Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Names Four Queensborough Students Semifinalists in Highly Competitive, Nationwide Scholarship

Published: March 19, 2024

On March 14, four Queensborough students were selected as semifinalists of the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The Foundation awards community college students who have shown exceptional academic ability, leadership, service, and a determination to complete their bachelor’s degrees at top four-year institutions.

The four students selected from Queensborough are:

Environmental Science major Anna Liu, a member of PTK and a first-generation student, is conducting undergraduate research in wastewater remediation with Dr. David Sarno, Deputy Chair and Associate Professor, Chemistry. Last week, she was accepted into the NSF (National Science Foundation) Research Experience for Undergraduates summer program at Binghamton University whose roster of prestigious researchers and mentors includes 2019 Nobel Prize winner Stan Whittingham.

At Queensborough, Anna is President of the Science Research Alliance Club, created to foster community amongst high achieving students interested in conducting research. Anna has been working hard on organizing resume workshops, connecting students with research opportunities and co-sponsoring events that have brought hiring managers from the corporation GlobalFoundries to campus. Anna will graduate from Queensborough this spring.

Dr. Emily Sohmer Tai, Professor of History and Member, PTK Advisory Committee
Lambda Sigma Chapter expressed her pride in each semi-finalist's achievements:

"Ms. Liu has been ingenious and determined in her pursuit of excellence in research to protect our environment. Her commitment as an emerging scientist is also a commitment to the future of our planet."

Yen Yi Shak is also a chemistry major and member of PTK who will graduate this spring. She too has conducted undergraduate research with Dr. Sarno and is President of the Biology Club. Yen Yi, originally from Malaysia, arrived in the U.S. in 2021. She will stay in the U.S. to pursue dentistry and will also treat people that can't afford dental care here.

"Ms. Shak has already been recognized as a promising young scientist by the New York Region of Phi Theta Kappa, which awarded her membership on this year's Coca-Cola All-American Regional Team.  Working with my colleagues in the Department of Chemistry, she has consistently demonstrated academic excellence."  

Shantal Amanda Edwards, a psychology major, aspires to earn her bachelor's degree in forensic psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She was a CUNY Research Scholars program (CRSP) scholar as of fall 2023 and conducts honors research on mental health and school shootings, cognitive development theory, body positivity in college students and through the (SIRP) Summer Intensive Research Program conducts research on the stigma of schizophrenia. Shantal, an immigrant from Jamaica, co-founded the Caribbean Student Coalition for students like herself, to help foster community and to encourage diversity, equity and inclusion.

"In addition to her academic achievements, Ms. Edwards has demonstrated outstanding qualities as a leader, and the areas of service and fellowship—all "hallmarks" for Phi Theta Kappa, the international Honor Society for two-year college students—as she's led Queensborough's Carribean Students Coalition and contributed to PTK's efforts on behalf of Queensborough's Lucille A Bova Food Pantry."

Melanie Jerez completed her studies in psychology at Queensborough in the fall of 2022. She started tutoring in the CUNY Math Start program at Queensborough in the summer of 2022 and finished in January 2024.

Melanie began a research project amid the pandemic with psychology professor Dr. Patrick Byers in the narrative forms and forms of truth and presented the scientific findings at the International Society of Theoretical Psychology (ISTP). Melanie also researched with Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Dr. Celia Sporer, on medical ethics.

Melanie was born and raised in the Dominican Republic where she attended vocational high school and completed a technical degree in nursing. After she graduated, she found work as an English as a Foreign Language teacher (EFL) and continued volunteering as a nurse. In 2017 Melanie moved to the U.S. to pursue her dream of a college education. She said that although she lives in the Bronx, she was sold on Queensborough’s beautiful campus, helpful staff and faculty and programs like ASAP. What really stood out to her, she said, is the diversity and inclusivity that Queensborough offers to the entire college community. 

Queensborough has a distinguished history of nominees—and winners—of the Cooke Transfer Scholarship. Awardees in 2015 were Daisy Proano and Silvia Salamone, and Kyle Chin-How, who each graduated with an Associate degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Chemistry student Biling Chen was a recipient in 2020 and Yueting Chen, a Liberal Arts and Sciences major, was the recipient of this transfer scholarship award in 2014.  

This year, the Foundation selected 459 semifinalists from a pool of more than 1,600 applicants, who attended 194 community colleges in 37 states, plus Washington, DC, and the Northern Mariana Islands. This comes at a time when only about a third of students starting in community colleges transfer to four-year schools, and only 16% earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to the Foundation.

Queensborough Community College is New York State’s highest-ranked community college and one of the best community colleges in the United States, according to a 2023 report released by WalletHub.com. It is the sixth year in a row Queensborough has been listed as a top institution of higher education by WalletHub for its education outcomes, career outcomes, and affordability. Queensborough was also ranked among the best community colleges in New York in 2024 by the on-line publication Intelligent, and number two in New York in 2024 by the on-line publication, Niche. 

These rankings reflect Queensborough’s commitment to develop students holistically in a nurturing and diverse environment that prepares them to be successful in a dynamic, global workforce.

The Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship is designed to create a clear pathway to a four-year degree by offering up to $55,000 per year along with academic advising and access to a network of peers offers unparalleled support to community college students. In addition to the generous financial support, selected Cooke Transfer Scholars will receive educational advising from the Foundation’s Deans of Scholar Support to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year school and preparing for their future endeavors. They will also have access to opportunities for internships, study abroad, graduate school funding, and the incomparable connection to a robust network of more than 3,000 fellow Cooke Scholars and Alumni.


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