April 24, 2020 Rich Rezler
Note: The video above includes an interview with Kurmasha following the replay of the video conference where he learned the good news.
WCC student Ali Kurmasha is one of 50 community college students from around the country to receive a highly competitive Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship that will provide up to $40,000 a year toward the completion of a bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution of his choosing.
“This came as a big, huge life savior for me,” said Kurmasha, the only Michigan resident among the list of 50 winners. “Now I can choose where to go and pursue my dream. It’s amazing.”
Because WCC has suspended on-campus operations during the COVID-19 epidemic, Kurmasha learned he had won the scholarship during a video conference. He thought the meeting was a standard check-in with his academic advisor, Alexandra McCracken. Instead, McCracken told him WCC had received word that he was a scholarship winner.
“You’re an amazing student,” McCracken told Kurmasha during the call. “You definitely earned this.”
Vice President of Student and Academic Services Linda Blakey, Vice President for Instruction Dr. Kimberly Hurns, Dean of Support Services Liz Orbits, Director of Student Development & Activities Pete Leskevich and Coordinator of Student Organizations Veronica Boissoneau were also on the call to congratulate him.
This is the third straight year a WCC student has won a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, with Kurmasha following Paula Salazar (2018) and Ahmed Ghalib (2019). The college also had two winners — Fatouma Abdoulaye Idrissa and Susannah Spence — in 2013.
Kurmasha will graduate with high honors from WCC in May with a Liberal Arts Transfer degree. The 2017 Ann Arbor Pioneer graduate plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or biology and then pursue a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.
“I chose dentistry because of my love for science and arts. I believe that dentistry is a perfect marriage of both,” he said. “I would also like to use my career as a way to help unite people and offer those who cannot afford dental care the chance to smile.”
Kurmasha is one of the most active students at WCC, serving as a vice president of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, president of the International Student Association, president and founder of the Intercultural Communication Club, an officer in both the Pre-Med Club and in Student Development and Activities, and a member of other various student clubs and organizations.
“What motivates me to be active at WCC is the amazing, diverse community of people from all backgrounds and cultures,” he said. “I have found a place where I can embrace my identity without any fear of discrimination or prejudice and I want to be an active part of that community.”
Kurmasha was one of nearly 1,500 students from 311 community colleges across the United States to apply for the scholarship. In January, he and fellow WCC student David Seamen were named as two of the 456 semifinalists.
According to a release, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation evaluates each submission based on academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, leadership and service to others.
In addition to the financial support, Cooke Transfer Scholars receive advising from foundation staff to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year school and preparing for their careers. The foundation also provides opportunities for internships, study abroad opportunities and graduate school funding, as well as connection to a network of nearly 2,500 fellow Cooke Scholars and alumni.
"We know this is a very uncertain time for many students and their families. We remain deeply committed to supporting high-achieving community college students to ensure they have the resources to reach their full academic potential," Jack Kent Cooke Foundation executive director Seppy Basili said in a release. "We are excited to welcome this new class of Cooke Transfer Scholars to our community and looking forward to seeing the many amazing things they do as they continue on their transfer journey."