Six Hudson County Community College Students Named Semifinalists for 2023 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

March 27, 2023

March 27, 2023, Jersey City, NJ – Hudson County Community College (HCCC) is proud to announce that six outstanding HCCC students were selected as semifinalists by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for the prestigious and highly competitive Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. 

The HCCC semifinalists are Raida Al Hattab, Computer Science major from Secaucus; Sally Elwir, Criminal Justice major from Bloomfield; Ella Mukasa, Business Administration major from Jersey City; Montaha Osman, Engineering Science major from Garfield; Birva Pinto, Engineering Science major from Jersey City; and Michael Salinas, Computer Science major from Jersey City. This represents a record number of Cooke semifinalists in a single year in the college’s history, and one of the largest cohorts of semifinalists in the nation.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is awarded to community college students across the nation who have demonstrated exceptional academic ability, leadership, service, and a determination to complete their bachelor's degrees at prestigious four-year institutions. The HCCC students are among 459 semifinalists chosen from over 1,700 applicants who attend 215 community colleges across 38 states.


Pictured clockwise from top left: Birva Pinto, Raida Al Hattab, Michael Salinas, Montaha Osman, Sally Elwir, and Ella Mukasa.

Pictured clockwise from top left: Birva Pinto, Raida Al Hattab, Michael Salinas, Montaha Osman, Sally Elwir, and Ella Mukasa.

“The entire HCCC community joins me in congratulating Raida, Sally, Ella, Montaha, Birva, and Michael on achieving semifinalist status for this esteemed scholarship,” stated HCCC President Dr. Christopher Reber. “This is a great honor for them and for the College. We are very proud that their leadership, extraordinary academic achievements, and community service have been recognized nationally. We wish them all the best as they progress in this process. This award is a game changer for the students who receive it, as it paves the way for them to achieve a four-year education that otherwise would come with a significant financial burden.”

These semifinalists from HCCC have overcome many daunting obstacles to get to this point, ranging from working as a cook and delivery driver while completing their degree at HCCC to starting their college career as an ESL student without English language skills and needing to find housing during their first week in the United States.  

The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is designed to create a clear pathway to a four-year degree by offering up to $55,000 per year for baccalaureate study along with other benefits including academic advising and access to a network of peers. Some of the latest research from the American Talent Initiative estimates that, annually, about 50,000 high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds, who could transfer to four-year colleges, often do not because of the prohibitive cost of continuing their education. 

“By lifting the financial burden of pursuing a four-year degree off their shoulders, our goal is to help students take full advantage of a four-year college experience without taking on student debt,” said Seppy Basili, Executive Director of the Cooke Foundation. “This year’s selected semifinalists reflect the deep bench of talent across our community colleges today, and we’re looking forward to getting to know them better in our final application review process.” 

The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship offers unparalleled support to community college students. In addition to the generous financial support, selected Cooke Transfer Scholars will receive educational advising from the Foundation’s Deans of Scholar Support to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year school and preparing for their future endeavors. They will also have access to opportunities for internships, study abroad, graduate school funding, and the incomparable connection to a robust network of more than 3,000 fellow Cooke Scholars and alumni. The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship recipients will be announced in April.

Hudson County Community College has a distinguished track record when it comes to the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Past award recipients include 2021 Valedictorian Pedro Moranchel, now a student at Princeton University; Abdellah Amrhar in 2020, now attending Columbia University; and Sarra Hayoune in 2019, who completed her Bachelor of Science degree from Stevens Institute of Technology. Sarra then went on to receive the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Transfer Scholarship and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy at Rutgers University.