Ten students from Georgia State University’s Perimeter College have been named semifinalists for the 2023 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The Jack Kent Cooke award is a competitive scholarship for the nation’s top two-year college students. It provides recipients with up to $55,000 per year, placing the scholarship among the largest private awards in the country for community college transfer students. The following is a profile of Madeleif Tilder, one of Perimeter’s ten semifinalists.
DUNWOODY, Ga. – She’s just 23, but Madelief “Maddie” Tilder has packed a lot into her first two decades of life. The Georgia State University Perimeter College sociology student came to the United States from the Netherlands fresh out of high school in 2019. She was hired as an au pair; working first with a family in Atlanta, and then with a family of three boys in San Francisco during the pandemic.
Today she is a Perimeter College semifinalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer scholarship, an Honors College ambassador and an upcoming Georgia State University TEDx speaker.
The year and a half she spent in California during the pandemic was the most influential in her life, she said. “It taught me a lot. I learned a lot of responsibility. I watched three young boys, was a neighborhood tutor and worked as a volunteer at a food bank during my free time.”
During that same period, she also served as a global ambassador for the company she worked for as an au pair. “I helped other au pairs with acclimation to the U.S. and I organized virtual and in-person meetings to build a strong au pair community during times when it was hard to make friends.”
The experience of traveling and working with poor families—and connecting her fellow au pairs—solidified her desire to make a difference for others, and go to college in the U.S., she said. She noted that her parents were unable to support that dream financially.
“I had never lived alone, and I learned to adapt to a different language and different culture. I grew up during those years and learned things I never would have learned if I stayed at home,” she said.
She saved her money from her jobs. After her stint as an au pair in San Francisco, she came back to Georgia, enrolling at Perimeter College. “One of the main reasons that I decided to move back to Georgia is because I already had built a support system in Atlanta. I believed that this would be the perfect place for me to transition from working full-time to being a full-time student,” she said.
Her time at Perimeter has been rewarding, Tilder said.
During the past two years, she’s worked as both an honors research assistant and as an International Peer Assistant. She’s participated in a unique Study Abroad Virtual Exchange program with political science professor Dr. Stacey Mitchell’s Global Issues course. The Global Issues class has offered her insight into what a career in international relations might be like, she said.
Neeley Gossett, Dunwoody Campus Honors coordinator and assistant professor of English, calls Tilder a “gifted public speaker and leader.”
“Madelief is a bright student who knows and understands concepts and theories beyond typical first-year college students,” Gossett said. “Upon graduation in May, she will have earned both distinctions given by the Honors College: Honors Scholar and Research Scholar.”
In addition to her classwork, Tilder works as a social media coordinator for the Georgia State Prison Education Project. She also is an Honors Georgia State Undergraduate Research Experience (GSURE) student. Tilder presented her poster research, “Reversing the Pipeline: How Prison Education Programs Can Transpose the Outcomes of the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” during the GSURE conference recently. She received GSURE’s Outstanding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Project award for her poster presentation.
Her research on prison education also is the subject of her “TEDxGeorgiaStateU—Reimagine” talk on Friday, April 14. Tilder will be one of nine speakers from the Georgia State community sharing their ideas to help us reimagine a brighter future. The talks will be from 3-6 p.m. at GSU’s Student Center East on the Atlanta Campus.
Tilder is excited about the opportunities that the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship would afford her. “As an international student, I am not eligible to receive any federal aid,” she said.
She recently was accepted to Columbia University in New York and dreams of the possibilities for her education.
“I would love to combine both my passion for criminal justice and sociology. I’m passionate about making the world a better place. It would be so easy if all of us work a little harder to care for one another, especially marginalized groups that get overlooked constantly."
Story by Rebecca Rakoczy
Photo by Bill Roa