New York concerto debut and is known for his debut in the 2018 YCA Series at New York’s Merkin Concert Hall and Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center. Committed to diversity, equity and inclusion within the field of classical music, Trionfo is one of the founders of the Umoja Flute Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing flutists of African descent with the tools needed to succeed and thrive at all levels of music-making.

Cooke Young Scholar Paige Lauren Kight, of Paducah Tilghman High School in Kentucky, has been involved in extensive summer research and field studies programs at the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, Northwestern University, Brown University, the University of Connecticut, and MIT. She is a member of the varsity academic team, a state qualifying member of the speech team and member of the National Honor Society.

Cooke Scholar and Palm Beach State College alumna, Patricia Medina, was sworn in to the Florida Bar in October 2021. Medina is the recipient of both the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer and Graduate scholarships that allowed her to graduate debt-free from Howard University School of Law in May 2020. Medina is a passionate social justice advocate who aims to serve her community through her new role as associate attorney at the immigration law firm, Acosta & Fraga Law, PLLC.

Cooke Graduate Scholar Karla Lopez Sanchez reflects on her experience attending East Los Angeles College, being accepted as a Cooke Transfer Scholar, and eventually transferring to her dream school, UCLA, to study computer engineering. As a first generation college student, and a Latina woman, she had to learn how to speak up because there weren’t many other students who looked like her in the room. After graduation, she was accepted to USC’s Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program, where she was not only usually the only Mexican woman, but sometimes the only woman at all. “You should never talk yourself out of the rooms you’ve earned your right to be in because there is a reason you are there,” says Karla.


News for High-Achieving Students

New research by Thomas B. Fordham Institute suggests that high-achieving students, particularly students from low income communities and communities of color, have limited access to educational opportunities that can challenge and prepare them. Among the findings: “just 34 percent of economically disadvantaged early high-achievers and 30 percent of Black early high achievers were formally identified by their schools as gifted.” The report advocates for states and schools to increase the number of advanced academic offerings in order to ensure more students are able to reach their greatest academic potential.

This month, the University of Wisconsin student newspaper Badger Herald profiled the work of One City Schools, a public pre-K and elementary charter school in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has seen significant disparities between Black and White students for decades. Founder and CEO Kaleem Caire has built a model that begins in the early years, emphasizes active learning and team work, and pursues innovative partnerships with organizations like Matriculate, a nonprofit that offers mentorship and one-on-one relationships with advising fellows to teach high-achieving Black students how to build a college list and gain the confidence they need to apply.

WKYC, Cleveland, Ohio’s TV station, recently spotlighted the expansion of Thrive Scholars, a national college-prep program that aims to diversify selective colleges by ensuring high-achieving students of color aren’t overlooked. The program helps high-achieving, low-income 11th graders of color prepare for admissions to some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges. Originally focused in Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago, Thrive is expanding to Cleveland.


What We’re Reading

The 74Virtual Mentoring Was Invaluable During the Pandemic. Keep It Going

Jack Kent Cooke FoundationA Note on Land Acknowledgements

The Observer – Observer Editorial: You belong here

Inside Higher EdMaking Transfer Work for Rural Students and Communities

Corporate Comcast – Leveraging Partnerships to Advance Digital Equity and Foster Opportunity for All Learners

Wall Street JournalGifted Programs and the Path to Fairness