Spring 2022 Newsletter

On this last day of March, we at the Foundation are reflecting on Women’s History Month — and the amazing women in our scholarship programs and Alumni community. Our country has come a long way since President Jimmy Carter first established Women’s History Week in 1980, the same year equal numbers of women and men enrolled in college for the first time in the United States. In 1987, Congress extended that celebration of women’s accomplishments and achievements into an entire month. By then, women were outpacing men in earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. It’s a trend that has continued to this day.

But women still face many obstacles when pursuing postsecondary education. Fast-growing fields like computer science and information technology remain dominated by men. Female college students continue to face a troubling lack of support around childcare, financial needs, and academic services. Despite the great advancements that have occurred over the last few decades, a college degree is still not a guarantee for women. 

Over the last two decades, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has been proud to know — and support — many impressive female Scholars along their barrier-breaking educational journeys. Take Rhiana Gunn-Wright, a Cooke Young Scholar and College Scholar, who earned her bachelor’s degree at Yale in African American studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. After graduation, she was selected as the Mariam K. Chamberlain Fellow at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. She also interned at the White House in First Lady Michelle Obama’s office, before starting graduate school. In 2013, she became a Rhodes Scholar and moved to London to pursue an M.Phil. in Comparative Social Policy. Since 2018, she’s been serving as the Roosevelt Institute’s Director of Climate Policy.

A more current Cooke Scholar, Minh Nguyen, started with us as a Cooke College Scholar in 2015. She stayed with us as a 2021 Graduate Scholar and she is now a Fulbright award recipient, recently earning a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Taipei, Taiwan. While Taiwan’s borders are still currently closed for tourists amid strict COVID-19 restrictions, Fulbright students have been granted special permission to enter the country. Minh will teach English to middle school students and learn about the Taiwanese school system firsthand. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Claire Clelland, a 2005 Cooke Graduate Scholar, is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Weill Institute for Neurosciences, where she specializes in treatment of patients with dementia. After completing her bachelor’s in both biology and philosophy at University of Portland, she received the Marshall Scholarship to study neurology and earn an M.Phil. at the University of Cambridge. She then earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience and neurobiology from University of California, San Diego, and later completed her M.D. at University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Clelland was recently recognized by UCSF and the Gladstone Institute for her exceptional community service and mentorship.

A focus on community service is not uncommon among the women in our scholarship programs. Francesca Raeolison transferred to Brown University from Northern Virginia Community College in 2018 after being selected as a Cooke Scholar. The next year, she founded the youth-led organization Omena, which aims to increase social and emotional intelligence, as well as prevent and break the cycle of emotional abuse, in her home country of Madagascar. Francesca’s work through Omena has been featured in the Boston Globe and TEDx among other publications. 

These are just a tiny fraction of the women in our scholarship programs whose accomplishments are worth celebrating. We will continue to strive to support and lift up our female Scholars, no matter the month.

Warm regards,

Seppy Basili


Cooke Foundation Highlights

Paige Lauren Kight, a high school senior from Paducah, KY, and Cooke Scholar, has been named a candidate in the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and the United States Department of Education. Of the nearly 3.6 million high school seniors graduating this year, about 5,000 students from across the country have been selected to participate in the prestigious recognition program. Kight is also a National Merit scholarship semifinalist, an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction, and a Paducah Bank Teen of the Week. As a Scholar, Kight has been involved in extensive summer research and field studies programs at the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, Northwestern University, Brown University, University of Connecticut, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  She will graduate this spring, and plans to attend MIT in the fall.

Sarah Brakebill-Hacke, a Cooke Transfer and Graduate Scholar, announced her candidacy to fill the seat representing Minnesota’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month. The general election will be held on August 9, 2022. The challenges that Sarah experienced in the past have driven her to dedicate herself to serving her local community. Sarah is from Preston, Minnesota. She’s currently in graduate school at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. She completed her bachelor’s degree in global affairs at Yale University. 

2005 Cooke Young Scholar and 2010 College Scholar, Bo Ra, has begun her new role as Programme Management Officer at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). She will be working in the UNEP Science Division, Climate Services & Capacity Building Unit on implementing its Green Climate Fund (GCF) portfolio in the Asia Pacific region. Previously, Bo Ra served as the Senior International Project Manager at the APEC Climate Center based in South Korea where she developed new project opportunities, concepts, proposals, and partnerships with stakeholders for sustainable development and climate change adaptation in the Asia Pacific region. You can watch this virtual chat with Bo Ra and fellow Cooke Alumni on social impact and exploring careers in policy and advocacy.

News for High-Achieving Students

The Campaign for College Opportunity recently released a report, ​​ “The State of Higher Education for Latinx and Black Angelenos,” detailing the experiences and outcomes for Black and Latino students in Los Angeles Unified high schools, Los Angeles community colleges and four-year public universities in the area. The report found that the number of Black and Latino students completing high school courses they need to be eligible for admission to four-year universities in California has more than doubled over the last decade, despite first-time college enrollments having plummeted during the pandemic. Specifically, the report advocates for community colleges to become stronger implementers of Assembly Bill 705, which was designed to make it easier for students to bypass noncredit remedial classes and enroll in classes they need to transfer. 

In February, Johns Hopkins University announced the launch of a new program designed to recognize high-achieving students from Washington, DC, and support them with resources and internship opportunities during their college experience at Hopkins. The DC Scholars Program is open to graduates of Washington, DC public schools and public charter schools from families that earn up to $150,000 per year. The program, administered by the Center for Student Success in partnership with the offices of Admissions and Financial Aid, offers financial aid support, peer and faculty mentoring, connections with alumni, and community engagement initiatives. DC Scholars also have access to specialized programming—including lecture series and dinners with deans, administrators, and senior faculty—as well as supplemental funds for internship, research, and study abroad opportunities.

What We’re Reading

Diverse- Common App Finds More First-Gen, Underrepresented Minority Applicants This Year

EdScoop- After two years of COVID-19, data guides university mental-health support

The Campus- If we truly want a level playing field, we must focus on social capital

Community College Daily- A refresh: Guided career pathways

Inside Higher Ed- Survey: Student college choices both practical and strategic