COS student earns major scholarship
visalia — College of the Sequoias student William Russell has been awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, worth up to $40,000 a year, to complete a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university. COS Superintendent President surprised Russell with the award at a small ceremony on Monday, April 17, with Russell’s family present.
“This is now and you’re here, and the sky’s the limit,” Russell said. “It doesn’t matter what happened in your past… this is for you.”
Russell started at COS in 2013, after a successful career as a journeyman electrician. After suffering an on-the-job injury, Russell’s doctors warned that it may be time to consider another career. It was through the encouragement of his wife and children that he took his first step on the path to a history degree, with the goal of teaching. Russell has been accepted to California State University, Fresno, and is waiting to hear from the remaining schools to which he applied.
Russell shared his nerves at approaching college mid-career and after having had a spotty education himself. “I was always behind,” Russell said having constantly moved around the area with farm-working parents, he was rarely able to finish or even start school along with his peers. But now he says, “To be the first one in your family to actually make this (college) happen starts a chain reaction.”
Wife Melanie shared that the family has been supplementing their income from Russell’s student work study job with COS’ Facilities Department by selling baked goods on the weekends and growing their own fruits and vegetables. “This means everything,” she said. “We feel like we’ve all earned this.”
Russell echoed that sentiment, “They work so hard that they make me want to make their efforts worth it.”
This is the fifth Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholar from COS. COS is one of six total California schools having award finalists this year. The other California community colleges are: City College of San Francisco, Los Medanos College, MiraCosta College, San Diego Miramar College and Santa Rosa Junior College.
The Cooke Foundation selected 55 outstanding community college students from around the nation from a competitive pool of nearly 3,000 applicants All of the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars have financial need and strong records of academic achievement as shown by grades, leadership skills, awards, extraordinary service to others and perseverance in the face of adversity.
The Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is the largest private scholarship in the nation for students transferring from two-year community colleges to four-year institutions that award bachelor’s degrees.
“Our Undergraduate Transfer Scholars have a proven record of accomplishment at elite colleges and universities and have gone on to successful careers in many professions,” Cooke Foundation Executive Director Harold O. Levy said. “This is among the most prestigious scholarships in the country and we are extremely proud of the talented students who have been selected.”
Cooke Scholarships fund the costs of attending college not covered by other financial aid, plus academic advising, stipends for internships, study abroad, and opportunities to network with other Cooke Scholars and alumni. In addition, 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.