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GRCC graduate Tara Huskey earns $55,000 annual Jack Kent Cooke Foundation transfer scholarship

June 3, 2024

As a first-generation, low-income college student, Tara Huskey never wanted the cost of an education to burden her family.

That’s not a worry any longer.

Huskey, who graduated in April from Grand Rapids Community College, is one of only 60 students nationwide selected to receive up to $55,000 annually to complete her bachelor’s degree through the 2024 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. 

The highly competitive scholarship aims for Cooke Scholars to complete their undergraduate education with as little debt as possible. It’s a dream come true for Huskey.

“The whole money thing for college was always my battle to face,” she said. “This scholarship has honestly changed my life.”

The 20-year-old will begin classes this fall at the University of West Florida where she will continue her education in hopes of becoming an athletic trainer for a professional sports team. 

“I chose exercise science as a career to learn how to keep myself and my family healthy, but also to improve the lives of other people physically and mentally,” she said.

The scholarship covers tuition, on-campus room and board, books and fees to complete her bachelor’s degree.

Huskey enrolled at GRCC after graduating from Wayland Union High School in 2022. She chose GRCC for its affordability and convenience — but discovered so much more.

“GRCC has a lot of really good opportunities to offer students and I really wanted to make the most of my education here,” she said. 

While pursuing an associate degree in exercise science, Huskey was actively involved in GRCC’s Honors Program, the president and founder of the Fitness Club student organization, and served as a Biology tutor in Academic Support and Tutoring Services. She also participated in a seven-week summer research program through a GRCC partnership with Michigan Technological University.

While the Fitness Club she founded is newer to campus, it has created a safe space for students to come together and have conversations and activities that promote the mental and physical well-being of all members.

During her time at GRCC, she also planned and executed a variety of events focused on physical education for the student body. She coordinated speakers and worked with the Student Life office to host a pet therapy event during finals week.

GRCC TRIO Academic Advisor Evan Macklin recommended Huskey for the Cooke scholarship because she embodies the same values that serve as pillars of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation: care and community.

“Her goal and mission for serving others has always been at the forefront of the work she chooses to lead and engage in,” Macklin said. “This is quite an honor.”

This year’s Cooke Scholars competition drew nearly 1,700 applications from more than 380 community colleges.

Huskey is the fourth GRCC student to win the Cooke Foundation scholarship. Previous GRCC recipients were Daniel Gebrezgiabhier, Deidre Mitchell and Gideon Kortenhoven.

“Our scholarship is one way we aim to ensure that high-achieving (community college) students have the opportunity to complete their degree where they want, regardless of their financial background,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

The Cooke scholarship will allow Huskey the freedom to concentrate on classes, clubs and extracurricular activities without fear of incurring massive debt from out-of-state tuition.

“That means I also won’t have to worry about paying off my undergraduate degree while getting my master’s,” she said.

Huskey said she’s still shocked to receive the scholarship and is grateful to GRCC for helping her on her educational journey.

“I’m very blessed,” she said.

This story was reported by Beth McKenna.