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Once troubled teen receives scholarship worth $30,000 per year
Jamie Cook’s story is an all too familiar one. A troubled teen from a divorced family, Cook struggled in school, fell into the wrong crowd and battled with poverty, at times not even having enough money for food. What makes Cook’s story different is her incredible 180, which has led her to academic success at
as well as to one of the most prestigious and sought after scholarships in the nation—the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, worth up $30,000 a year.
While she cannot say she had a horrible childhood, Cook can say she did not grow-up in a typical and well-structured household. Originally from La Verne, California, Cook’s parents divorced when she was four-years old, and with the lack of structure in the household, she soon fell behind in her classes, continually disrespected her parents and associated with people who used drugs. As a teen, Cook dove into drugs and alcohol herself, eventually leading her to trouble with the law.
“I became a lost and out-of-control teenager,” Cook says.
When she turned 19, Cook realized she did not want to go down the same path as her friends and so she quit using drugs and alcohol. “I realized that I had to get out of that lifestyle as soon as possible.” Soon after, her father committed suicide and the devastating loss pushed her to find purpose in own life.
“In an attempt to overcome my own depression, I enrolled in college,” she says. “But in my decision to go to college and further my education, I left behind the comforts of home, free rent and food.”
Cook found herself struggling to make ends meet. At the time, none of the three community colleges she attended offered special assistance for lower-income students, and so Cook had to work two jobs just to feed herself and keep a roof over her head.
In 2010, Cook enrolled at MiraCosta College where she remained a full-time student until her graduation in spring of 2012. A
, she worked as a tutor in the campus’ Writing Center and took advantage of the college’s food pantry, as well as other students services. Despite her busy schedule, Cook maintained a 3.897 GPA.
In addition to excelling in her classes, Cook also took part in various organizations such as the
MiraCosta College Gay Straight Alliance Club (GSA)
, North County Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, and the
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
, where she shared her story to strangers about the loss of her father and helped raise more than $500 for vital research, education programs for suicide prevention and mental health awareness, and assistance for survivors of suicide loss.
During her search for more ways to fund her education and her personal expenses, Cook applied for the Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship that no MiraCosta College student has ever before received. In the process of completing the application, MiraCosta College Financial Aid and Scholarship Specialist Diane Danielewicz learned of Cook’s life experiences and struggles.
“Jamie and I worked closely together when she applied for the scholarship,” says Danielewicz. “The application process is very detailed and students have to submit personal essays about themselves. It was then I became aware of the experiences and life struggles Jamie overcame to be where she is today. I was impressed with her openness.”
In late April 2012, Cook received the news that she is one of only 60 students nationwide to be awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, and would receive as much as $30,000 per year for up to three years while working toward a bachelor’s degree. For Cook, the scholarship is about much more than money.
“It means that someone, somewhere out there, wanted to hugely invest in my education because they believe in me,” she says. “It meant that the goals I have, the academic path and career that I want to pursue, are important enough for the JKC Foundation to think, ‘Hey, we need to help this girl go far because she will be important in this world.’ That in itself, without the money, is enough of a push to crave success no matter how financially possible it is or not.”
Cook will now finish her undergraduate studies from University of California, Riverside, and she hopes to one day acquire a doctorate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. With the JKC Scholarship, Cook can finally concentrate solely on college and get more involved with school activities, internships and volunteering, all without having to worry about making ends meet and having financial stress and loan repayment after finishing her undergraduate studies.
Reflecting back on her journey, she accredits much of her success to her experience at MiraCosta College.
“I have so many good things to say about MiraCosta College. I have never heard or seen anything close to what MiraCosta College offers. First, there’s free tutoring, which is awesome! Second, Student Health Services literally became my new doctor's office. Without insurance, I was able to get the medical attention and counseling I needed at an extremely low (if any) cost. Third, MiraCosta College offered me food from the food pantry provided by Service Learning, which held me over for a few weeks when I did not have enough money for food. The Extended Opportunity Programs and Services helped pay for my textbooks, while Financial Aid helped me pay for my classes. Lastly, the scholarship office helped me receive several scholarships.”
In addition, Cook sincerely thanks each professor she has encountered at MiraCosta College. “The faculty and staff are an incredible aspect of MiraCosta College. Every single professor I had was wonderful, passionate, informative and helpful. Two of my professors, Jim Sullivan and Lisa Fast, were my mentors throughout my two years at MiraCosta College, and are people I hope to stay in contact with forever. These professors, and many others, gave me confidence, taught me to love learning, and molded me into a responsible and educated young adult.”
Cook admits it was a very difficult road to get to the place where she is now, but she always believed. “The hardest thing to do is believe in yourself, but once you can do that, others will believe in you too. That's when everything you work so hard for begins to take shape and present itself. Work hard, focus on what you want, never be afraid to ask for help, and dream big. If I can do it, so can you.”
To schedule an interview with Cook, please contact Cheryl Broom at email@example.com or 760.795.6612.
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