For the second straight year, a Washtenaw Community College student is the recipient of a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship that awards bachelor's degree-seeking students up to $40,000 annually for as many as three years.
Ahmed Ghalib, a 22-year-old Ann Arbor resident, is one of 61 community college students from across the nation awarded the scholarship, the foundation announced on Wednesday. He is one of only two students selected from the state of Michigan.
“This scholarship is absolutely phenomenal, so for WCC to get back-to-back winners is like winning the lottery,” WCC Vice President of Student & Academic Services Linda Blakey said during a congratulatory meeting with Ghalib.
Vice President of Instruction Dr. Kimberly Hurns said it was important to point out that the student community played a big role in that success. Ghalib learned of the scholarship opportunity through a student-run organization, Transfer to Success.
WCC alumna Paula Salazar, the only Michigan student among 47 Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship recipients last year, spoke to that group earlier this year.
Ghalib said he's been so busy preparing for finals that "it's kind of like the news (of winning the scholarship) hasn't even completely settled in yet."
“I still have yet to digest it, to be honest," he said while holding a certificate, balloons and bouquet of flowers. "But my mom did start to cry when she heard the news.”
The Computer Science major has a 4.0 GPA and is a member of the college’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. He was selected to participate in the University of Michigan School of Information’s Community College Summer Institute Fellowship and plans to transfer to a four-year university to pursue an Information Science degree in the fall.
He lists Michigan, Cornell, Columbia and USC among his most-likely landing spots in the fall. Up first is a summer internship as a UX Designer with Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, Iowa.
Ghalib was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and came to the United States with his family in 2008. After graduating from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in 2015, he worked for two years in retail and hospitality positions while focusing on his own tech-related project during his free time. He enrolled at WCC in 2017 to become more technically involved with other engineers in that software venture.
"I started from the very bottom of the math sequence, but was fortunate enough to meet (WCC faculty member) Mr. Jason Davis, who not only made me love mathematics, but inspired me to aim for more than an associate degree.
“I have been more than fortunate to have spent the past two years at WCC. Beyond the priceless education and personal skills developed at this institution lies the foundation of its greatness – the instructors. They’ve made a profound impact on my life, personality and mindset. I will forever be in debt to their efforts, kindness and wisdom.”
Ghalib was one of nearly 1,500 students to apply for the 2019 Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. According to a release, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation evaluates each submission based on academic ability, persistence, leadership, and service to others.
The recipients selected represent 18 different states, have a median household adjusted gross income of $28,000 and an average GPA of 3.93.
In addition to the monetary award, 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.