The one who did it all

Alumna and Jack Kent Cooke Scholar Maria Robles shares experiences on following her dreams


Kathryn Wenske, Editor-in-Chief

For those who know about the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, it is a hard competition to win. Only the students who have some grit and are proactive receive the benefits despite hundreds applying.

 “It’s important to know that this is a very competitive scholarship. Of the thousands of students who apply each year, under 100 students are selected,” said Chief Student Services Officer Laurie Kattuah-Snyder. But, one student in particular did not let this discourage her.

A Jack Kent Cooke Scholar and Schoolcraft alumna, Maria Cielito Robles who is on her way to becoming a Physician Assistant recently received her white coat from Michigan State University. She received recognition from Good Morning America for her achievements and remarkable story, bringing out proudness from the Schoolcraft College and faculty/staff who supported Robles through her academics. 

From the moment I met her, Maria demonstrated that she is a focused and determined woman. Even as a college freshman, Maria knew that in order to be the doctor she envisioned herself to be, she would also have to be educated in public policy. Clearly, her vision for the future is not simply to achieve a goal for herself, but to be a catalyst for more affordable health care. This was her goal as a college freshman, and it remains her goal today,” said Communications Arts Professor Deborah Taracuk.

Robles’ story begins in the Philippines, where she is originally from and noted to have lived under impoverished conditions. When she was eight years old, her mother was recruited as a nurse to Michigan and had the ability to petition for her family to move to the U.S. as well. 

During her time at Schoolcraft, she devoted her extracurricular hours to the Food Pantry at the Radcliff Center. Through her own struggles with poverty, food security and serving others became a top priority and how she made change on campus. 

A student who had also experienced food insecurity and became very recently homeless was struggling with their class. They almost failed at their second attempt and admitted that if they did not pass this class, they would be ‘done with college.’ 

Thanks to the tone that Maria had set and her positive outlook in spite of her challenges, that student, and the entire class, did a stellar job on their projects. More importantly, they learned they could overcome their own challenges with poverty and food insecurity,” said Taracuk. 

Through this passion of wanting to help others, Robles always wanted to pursue a career as a doctor, but lost that hope due to her undergraduate course load. She explored other career fields, but discovered that medicine is what she truly wanted to go into. With the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, which aided her financially, she was able to further pursue her education at Michigan State. This is the largest undergraduate, private scholarship in the United States, and worth up to $55,000 per year. Funds can be used for tuition, books and other fees and expenses at any accredited four-year institution. 

Not only is receiving a white coat momentous for any new grad, but through all obstacles she accomplished her dream. It was even more special for Robles as Michigan State allows for ‘special coater’ requests and her brother, who is a Physician Assistant and shared the same journey, was able to coat her at her graduation. 

“​​For me to finally get there to that white coat ceremony, which symbolizes the beginning of your medical training, was just such a special moment because for me it symbolizes not giving up, even though for many years I had a lot of doubts and insecurities of whether I would still be able to pursue this dream,” said Robles.

While pursuing her study in medicine, Robles simultaneously also pursued a career in the military. As a commissioned officer and recipient of the Navy’s Health Professional Scholarship Program, it then covered her medical education in exchange for service.

Robles has now been completing her clinicals and testing, stepping further into career. All of her obstacles do not compete with the deep desire she has to live a life greater than herself and be in a profession that allows her to help people, as well as give back to the country who has given her and her family “endless opportunities” through military medicine. 

Quotes and photos of Robles are sourced from