Summer 2021 Newsletter

Cooke Scholars at Scholars Weekend 2019

As we enjoy the final weeks of summer and look ahead to a new semester, the Cooke Foundation is reflecting on the challenges of the last year — and how they have highlighted just how far we still must go to make college attainable for all learners. That’s why we are excited to announce three new additions to our Board of Directors: nonprofit founder and executive Samantha Tweedy, Facebook executive Sherice Torres, and former U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. These three visionary leaders will join our original six charter members who were handpicked by Mr. Cooke and have been with the Foundation since its inception. And they will help us further our commitment to helping more high-achieving students with financial need access higher education.

We have also recently announced that the Foundation will increase its undergraduate award cap from $40,000 to $55,000, annually. In addition, we are doubling the Cooke Graduate Scholarship amount to $150,000. These changes are necessary for ensuring that Scholars can complete a bachelor’s degree from the college of their choice with little to no student loan debt, as well as continue their education in a graduate program. 

We are proud to support students through a large portion of their educational life. Indeed, some of our students begin with us in middle school and continue as a Cooke Scholar throughout graduate school. 

We first met Adrianne Elliott when she was accepted as a Young Scholar in 2007. At the time, Adrianne had her heart set on becoming an author. But that all changed after participating in Duke University’s Talent Identification Program on Wrongful Convictions. She discovered a new passion for criminal law and was later accepted into Yale University to study global affairs. At Yale, Adrianne also began to engage in advocacy to support Native students and communities on campus through a leadership position at the Native American Cultural Center. As a Tsalagi woman, these experiences cemented her conviction to serve her community and she went on to intern at the White House and work at the National Indian Education Association. Now, with help from the Cooke Graduate Scholarship, Adrianne will bring her education full circle, attending law school with the aim of leveraging federal law to build and expand programs that support the well-being of sovereign Native nations.

We have also watched Osei Avril blossom as a Young Scholar into an outgoing valedictorian  and entrepreneur passionate about audio production. At first, Osei wasn’t sure how his undergraduate studies as a political science major at the University of North Carolina would connect to his evolving career interests. After graduating, he turned to YouTube videos and an internship at a recording studio to learn how to be an audio engineer. He enjoyed the work but struggled to see how to advance his career in the industry. After a couple of years of technical training, however, he saw a way forward: he would combine his recording experience with the research and analysis skills he gained as an undergraduate. He started a successful business selling a mobile recording studio of his own creation. Next, Osei will earn his MBA at the University of Southern California to further broaden his entrepreneurial expertise. 

We are excited to support our Scholars wherever their educational path might lead — even if that takes them across the world. As a Cooke Transfer Scholar, Matin Ghavamizadeh attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he double majored in applied mathematics and electrical engineering and computer science — and made the Dean’s List every semester. After graduating, he was accepted to Cornell, Princeton, Berkeley, and MIT with graduate fellowships. He was also selected as one of the five recipients of the Cooke International Award and will pursue graduate study in probabilistic machine learning with a focus on probabilistic programming at the University of Cambridge. After his time at Cambridge, Matin plans on continuing his research at MIT as a Ph.D. student.

Thyra Altunin is another Cooke International Award recipient who came to us as a Young Scholar. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, where she majored in classics and music — and earned a Beinecke Scholarship. While an undergraduate, she created the Classical Civilizations Club, and her thesis was recognized with the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship and Mildred Miller Posvar Scholarship for Music. Now, Thyra will dive deeper into the subject of classics and ancient music, as well cultural heritage and cultural heritage preservation, at Oxford University. 

As we prepare for a new academic year in which much remains uncertain, we know one thing for sure – we are as committed as ever to supporting all our Scholars as they grow and evolve along their educational journeys. 

Warm Regards,

Seppy Basili 


Cooke Foundation Highlights:

Najee Greenlee was recently featured in Michigan Live for receiving From the Top’s 2021 Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award. Najee hails from Flint, Michigan and is a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy where he currently performs in the Orchestra and Wind Symphony. Congratulations to Najee! Meet the rest of the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award Class of 2021 here.

Cooke Scholar Dustin Nowaskie is making sure the LGBTQ+ Community has access to quality healthcare. In 2015, Dustin founded OutCare Health, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve LGBTQ+ healthcare by curating a list of reputable providers, research, training materials, and resources by state. Recently, the company’s OutList, has reached the 2,500 providers mark and features doctors in 50 different specialties. 


News for High Achieving Students

For many talented students with financial need, access to college admissions advising is scarce and tends to derail the interests of low-income students who struggle to navigate the complex college admissions process. Inside Higher Ed highlights the greater need for virtual advising post-pandemic, as the enrollment gap between lower income students continues to grow at an alarming rate. 

Gwinnett County Public Schools is partnering with Education Resource Strategies, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, to create a new district equity plan that aims to increase the proportion of Hispanic and Black students placed in gifted programs in the 2021-2022 school year. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gwinnett County Public Schools consist of 64% Black and Hispanic students with only 36% of those having been identified to participate in gifted and talented programs. The district intends to reevaluate their equity efforts and aims to increase the gifted population of Black and Hispanic students by 3% by the end of this coming school year. 


What We’re Reading 

US News – How to Make a College List

The Denver Post – Colorado to give in-state college tuition to members of American Indian tribes starting in the fall

CBS News – Priscilla Chan on Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s work to connect students and teachers

EvoLLLution – Meet Students Where They Are, and Bring Them Back to Your Institution

amNY  – Op-Ed | American dreams begin in community colleges