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April 13, 2023
April 13, 2023, Jersey City, NJ – Pursuing a college degree is a major undertaking for anyone, and it’s even more challenging when you are working through college. But that’s exactly what Hudson County Community College’s Michael Salinas is doing: working not one, but two jobs while completing his associate degree at HCCC.
Michael hasn’t let working two jobs, as both a cook and a delivery driver, slow down his pursuit of academic excellence. He was recently named one of just 459 semifinalists nationwide for the prestigious and highly competitive Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Over 1,700 students representing 215 community colleges and 38 states applied for the award. Michael says that winning the scholarship would be a gamechanger for him: “I will not have to worry about taking out loans for my bachelor's degree, which will lift the financial burden off of my shoulders and allow me to focus solely on my courses. It would also mean that pursuing my master’s degree would be more attainable because of the additional help that the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation provides for Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholars.”
Michael is a Computer Science major from Jersey City. He will graduate from HCCC this May with an A.S. in Computer Science and a 3.69 GPA. He is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, the HCCC Tri-Alpha Honor Society, the HCCC Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and the HCCC Honors Program. He is also a Dean’s List student, an Educational Opportunity Fund Scholar, a Senator in the HCCC Student Government Association, and the Secretary for the Northern New Jersey Bridges to Baccalaureate (B2B) program.
This first-generation college student credits HCCC’s staff and his fellow students as being “instrumental” to his accomplishments so far. He is especially thankful to the EOF staff and his counselor, Ms. Tejal Parekh, who he says pushed him to keep striving for greatness and not to let impostor syndrome hold him back. Michael also enjoys taking on leadership roles within the many clubs and organizations that HCCC offers.
Michael has been accepted for baccalaureate study by Drew University, Saint Peter’s University and Rutgers University. He is waiting to hear back from Princeton University and the Stevens Institute of Technology. He will continue studying computer science and eventually plans to obtain a masters degree in cybersecurity. Wherever he chooses to go next, Michael’s future looks bright.
Michael is one of six HCCC students that were named 2023 semifinalists for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, the most in the college’s history and one of the largest community college contingents nationwide. Joining Michael as 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; and Birva Pinto, Engineering Science major from Jersey City.
HCCC President, Dr. Christopher Reber, said “The entire HCCC community joins me in congratulating Raida, Sally, Ella, Montaha, Birva, and Michael on achieving semifinalist status for this esteemed scholarship. 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.”
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 are unable to do so because of the prohibitive cost of continuing their education.
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 Scholarships. 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.