September 2023 Newsletter

Last month, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation welcomed the newest cohorts of Cooke College and Transfer Scholars at our annual Scholars Weekend in Northern Virginia. Each year, Scholars Weekend is an energizing celebration full of community and inspiration, and is an opportunity for Cooke Scholars and Alumni to connect. Career programming is a big part of Scholars Weekend, and offers a valuable benefit to new Cooke Scholars as they begin their journey at a four-year college or university. At the Foundation, we recognize the value of creating career pathways and experiences for our Scholars while they are still in school. 

Internships are a crucial component of a student’s academic journey, connecting what they learn in the classroom to the real world, allowing them to gain critical hands-on experience, and helping them forge important connections that can jumpstart and further their careers. But with an estimated 40 percent of internships being unpaid, the cost of actually completing an internship can be prohibitive to learners with financial need. Through the Foundation’s stipend program, Scholars can apply for up to $6,000 in funding to help level the playing field. This year, over 100 Cooke Scholars received an Internship Stipend from us – a new record for the program.

One of these Scholars who made use of the Internship Stipend this summer is Lucas Stokoszynski, who gained experience working at the Cameron Art Museum while assisting in providing art classes for youth and teens. Adele Woodmansee’s stipend, meanwhile, took her all the way to Morocco. Woodmansee, a Cooke Graduate Scholar studying soil and crop sciences at Cornell University, spent weeks doing fieldwork, collecting soil samples, and organizing workshops.

Much closer to home, Alymuhammad Bijani, a Cooke Scholar at Washington University in St. Louis, completed an internship at a research lab at his school. He tracked and studied propagating brain waves in order to better understand how they change following a stroke. Alymuhammad’s internship was paid and he will continue working in the lab this semester, helping to train Artificial Intelligence to perform this kind of analysis. 

Additionally, three Cooke Scholars completed an internship with Leading Change – Africa, a nonprofit founded by 2013 Cooke Transfer Scholar Ousmane Kabre. The organization helps young Africans access leadership and educational opportunities so they may ultimately become agents of change in Africa and for Africans.

Ferdinand “Vee” Virtudes, a Cooke Scholar at Rochester Institute of Technology, plans on becoming a business and data analyst, and on using those skills to help nonprofit organizations make impactful decisions addressing social issues such as poverty, education, and healthcare. At Leading Change—Africa, Vee received hands-on experience working with the organization’s data and analytics team, participating in grant research, donor retention strategies, and initiatives to elevate the visibility of scholars associated with the organization. 

Salamot Balogun, a Cooke Scholar at Stanford University, has an interest in a wide range of careers, including astrophysics and software engineering, but is passionate about advocacy on behalf of first-generation learners and students from low-income backgrounds. As an operations intern at Leading Change—Africa, Salamot learned about aspects of outreach and organization management that can help more students achieve their goals. 

Ochuwa Garuba, a Cooke Scholar at Vanderbilt University, is pursuing social justice policy research on her way to becoming a policy analyst and public servant. She hopes to create substantive legislative reform through her research, a goal she is already accomplishing as the Attorney General of Vanderbilt Student Government and a research assistant at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. Ochuwa served as the community engagement intern at Leading Change – Africa, honing her abilities to communicate and expand opportunities for underrepresented groups. As a Nigerian-American, she also viewed the internship as an opportunity to give back to her community in a tangible way.

Paid or unpaid, at home or afar, we will always work to ensure our Scholars have the resources they need to pursue internships and other opportunities that advance their educational aspirations. We at the Foundation wish you the best at the start of this wonderful new school year, whether you are an education professional or a student yourself.

Warm regards, 

Seppy Basili 


News for High-Achieving Students

  • In August, Virginia Tech announced that it would be discontinuing legacy admissions preferences, which favor children of alumni. The University of Virginia followed suit and announced it would no longer ask applicants to check a box based on whether their relatives are alumni. These moves follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to remove race from admissions considerations and a bill reintroduced by congressional Democratic leaders in 2022 that would prevent federally funded schools from granting admissions advantages to legacy or donor candidates. It also comes after the U.S. Department of Education opened a civil rights investigation into Harvard University’s policies on legacy admissions. 
  • A more streamlined Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) version will launch for the 2024-25 school year, greatly simplifying college financial aid applications. The update also expands federal aid eligibility, widening access to Pell grants. At the same time, a “sibling discount” for families with multiple college students has been eliminated, potentially affecting aid for about one-third of students. Information on when students can file a new application, as well as tips on how to prepare for the updated form, can be found here
  • Community colleges in the United States are increasingly adjusting their programs to better align with changing economic trends and job markets. Some institutions have realized that their existing curricula do not match the job opportunities available to graduates and are redesigning their programs in response. Schools like San Jacinto College in Texas and Lorain County Community College in Ohio have adapted to the growing needs of a technology-based economy.

Cooke Foundation Highlights

  • The Cooke College Scholarship application is now open and will close at midnight on November 16, 2023 in your local time zone. This national scholarship opportunity is available to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who want to attend college in fall 2024. The award, which is last dollar funding after all other institutional aid, can be worth up to $55,000.
  • In this Q&A with Natasha Piñeiros, a 2017 Cooke Transfer Scholar and Cooke Foundation Staff member, Natasha details her a cademic and professional journey, how she balances her personal life with other commitments, and what the Cooke Scholar community is like. Natasha is a Dean of Scholar Support at the Foundation, providing academic advising and support to Cooke College Scholars and Transfer Scholars.
  • Wyatt Deihl, a 2018 Cooke Transfer Scholar and current Graduate Scholar, writes about his experiences as a FGLI student at his undergraduate institution, Rollins College, and his current institution, Yale University. Wyatt has experienced many barriers to earning his degree and feeling like he belongs on campus both in undergraduate and graduate school. In the Hechinger Report Student Voice piece, he calls for four-year colleges to enact policies that will protect FGLI students from scholarship displacement and taking on unfair debt.


What We’re Reading

The WeekAI’s boost for students and teachers in higher education

Diverse: Issues in Higher EducationHow Public Universities Can Tackle the Teacher Shortage

Barron’sCommunity Colleges Can Be an Engine of Growth. They’re Meeting Students Where They Are. 

The Hechinger Reporter‘August surprise’: That college scholarship you earned might not count

Inside Higher EdNew Data Show How Students Fare After Graduate School