Georgia State University’s Perimeter College ranks fifth in the nation this year for the number of semifinalists named for the national Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The 12 Perimeter College semifinalists represent the majority of semifinalists from Georgia, and their number sets a record for the college. The Jack Kent Cooke selection committee chose 456 semifinalists from nearly 1,500 applicants attending 311 community colleges. We are featuring each of Perimeter’s semifinalists in articles on our News Hub. Below, we introduce you to one of them.
By Kysa Anderson Daniels
Photo by Bill Roa
Esther Hyacinth developed the habit of saving money when she was 5 years old. She’d put away birthday money, Christmas money and small amounts of cash given to her from her mom, aunts and uncles.
“Whatever I had,” Hyacinth recalled.
Hyacinth’s early experiences with finances were fostered by her parents, who opened banking accounts for each of their five children as they were growing up on the Caribbean island country of Dominica. In high school, Hyacinth began earmarking her savings to pay for college because scholarships were highly competitive in Dominica.
Her determination paid off. At 25, Hyacinth is a graduate of Perimeter College and a semifinalist for the national Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.
“I was completely surprised,” Hyacinth, soft-spoken and the youngest of her siblings, said of receiving the honor.
The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is a selective scholarship for the nation’s top community (two-year) college students seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year institutions. It provides recipients up to $40,000 per year for up to three years, placing it among the largest private scholarships in the country for community college transfer students.
Hyacinth received her associate degree in biology from Perimeter in December. Her goal is to become a doctor, a choice driven in part by the medical misdiagnosis her mother received before passing away from ovarian cancer when Hyacinth was in high school.
“I want to do something to help people,” Hyacinth said of her desire to study medicine and possibly start a practice in Dominica, where health resources are limited.
Before coming to Perimeter, Hyacinth already had an associate degree in accounting and mathematics from Dominica State College and had worked in her home country in accounting and as a teacher at her former high school. She enjoyed teaching but decided to return to school, and this time, she had to leave Dominica, where the highest level of formal education is the associate degree.
With her savings from teaching, she headed to the United States, where she had family living in Georgia. She enrolled in Perimeter, maintained a 4.0 grade point average, participated in the Honors College, won multiple college scholarships, tutored and served as an International Peer Assistant at Georgia State’s Clarkston Campus.
Although Hyacinth supported her education by saving money — which she says she enjoys doing — she acknowledges she also received help paying for college.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to come to school from my savings alone,” she said. “I have benefited from the kindness and generosity of so many people in my life: my family — especially my siblings — my extended family and my church family in Dominica.”
The announcement of this year’s Jack Kent Cooke scholarship winners is expected in April.
Since 2002, 19 Perimeter students have been awarded the scholarship. In 2019, Perimeter had two winners. One now attends the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the other attends Georgia Institute of Technology.