Three LaGuardia Community College honors program students, Jonathan Morales, Miguel Castillo, and Konstandinos Gobakis, were among 55 community college students nationwide selected for 2017 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarships. Each will receive up to $40,000 a year to complete their bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university.
They were selected from a pool of nearly 3,000 community college students nationwide who applied for the scholarship. LaGuardia Community College is one of only two institutions in the country to have three scholars this year. The scholarship, awarded annually to the nation’s top community college students, covers a significant share of each student’s educational expenses, including tuition, living expenses, books, and required fees necessary to receive a bachelor’s degree.
Each of the 2017 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars have financial need and strong records of academic achievements, leadership skills, awards, extraordinary service to others, and perseverance in the face of adversity.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, each Cooke Scholar may be eligible for a scholarship for graduate school worth up to $50,000 a year for up to four years.
“Having three students be selected for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is a testament to the work of these incredible students and to the high-quality education delivered by LaGuardia faculty,” said LaGuardia Community College President Gail O. Mellow. “This scholarship represents the national imperative to open up the doors of our nation’s most elite institutions to community college students. We need our nation’s top colleges to reflect our nation’s diversity, and LaGuardia and the nation’s community colleges, are an often ignored pipeline that can bring talented, motivated, and proven students to these institutions.”
“Jonathan, Miguel, and Konstandinos are remarkable for their drive, resilience, and intellectual talents. As well, they benefitted from the dedicated support and guidance of many at LaGuardia to use their time at the college as a foundation and spring-board for success in the next chapter of their academic career” said Karlyn Koh, director of the LaGuardia Honors Program, and professor of English. “The Cooke scholarship application process is a rigorous and multilayered one, not unlike that for admission to selective colleges. Many LaGuardia students have the talent and potential for such academic success. Our three Cooke scholars surely inspire other LaGuardia students to tap into campus resources and maximize their time and the opportunities at LaGuardia to transform their lives, and of those in their family and larger community. ”
Jonathan Morales, age 24, dropped out of high school and earned his high school equivalency diploma to seek work to help his mother—who raised him and his brother as a single mother—with their family’s expenses. After several years working as a carpenter, he decided to go back to school and found his way to LaGuardia, where he excelled both academically and personally. He was selected as a Kaplan Foundation Leadership Program Scholar and worked as an honors peer mentor at LaGuardia, helping to support other students as they navigated college.
“Becoming a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar has given me a new higher-education pathway with significantly fewer financial barriers,” said Morales, a Liberal Arts: Social Science and Humanities major. “This recognition has given me the reassurance that my dreams are worth striving for. I hope my selection for this award will show other LaGuardia students that they too can win a competitive national scholarship, regardless of their cultural background or hardships they’ve endured.”
Morales was accepted to Brown, Amherst, Michigan, Bard, and a host of other institutions; he has decided to attend Stanford. He plans to pursue a dual-major bachelor’s in English and computer science and intends to earn a doctorate in English. His professional goal is to facilitate the sharing of self-published narratives and news for the Latinx and other marginalized communities through a new social media platform he intends to develop.
Miguel Castillo is a first-generation Mexican-Dominican who was raised by a single mother, and is a Marine Corps veteran who completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He has completed research at Columbia University and the Brookhaven National Laboratory and will be at Stanford this summer for a technology and entrepreneurship program. He intends to pursue a dual-major bachelor’s in computer science and electrical engineering.
“Being named a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar has made me dream bigger—beyond even obtaining a bachelor’s degree. In addition to becoming an inventor and an entrepreneur, I want to give back to society in the future,” said Castillo, a Liberal Arts: Math and Science major.
Konstandinos Gobakis began his journey at LaGuardia in College Now. He embraced and excelled in opportunities he found at LaGuardia, especially the Peer Activist Learning Community. He has been accepted to Swarthmore College, where he plans to earn his bachelor’s in computer science and humanities.
“I am extremely thankful to have received this Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship,” said Gobakis, a Liberal Arts: Math and Science major. “It has opened new doors for me.”
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is the nation’s largest private scholarship for students transferring from community colleges to four-year institutions. Including the 2017 winners, eight LaGuardia Community College students have received this distinguished award to date.
Harmonie Kobanghe, a 2012 Jack Kent Cooke Scholar and LaGuardia Community College alumna, received a Jack Kent Cooke graduate scholarship ($50,000/year) earlier this year and will pursue graduate studies at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. She earned her bachelor’s from Georgetown University. Her career goal is to fight for global human rights.