Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Helps Community College Students Earn Bachelor’s Degrees

Female student with long dark hairAlejandra Linares, an industrial design student at County College of Morris (CCM), knows that to advance in life she needs to take advantage of the opportunities that come her way. As a CCM student, her latest opportunity has come in the form of being named a semifinalist for a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. If selected as a transfer scholarship recipient, she will receive up to $40,000 per year for up to three years to earn her bachelor’s degree.

A resident of Livingston, who was born and raised in Mexico, Linares came to CCM after moving to New Jersey because the college offered the major she wanted to pursue. Little did she know then that she might have the opportunity of being awarded such a generous scholarship.

“Honestly, this scholarship will change my whole life,” she says.

“We are so proud of Alejandra, her success here at CCM and the strength of her commitment to pursuing a high quality education to improve her life and the lives of others,” says Dr. Anthony J. Iacono, president of CCM.

Since 2011, three CCM students have been awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. If selected as a finalist, Linares would be the fourth.
Linares’ journey in achieving academic excellence has taken quite a bit of courage. Until she was 18 years old, she lived with her family in Morelos, Mexico where she studied at the Universidad La Salle – a private high school where in the third year students are divided into different fields based on their interests.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve liked to draw,” says Linares. “So in high school, I enrolled in the design area where they taught us a variety of mediums. That program is where my passion for design came from.”

Torn between majoring in industrial design and engineering, she decided to work a
year before attending college. During that time, she came to the United States as an au pair, caring for a family in Washington state and then in New Jersey. After she finished her job, she decided to stay in the United States and enrolled at CCM.

“When I first came to the U.S. as an au pair, I was very excited about my new adventure,” she recalls. “However, when I came back to start college, I had mixed feelings. While I was extremely excited about finally achieving my dream of studying abroad, I was literally starting over in a new country all by myself.”

When she wasn’t studying, Linares spent her time volunteering at a variety of organizations, specifically working with the elderly and disabled. That work sparked her interest in the healthcare aspect of industrial design. As a volunteer, she saw that many things are not designed to accommodate the elderly or the disabled, so she wants to create products that can make living more accessible for both groups.

In addition to her studies and volunteer work, Linares is an active member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. As a participant, she was exposed to a variety of resources that can better her education, especially scholarship opportunities. Because she is an international student, however, most of those scholarships were off limits. Fortunately, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation transfer scholarship is open to all exceptional students.

For financial reasons, earning her bachelor’s degree was going to be a stretch for Linares so her list of transfer colleges had been rather small. After being named a semifinalist for the transfer scholarship, she since has decided to broaden her search.

“In New Jersey, there are only three colleges that have my major and I was only interested in Montclair,” she says. “After finding out I was a semifinalist and realizing I could have the opportunity to attend a different college, I’m now applying to three more universities: Drexel, MassArt and Rhode Island School of Design.”

Jack Kent Cooke transfer scholars are selected based on exceptional academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, service to others and leadership. Finalists will be announced in April, one month before Linares graduates.

“I’d be extremely grateful to receive this scholarship,” she says. “I would love to live on campus and join a sorority. I’m also excited to make connections with companies that may be nearby so I can start working right away.”