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 Rebecca Rakoczy
Photo by Bill Roa
COVINGTON, Ga.—Cassie Turner spent her high school years being home-schooled, taking care of her ill grandmother and wondering where she would go and what she would do when high school was complete.
Her future looks brighter now.
Turner, of Stockbridge, is among 12 Georgia State University Perimeter College students chosen as a semifinalist for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. 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.
The scholarship represents a dream for Turner, who once couldn’t imagine attending college.
“From age 15 to 19, I worked from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m., caring for my grandmother who had congestive heart failure and dementia,” she said. “She required round-the-clock care.”
When she wasn’t attending to her grandmother, she was taking classes online at Faith Academy. Her mother worked part time and shared caretaker duties with her daughter.
While some teens would have balked at the schedule, it didn’t faze Turner.
“Caring for my grandmother wasn’t a burden,” Turner said. “She had cared for me and had lived with me my whole life,” Turner said.
It was her grandmother who gave the teen hope for her future.
“My grandmother was an encourager — I didn’t think I would be able to go to college until she encouraged me to go — she gave me a different outlook on my future,” Turner said. “She told me, ‘don’t do what we did — you go to college.’”
The day after her 81-year-old grandmother died, Turner applied and was accepted to Perimeter College, fulfilling her grandmother’s wish.
“I am a first-generation student,” she said. “I had not been in a traditional classroom since middle school, and I had no idea what to expect when I came here. I didn’t know how college was going to work, and I had to wing it.”
She thrived, accepting leadership positions with the student government association, first as a senator before being elected executive vice president. She traveled on a scholarship to London in 2019 for a study abroad program. She is a HOPE scholar, has maintained a 4.0 grade point average and is a member of the university’s Honors College.
“Cassie Turner was my student for a study abroad to England last year, and I could tell from the moment she applied to the program that she was a leader,” said Deborah Byrd, an assistant professor of English on Newton Campus. “Throughout the trip, I saw that her curiosity and enthusiasm were boundless. Simply put, Cassie loves to learn, which is the ultimate reward to both teachers and students.”
Turner, who is studying business administration, will graduate with her associate degree this summer and hopes to pursue a business management or international business degree at the University of Georgia.
“I want to help people and do something for the community and the world,” Turner said. “I want to visit countries and teach women how to run businesses from their homes and use their skills to their advantage and bring extra income to their families. I want to do something that will make my heart happy and enrich others.”
The possibility of receiving a Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship awes her.
“It would mean so much,” she said. “It would enable me to choose where I wanted to go to college. I never thought it would be possible to look at (the) Ivy Leagues. I just never thought it would be obtainable.”