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DECATUR, Ga.— Three alumni from Perimeter College at Georgia State University will receive one of the nation’s largest private scholarships, as announced today by the Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) Foundation.
Paula Gil, Oksana “Kseniya” Harrington and Julian Umana-Bernal are among 60 high-achieving community college students selected to receive the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. This year marks the first time that Perimeter College has celebrated three scholars at once, while also tying for the college with the second largest number of scholars selected for 2023.
The scholarship helps top two-year college students seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year institutions by providing up to $55,000 a year for up to three years.
Gil, Harrington and Umana-Bernal—who all participated in the Honors College while at Perimeter—were chosen from more than 1,700 applicants attending 448 community colleges nationwide.
The students learned about their award from Perimeter College interim dean Dr. Cynthia Lester during a surprise, Webex announcement.
All three of the scholarship recipients cried when hearing that they’d been selected for one of the nation’s most prestigious scholarships.
“I don’t have words for this, I’m so excited right now,” Umana-Bernal said, as he received the news from his home country of Colombia.
Gil expressed the same kind of joy.
“I feel like I’m in a dream,” Gil said, while also thanking the Perimeter professors and administrators who helped her during her journey at the college and while applying for the Cooke scholarship.
Harrington and Gil graduated from Perimeter College on May 5. Gil wants to become a biomedical engineer and continue her studies at Emory University. Harrington plans to continue studying physics at either Georgia State or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Umana-Bernal studied chemistry at Perimeter before having to return to Colombia because he’d run out of funds for classes. He wants to become a biochemical engineer after completing his education at Emory University.
The JKC award aims to ensure that Cooke Scholars complete their undergraduate education with as little debt as possible.
“There are so many bright and persistent community college students in our nation who we know will thrive at four-year institutions if they can find a way to transfer without being weighed down by a heavy financial burden,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
In addition to financial support, Gil, Harrington and Umana-Bernal will receive comprehensive educational advising from the foundation as they transition to a four-year college and prepare for their careers. Winners also receive opportunities for internships, study abroad and funding for graduate school and will join a network of more than 3,000 scholars and alumni.
This year, 10 Perimeter students, were named semifinalists for the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship. The JKC Foundation evaluated applicants on their academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, leadership and service to others.
The Foundation evaluated each submission based on students’ academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence and leadership.
“They have never seen me cry,” Harrington said as she received news while sitting in her car.
“It just means a lot. I’m very happy…my goodness.”
Since 2002, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has awarded 27 Perimeter students the undergraduate transfer scholarship. These students have gone on to achieve success in bachelor’s degree programs and beyond at prominent institutes such as Georgia Tech, MIT, Emory University, Howard University, The University of Southern California, Stanford University and Agnes Scott College.
“We are over the moon happy for these outstanding alumni of Perimeter College,” said Dr. Lester. “They definitely leave a legacy of achievement at the college, and we can’t wait to see where their ambitions and hard work take them next.”