After finishing high school, moving to the United States, working, and being a full-time missionary in Utah for six months, Caroline Eyram Azadze was interested in becoming a nurse. However, a computer science class at Montgomery College fascinated her and stimulated her curiosity. She is now graduating from MC with a degree in computer engineering and an undergraduate transfer scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
Forty-seven students received the scholarship across the country, Azadze being the only one in the state of Maryland. Each student receives up to $40,000 annually for a maximum of three years to complete his or her bachelor’s degree, which Azadze will take with her to a four-year university. She expects to hear back from the institutions she applied to by June 15.
Azadze grew up in a small town in Accra, Ghana, though she was born in the United Kingdom, and describes her upbringing as an epitome of the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” because her neighbors were like extended family to her. At age 19, she moved to the United States with her mother and two younger siblings to be with her father and brother, who had come years before in search of jobs.
Her adjustment to community college was a culture shock, as it was her first experience with the American educational system, she said, but she now feels right at home. “At Montgomery College I was able to build a strong academic foundation enriched by activities outside the classroom. I involved myself in campus life and even helped other students as a tutor.”
I was overjoyed and did not know how to react… It was the best day of my life.
She is an intern at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), where she collects data to improve the usability and efficiency of applications. She was there when she learned she received the scholarship: “I was very surprised. I double-checked the email several times to be sure. It all felt like a dream and in this dream, I could not stop crying. I was overjoyed and did not know how to react. My mentor and colleagues at NIST were all excited and celebrated with me. It was the best day of my life.”
In addition to the monetary award, these new Cooke Transfer Scholars will receive comprehensive educational advising from foundation staff to guide them through the processes of transitioning to a four-year school and preparing for their careers. The foundation will additionally provide opportunities for internships, study abroad, and graduate school funding, as well as connection to a thriving network of 2,300 fellow Cooke Scholars and alumni.
“Community colleges provide an affordable first step for many students with financial need to begin their higher education journey,” said Harold O. Levy, executive director of the Cooke Foundation. “Cooke Transfer Scholars have demonstrated incredible ability and ambition, and we look forward to supporting their success at universities such as Stanford, Cornell, and MIT.”
This year, nearly 2,500 students applied for the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The foundation evaluated each submission based on academic ability, persistence, leadership, and service to others. The recipients selected have a median adjusted gross income of $5,000 and an average GPA of 3.92. Biological sciences, engineering, and computer/informational sciences are the most popular fields of study among the cohort.
In addition to the undergraduate transfer scholarships, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation offers the young scholars program for high-performing seventh grade students with financial need, and the college scholarship program for high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who seek to attend the nation’s best four-year colleges and universities.