A Washtenaw Community College student has earned a prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.
Maria Paula Salazar is one of 47 students nationwide – and the only from Michigan – to earn the highly-selective scholarship that awards up to $40,000 annually for three years to the nation’s top community college students seeking to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Her Dexter-based host family and church pastor joined select college staff on April 10 to celebrate the award that left the 21-year-old in awe. Salazar’s family currently lives in Central America, and she will be the first female in her family to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
“I think (the scholarship) means something way beyond what I can understand,” Salazar said. “It is the beginning of an academic journey to prepare me and empower me to change a lot of things in Central America.”
Salazar has been accepted to the University of Michigan but is awaiting word from several Ivy League schools, including Princeton and Yale. Whichever university Salazar ends up at in the fall, she will study international affairs to prepare her to combat poverty and crime in Central America, she said.
“The scholarship is the stepping stone to achieve what my heart cries out for every single day – to be able to serve the people in Central America, my native land,” Salazar explained.
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarships are the largest private scholarship for community college transfer students in the country.
“Community colleges provide an affordable first step for many students with financial need to begin their higher education journey,” said Harold O. Levy, executive director of the Cooke Foundation, in a prepared news release. “Cooke Transfer Scholars have demonstrated incredible ability and ambition, and we look forward to supporting their success at universities.”