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 one of Perimeter’s ten semifinalists. They are among 459 semifinalists selected from more than 1,700 applicants attending 215 community colleges in 38 states.
DUNWOODY, Ga.—Paula Gil is in the home stretch at Perimeter College.
For the past two years, the engineering student has balanced waitressing jobs and her engineering studies, sometimes working 14-hour days – all the while maintaining a 3.9 GPA.
Now with graduation on the horizon in May, Gil hopes that her dream of becoming a biomedical engineer is one step closer with the help of the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.
This is the second year Gil has been selected as a semifinalist for the prestigious national scholarship.
Described as tenacious and determined by all who encounter her, Gil came to the U.S. from Colombia with her mother in 2017, seeking better educational opportunities.
She graduated from Dunwoody High School in 2020 and enrolled in Perimeter College’s Regents Engineering Pathway program.
“Perimeter was my best choice financially, and it’s got a good reputation. It’s frankly the best choice I ever made,” she said.
An Honors student, Gil was part of a special cohort of Perimeter College students who participated in Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) this past summer on the Atlanta Campus. The group worked for eight weeks with undergraduates from across the U.S. on different projects as part of a Smart and Autonomous Internet-of-Things Systems research.
Engineering has become her passion, but as a young girl, Gil dreamed of becoming a neurosurgeon. Her father had suffered devastating head injuries and doctors put him in an induced coma while his brain healed. His recovery inspired her passion to study neuroscience, she said. Eventually, her interest moved to biomedical engineering.
“I want to learn the skills to help people better their lives, especially those people who have brain damage,” she said.
At Perimeter, Gil is president of the Women in STEM Experience club, and active in the SPACE club. She also was the 2022 recipient of Perimeter’s top Honors College recognition, the Dean’s Award, which celebrates the top performing student.
Gil gets tearful when she thinks about what she has gained while a student at Perimeter College.
“My time at Perimeter College has been so enriching that it is impossible for me not to get tears in my eyes just thinking about it. I am so grateful to this college for the number of opportunities that it has provided for me. I met so many people that have influenced my life in such a positive way that leaving them makes my heart sad a little bit, even though I know they will always be there for me. To all my professors, students and staff that I met, I can just say thank you, thank you for making my journey so beautiful, even at the darkest times. Thanks for all the words of advice you gave me and for pushing me so I could become better every day.
I leave nostalgic but happy and motivated because wherever I go I will always remember the family I found here at Perimeter College."
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation will announce the winners of the scholarship in May.