Hudson County Community College Student Cledys Diaz Named Coca-Cola Academic Team Bronze Winner

March 28, 2018

Ms. Diaz, a Salvadorian immigrant, will be recognized in local and state ceremonies, and internationally at PTK April convention in Kansas City.


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 scholarship application.

Prior to coming to 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. She began by taking ESL classes at HCCC in preparation for her college major courses.

“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 transformed her.

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 Salvador.

“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.