Celebrate greatness

Schoolcraft College congratulates its two Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship Winners

By Kenneth Porter
Campus Life Editor

A university education is an expensive endeavor, and an unavoidable fact for parent and student alike. According to the College Board, in-state tuition and fees for public, four-year Michigan universities can cost an average of $11,600 per semester, and that sticker price is growing at more than two times the rate of inflation.

Only 75 students in the entire country are selected to receive this prestigious scholarship and Schoolcraft is the fortunate home of two of those students. The cost of an education is no longer an issue for Schoolcraft students Jonathon Kris and Maria Robles, winners of the 2014 Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Kris and Robles’ academic achievement has granted them a $30,000 yearly scholarship from the Foundation that will help them attend the university of their dreams.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent organization that focuses on supporting college students that need an extra financial “push” to get a university education. The Foundation was started by Jack Cooke, a self-made millionaire, entrepreneur, and former owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings, and Washington Redskins sports teams. Cooke was a hard worker throughout his 84 years of life and had a strong belief in education. After his death in 1997, Cooke’s considerable fortune was donated towards supporting aspiring college students, and the Foundation that bears his name was formed with this sole purpose in mind.

Today, the Foundation offers four different scholarships aimed at providing financial assistance to bright, but financially needy, students at the high school, community college, and university levels.

“The JKCF offers the largest transfer scholarship award in the United States,” says Laurie Kattuah-Snyder, Schoolcraft College Associate Dean of Advising and Partnerships. “Because of the amount of money the scholarship offers, the program can be very competitive and the application process is pretty grueling.”

Applicants must maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher, demonstrate financial need, and show a dedication to community service and leadership. Fortunately, Kris and Robles fulfilled these requirements perfectly. The pair had always dreamed of a university education, but a year ago figuring out exactly how they would get there posed more questions than answers.

“Multiple people first brought the scholarship to my attention,” said Jonathan Kris, thinking back to the early days. “Searching for a way to get through school is hard. The Scholars Honors program played a big role in encouraging me to apply.”

“I found out about the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship through the Honors Program as well,” said Maria Robles. “I heard about the scholarship and all its components around the beginning of 2013-2014 academic year and was instantly interested.”

Winning the scholarship started out as a pipe dream for Robles and Kris, but things started coming into better focus after they had made it through the first round of the selection process. Their dream began to look more like reality.

“I was sitting in my Statistics night class when I received notification that I had become a semi-finalist via email and was overtaken with joy,” continued Robles. “I remember texting family and friends and not being able to fully concentrate on the rest of the lecture. I was so excited!”

“After both getting through the first round, Maria and I half-jokingly talked of the possibility of both of us winning,” said Jonathon. “But we knew how astronomically unlikely that would be. For even one of us to win would be a miracle, let alone both!”

After making it through the first round of selection, Kris and Robles had to jump back into the application process, and this round was even more hectic than the first. The pair had to create detailed applications, financial statements, and personal essays that demonstrated their academic success and dedication to the community.

“The second phase was the most difficult part of the whole process,” continued Kattuah-Snyder. “During Phase 2, myself and many other faculty and staff worked closely with the applicants on their essays, letters of reference, and financial documents. Our students needed quite a bit of guidance and support.”

“I spent a tremendous amount of time contemplating how I could answer the essay questions,” said Kris. “I know that both Maria and I sent our essays to multiple people for constructive criticism, and did a significant amount of revision.”

The toil of preparing an application while simultaneously maintaining strong grades and keeping up with prior responsibilities was no easy task. Fortunately, Robles and Kris’ families were instrumental in helping them succeed.

“My family had to deal with me for many months as I balanced academics, employment, volunteering and the JKC application,” Robles continued, thinking back on the stressful months of waiting. “They counteracted my frustration and stress with love and understanding. They brought light and laughter into my life, especially during the times I felt too overwhelmed to continue with the process. They inspired me to keep going.”

All those months of hard work and focus paid off in the end. Robles and Kris learned that they had been selected for the Scholarship in April, and they could barely contain their excitement.

“Although ineffable, my feelings would be best described as a mixture of shock, relief, exhilaration, paralysis, and ecstasy,” continued Kris. “The news has yet to fully sink in and my head is still in the clouds. I must in all sincerity thank God, my family, my friends, and all of Schoolcraft for their help.”

Now, thanks to the Foundation, Jonathon and Maria are able to go after the university education that they have always dreamed of.

“I plan on attending the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor this fall to study philosophy and theology,” says Kris. “I intend to earn a doctorate in philosophy and gain a professorship somewhere so I can influence the lives of students in meaningful ways.”

“Right now I’m deciding between the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Wayne State University, Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University,” Robles said. “For my undergraduate degree, I’ll most likely go with a Bachelor’s in Public Affairs, Public Health Studies, or Human Health, Biology and Society. My ultimate goal is to serve as the physician to the President of the United States or as the Cabinet Member for the department of Health and Human Services.”

But whatever decisions the pair make, they hope to be successful in their future endeavors. Both plan to use the scholarship money to help the local community, and that is an admirable goal.

“I’m absolutely overwhelmed and so proud of Jon and Maria!” Kattuah-Snyder said. “I know they both will go on to do wonderful things in their education and career.”

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