Hudson County Community College’s Birva Pinto One of Six HCCC Students Named Semifinalists for the 2023 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

April 20, 2023

Birva Pinto

HCCC Student Birva Pinto, a 2023 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Semifinalist.

April 20, 2023, Jersey City, NJ – The start of one’s college career is a major adjustment for any student. It’s an even bigger adjustment when you are new to the country and don’t yet speak the language. That’s exactly where Hudson County Community College’s Birva Pinto found herself just a few years ago after relocating to New Jersey from her home country of Angola in 2019.

Birva faced many challenges upon her arrival. Her only relative (and contact in the U.S.) had to move out of the state immediately after her arrival. She had to find a place to live immediately after arriving in her new country, despite not speaking the language, and relied on using Google Translate on her phone to communicate with others and navigate through these challenges.

At one point, Birva felt like giving up, but she remembered her father’s advice to always keep fighting for your dream, no matter what. Birva persevered through the challenges and not only survived but thrived at HCCC, making the Dean’s List by earning a 3.82 GPA, becoming a member of HCCC’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and the National Society of Leadership and Success, where she has served as Vice President since 2022.

Birva is the founder of HCCC’s ESL Club, an organization she started because she wanted to help other students like herself who were learning English for the first time while attending HCCC. Birva started the club after seeing an ESL student struggling to connect at an orientation event, stating that she didn’t want fellow ESL speakers to feel oppressed or isolated. The 40+ member organization provides opportunities for students to practice and improve their English language skills with other students as well as professors.

Birva will graduate in May, but she will never forget her time at HCCC. While it was difficult to leave her home and family in Angola to come to the United States in pursuit of a college education, she feels like she gained a new family at HCCC. She credits HCCC President Dr. Chris Reber, Assistant Dean Veronica Gerosimo, Professor Theodore Lai, Professor Ruth Cesar, and Professor Wendy Trach for encouraging her to pursue her dreams. She also credits her fiancé, Domingos Martinho, for his support and encouragement.  As an alumna, Birva plans to remain involved at HCCC and continue supporting ESL students. She says that her time at HCCC taught her that no matter where you are, you can thrive.

After graduating from HCCC, Birva wants to pursue a degree and career in biomedical engineering, which has been her dream from a young age. Birva was born with myopia and wants to use her education and knowledge to help others with this condition. Columbia University is her dream school and Cornell University, Rutgers University, and Stevens Institute of Technology are also all high on her list. A Bachelor’s degree from one of these institutions won’t be the end of Birva’s academic journey, as she plans to pursue a Ph.D. afterwards.

Birva is one of a record-high six HCCC students named 2023 semifinalists for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Joining Birva as semifinalists from HCCC 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 Michael Salinas, Computer 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 later 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.