An unprecedented three MiraCosta College students, Omer Azizi, Farshud Sorourifar and Vanessa “Van” Reynolds, have been awarded the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship to cover the final two or three years necessary to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Not to exceed $40,000 annually, the scholarship will pay the student’s educational expenses including tuition, living expenses, books and required fees. As the largest private scholarship for two-year and community college transfer students in the country, this year out of 600 semi-finalists, only 55 recipients were selected. MiraCosta College has had only two other recipients in the award’s 16-year history: in 2012, Jamie Cook transferred to UC Riverside and in 2014, Travis Williamson went on to Columbia University.
Out of thousands of applicants nationwide, Azizi, Sorourifar and Reynolds were selected based on a focus on exceptional academic ability and achievements, financial need, persistence, leadership, and a desire to help others.
As recipients of the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, Azizi, Sorourifar and Reynolds will have the opportunity to apply for the Graduate Scholarship, equating to $50,000 toward educational costs to pursue a graduate degree.
Omer Azizi is a native Afghani whose family fled to Pakistan before emigrating to America when Omer was 21. He enrolled at MiraCosta College and has been excelling since, earning a number of awards, including the Rosemary and Lou Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship from the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. He has been just as active in the community, picking up recently arrived refugees from the airport, finding them housing and jobs, driving their children to school, parents to doctor visits, and taking them shopping for food. Omer was selected for the All California Academic Team, and received two MiraCosta Scholarships: the Community Learning Center Transition Endowed Scholarship and the Theresia Heyden Scholarship.
In April, he will be honored with a President’s Volunteer Service Award for contributing more than 500 hours of volunteer work in 2016/17. Azizi’s next stop: USC for a bachelor’s degree in business administration and sociology.
“If you ask me what I want to be, I want to be the Secretary General of the United Nations. I want to head the UN High Commission on Refugees. I want to run the International Rescue Committee. But whatever I do, my focus will always be on education. My mission in life is to empower children to escape war and poverty through education. Education is the key. Technology is the answer.”
Farshud Sorourifar thought his life would always revolve around cars. “Once I started working in the automotive field I realized it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be,” said Sorourifar. “It just wasn’t as much fun fixing cars, as learning about them.”
Sorourifar decided to go back to school to discover his true passion and found MiraCosta College. In 2013, he began pre-engineering courses to satisfy his goal of someday making a big impact in the world through alternative energy technology.
“After doing more research, I found out the biggest breakthroughs in that field are coming from chemical engineering departments from all the top universities,” said Sorourifar. “So, I’ve focused on chemical engineering. It’s been great.”
Sorourifar balances academics (he has near a 4.0 GPA) with other endeavors including serving as the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) president, working as a tutor at the Math Learning Center and an Honors Scholar Program navigator. Sorourifar also received these MiraCosta scholarships: the Theresia Heyden Scholarship, the Mort and Agatha Winski (renewable) Scholarships, the Joshua Kerrigan Osher (renewable) Scholarships, and the Henry R. Antonini Scholarship.
Pending his acceptance to UC Berkeley, Sorourifar will be pursuing his studies in the field of engineering.
Vanessa “Van” Reynolds, first in her family to graduate high school and attend college, was attracted to MiraCosta College in 2014 for the “prestige of the campus. MiraCosta is known as one of best community colleges in the country.” However, proximity to her home and ocean didn’t hurt either.
Reynolds excels not only in the classroom earning academic distinctions like being on the President’s Permanent Honor Roll and a 4.0 grade point average, but is active with community organizations like North County LGBTQ Resource Center, California Coastal Commission and Habitat for Humanity International. MiraCosta scholarships received: the Mort and Agatha Winski (renewable) Scholarships, the Osher Initiative for California Community College Students (renewable) Scholarships, the GSA Scholarship, the California Coast Credit Union Service Learning Scholarship, and the 2017 MiraCosta Academic Medal of Honor.
In August 2016, Reynolds was selected to participate in a college fellowship focusing on ways to increase access for LGBTQIA+ students in the STEM majors. First, creating a problem statement, she conducted a root cause analysis, implemented surveys, identified best practices and presented a project proposal.
“I received so much support from the GSA Club,” said Reynolds. “The GSA Club allowed me to grow and explore my identity as a queer woman, provided a platform for me to help and inspire others, and for me to get other members of the LGBTQIA+ community involved in leadership positions.”
Reynolds plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree in international business followed by a dual degree in Master of Business Administration and Juris Doctor from Stanford University. Upon the completion of her education, she aspires to work in international corporate law between the United States and France as well as other French speaking countries.
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Because they believe that high-potential, low-income students will excel educationally when given the resources to develop their talents, the foundation supports exceptional students from elementary school to graduate school through scholarships, grants, direct service, and knowledge creation and dissemination. Founded in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, the foundation has awarded $120 million for over 2,000 scholarships and $76 million in grants to organizations that support its mission. www.jkcf.org