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Six GRCC students named semifinalists for prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation national transfer scholarship

March 19, 2020 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Grand Rapids Community College students account for nearly half of Michigan’s 2021 semifinalists for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s highly competitive undergraduate transfer scholarship.

The Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship provides recipients up to $40,000 annually for up to three years, comprehensive educational advising, and the chance to connect with their fellow Cooke Scholars. It is among the largest private awards in the nation for students transferring from a community college.

The foundation announced 406 semifinalists late last month, selected from more than 1,500 applications that represent 398 community colleges. 

Michigan had 15 students reach the semifinalist level, including six from GRCC:

  • Cayden Beardslee.
  • Destiny Carrera.
  • Nicholas Cetlinski.
  • Gideon Kortenhoven.
  • Deidre Mitchell.
  • Paulo Zepeda.

“I am extremely proud to not just see GRCC students named semifinalists, but to see so many achieve this honor during a very challenging time for them and for our community,” GRCC President Bill Pink. “This is also a reflection of the faculty and staff who were determined to help students be successful, overcoming the obstacles all of us faced.” 

Beardslee was recently accepted to the University of Michigan and plans to study business law. He credits GRCC with helping him develop confidence and leadership skills.

“I always envisioned myself just going to a big university after high school,” he said. “I never expected I would ultimately choose a community college first. Unequivocally, this was the best decision I have ever made.”

Carrera has applied to both Grand Valley State and Michigan State universities with plans to become a physician’s assistant.

“GRCC has helped me better prepare myself for new challenges,” she said, adding that she found the tutors and academic advisors especially helpful.

The foundation will announce the recipients in April. GRCC student Daniel Gebrezgiabhier received the scholarship in 2015. He is now pursuing a doctorate in biomedical engineering at the University of California-Berkley.

“The research is clear: Our community colleges are full of talented students with a diversity of experiences that contribute to their educational journey,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “We see this in our applicant pool every year and are excited to recognize this group of semifinalists for their academic achievements. 

“We are especially impressed with the incredible perseverance and drive these students have exhibited during such an unprecedented year.”

Grand Rapids Community College offers learners of all ages opportunities to gain credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills leading to rewarding careers. GRCC was established in 1914 – Michigan’s first community college -- and offers affordable classes on weekdays, evenings, Saturdays and online at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.


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