Diaz, a Salvadorian immigrant, will be recognized in local and state
ceremonies, and internationally at PTK April convention in Kansas
March 28, 2018, Jersey City, NJ –Hudson
County Community College (HCCC) proudly announces that HCCC student
Cledys Diaz, who resides in Union City and will graduate this May,
has been named a Coca-Cola Academic Team Bronze Scholar and will
receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Each year the Coca-Cola Scholars
Foundation, which sponsors the Coca-Cola Academic Team program,
recognizes 50 Gold, 50 Silver, and 50 Bronze Scholars with nearly
$200,000 in scholarships. The Foundation partners in this effort
with Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the premier honor society recognizing the
academic achievement of community college students, and helping them
to grow as scholars and leaders.
Scholarship winners will be recognized on
local and state levels, and internationally at PTK Catalyst, Phi
Theta Kappa’s Annual Convention, April 19-21 in Kansas City,
Missouri. “Scholarships like these are integral to the success of
these students in reaching their educational and career goals,”
said Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa.
HCCC President Glen Gabert, Ph.D. stated:
“We are very proud of Ms. Diaz and all she has accomplished. Her
commitment and perseverance are truly inspiring.”
As a young Salvadorian immigrant with no
English skills, Diaz faced several hurdles and challenges to building
a better life in the United States. She enrolled in Hudson County
Community College to fulfill her dream of higher education. Through
discipline, hard work, and perseverance, the Union City resident will
graduate with an Associate’s degree in May, and now works as a
College English tutor.
The $1,000 Coca-Cola scholarship
represents a “direct path” to Ms. Diaz’s goal of becoming the
first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree in the United
States, she said.
“I am aware that this journey is not
going to be easy, but I want to embrace every single opportunity and
challenge with all my heart and mind because I’m pretty sure that
all my efforts are going to be worthwhile,” Diaz wrote in her
Prior to coming
the U.S. in 2013, Ms. Diaz had completed three years of college in
San Salvador, where safety became an ongoing issue. She had to start
from scratch when she arrived in the U.S. Her
father immigrated to the U.S. alone, and after many years, he
obtained the permanent status for his family.
began by taking ESL classes at HCCC in preparation for her college
“It was hard to believe at the age of
20 years, I had to start from zero in a new, strange, and
intimidating environment,” she said.
Additionally, she had to support herself
financially for the first time, taking a job with a grueling schedule
in a fast-food restaurant to pay for her first semester at HCCC.
Balancing work and school while adjusting to a new life included
instances of failure and frustration, as well as encouragement and
achievement. She credits her HCCC instructors with assisting her,
boosting her confidence, and pushing her hard. The experience
Looking ahead, Ms. Diaz’s goals are to
continue to give back to the HCCC community through her part-time
tutoring work and to further her education. After graduating HCCC in
May, she plans to pursue a bachelor’s in Communications and Media
Arts at Rutgers University. She has a 3.8 GPA.
“What motivates me to get up every day,
leave the house when the sun rises, and get home when the sun goes
down is the contribution that I am going to be able to make with my
education, to the community where I grew up and this country that has
provided me with abundant opportunities,” Diaz added.
Now a U.S. Permanent resident, Diaz is a
global advocate for improving educational opportunities, especially
in areas where desire to learn is plentiful but resources are scarce.
She partnered with the nonprofit organization Sharing Joy, which gave
her access to its network, resources, and volunteers. Diaz collected
and delivered donations of school supplies for students at Chaguiton
Elementary School, located in a remote, mountainous region of El
“This experience has taught me that we
must not lose our human sense of commitment towards others and that
planting the seed of hope in our divided society is possible by
social actions,” Diaz wrote in her scholarship application.
Her volunteerism in the United States has
included bagging food for the
monthly Garden State Episcopal Community Development food pantry,
and cleaning and gardening for Friends of Liberty State Park.