Antioch High grad, Pittsburg native and Brentwood college student in running for scholarship

One of seven Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s 459 semifinalists from Contra Costa County for highly competitive undergraduate transfer scholarship

Other college scholarship programs offered for middle, high school students

By Julia Florence

Lansdowne, Virginia – On March 9, 2023, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced 459 semifinalists for the highly competitive Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Brentwood resident Ryan Mattson, in his last semester at Sacramento City College and was selected as the only representative of the Los Rios Community College District to be named a semifinalist.

The native who grew up in Pittsburg, CA and is a 2006 graduate of Antioch High School is one of seven semifinalists in Contra Costa County. The six other community college students named semifinalists are Eliette Bustos Barocio and Hosna Ramzi from Los Medanos College and Ivan Hernandez, Jessica Kim, Karla Morales De Leon and Mayari Lanz Amezcua from Diablo Valley College.

The Foundation awards community college students who have demonstrated exceptional academic ability, leadership, service and a determination to complete their bachelor’s degrees at top four-year institutions.

“I was accepted into Columbia University in New York City and await confirmation or denial from Stanford, Yale and UC Berkeley,” Mattson shared.

He plans to study political science and history but has not finalized his major at Columbia.

Mattson has worked in the trades, specifically automotive repair and maintenance at Winter Chevrolet in Pittsburg and has a 15-year-old son who attends Liberty High in Brentwood.

“I believe the reason for my singularity comes from students not being informed of this scholarship opportunity,” he said. “If the community knew age did not matter and scholarships were available to the determined, I believe our community would garner not only the nation’s best minds but also the most driven individuals.”

This year’s semifinalists were chosen from a pool of more than 1,700 applicants and attend 215 community colleges in 38 states. Some of the latest research from the American Talent Initiative estimates that roughly 50,000 high-achieving students from low income backgrounds could transfer to four-year colleges each year but don’t, often due to cost. The 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.

“By lifting the financial burden of pursuing a four-year degree off their shoulders, our goal is to help students take full advantage of a four-year college experience without taking on student debt,” said Seppy Basili, Executive Director of the Cooke Foundation. “This year’s selected semifinalists reflect the deep bench of talent across our community colleges today, and we’re looking forward to getting to know them better in our final application review process.”

The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship 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.

According to the foundation’s website, scholarship recipients earned a 3.92 average community college GPA, 70% participated in an honors program or pursued honors coursework and 67% held a leadership role in a club or activity. They will be announced in April.

A list of this year’s Cooke Transfer Scholar semifinalists, their respective community colleges and hometowns can be viewed here. To learn more about the Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, visit the website here.

Named for and Funded by Canadian-American Businessman

According to Wikipedia, “Jack Kent Cooke was a Canadian-American businessman in broadcasting and professional sports. Starting in sales, Cooke was very successful, eventually becoming a partner in a network of radio stations and newspapers in Canada. Cooke moved to the United States and built a business empire in broadcasting and professional sports franchises. Cooke was the owner of the Washington Redskins (NFL), the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA), the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), the Los Angeles Wolves (United Soccer) and Toronto Maple Leafs (IL minor league baseball team). He also developed The Forum in Inglewood, California, and FedExField (named Jack Kent Cooke Stadium when it opened, months after his death) near Landover, Maryland.”

According to the foundation’s website, Cooke was born in Canada in 1912. “As a young man, he was an athlete and musician, with a love for ice hockey, the saxophone, and the clarinet. He dreamed of pursuing a formal education, but that dream was cut short when he left high school during the Great Depression to work full time to help support his family. Nonetheless, Mr. Cooke believed education was a life-long pursuit. He was a passionate student his entire life and was knowledgeable in fields as diverse as literature, music, sports, and architecture. When he died in 1997, Mr. Cooke left the bulk of his fortune to establish the Cooke Foundation and provide remarkable students with the chance to soar.”

More Scholarship Programs for Middle, High School Students

The foundation also offers three other scholarship opportunities. The Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program is the largest undergraduate scholarship program available to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who seek to attend the nation’s best four-year colleges and universities. The high school seniors will receive up to $55,000 per year for up to four years to complete a bachelor’s degree. They will also be eligible to apply for the Cooke Graduate Scholarship after graduating with their bachelor’s degree, which is worth up to $150,000.

The Cooke College Scholarship Program is available to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who seek to attend and graduate from the nation’s best four-year colleges and universities.

This year’s 45 recipients entered the Cooke Young Scholars Program as 8th graders in 2019. As a cohort, they have attended two residential summer programs together. During the summer before 8th grade, Young Scholars spent three weeks at the University of Pennsylvania exploring social and political issues through project-based service-learning and academic study. This past summer, Scholars took part in an inquiry‐based enrichment experience at the University of Connecticut, participating in experiential research projects.

The Cooke Young Scholars Program is a selective five-year, pre-college scholarship for high-performing 7th grade students with financial need. It provides comprehensive academic and college advising, as well as financial support for school, Cooke-sponsored summer programs, internships, and other learning enrichment opportunities.

Allen D. Payton contributed to this report. 

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