MiraCosta College Boasts Four Semifinalists for Coveted Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship

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Four MiraCosta College students have been selected as semifinalists for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, a highly selective scholarship for the nation’s top community college students.

The Cooke scholarship provides up to three years of university funding. To be selected for the scholarship, students must attend a community college with a 3.5 grade point average on a 4-point scale. They must plan to enroll at a university and demonstrate unmet financial need.

“We’re very proud of the academic achievements of our Cooke scholarship semifinalists,” said Sunita V. Cooke, superintendent/president of MiraCosta College. “They’ve gotten an excellent education at MiraCosta College that will serve them well when they transfer to a university.”

The announcement of the scholarship selections is expected in April. Last year, about 60 students nationwide were selected to receive the scholarship.
The four semifinalists are:

Fadhil Al Salihi: As an Iraqi refugee, Fadhil Al Salihi wanted to start attending college when he came to San Diego County in 2014. After earning a computer support technician certificate from Cuyamaca College in 2016, Al Salihi got a job selling video and audio equipment. But when the store shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, Al Salihi decided it was time to resume his education and enrolled at MiraCosta College. He is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society. He will graduate with a 3.89 grade point average with degrees in software development, computer science, and liberal arts and a certificate in software development. He will attend CSU San Marcos in the fall and plans to become a software engineer. “MiraCosta College changed my life,” Al Salihi said. “The way they train the students is the perfect way. They always put you on target. If you don’t understand, they will support you.”

Megan Ceragioli: When she realized she didn’t have enough money to attend a university, Megan Ceragioli decided to attend MiraCosta College. At first she envied her friends who went to universities around the country, but now she’s pleased with her choice – particularly because her college fees are being paid through the MiraCosta Promise. Ceragioli is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society, and works about 20 hours a week as an assistant manager at a bakery and ice cream shop. She availed herself of the many resources offered by MiraCosta College, including the writing center and mental health counseling, when she was dealing with her parents’ divorce. Ceragioli will earn an associate degree in psychology in May and plans to transfer to San Diego State University or the University of California at Irvine. “I’m really grateful I chose this path,” she said. “My future self will be glad.”

Maria Castillo Gomez: Growing up in Mexico, Gomez knew she wanted more opportunities. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was 14 years old, and she struggled to learn English while in high school. After two years, she dropped out to help support her family. After marrying and having two children, Gomez resumed her education despite her husband’s resistance. She earned her high school diploma at MiraCosta’s Community Learning Center, then – with the inspiration of a tutor at the center – decided to continue her education at MiraCosta College. While raising her children and working full-time, Gomez graduated from MiraCosta College in spring 2023 and began attending CSU San Marcos this spring. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she hopes to get a job at the Community Learning Center to help others as she was helped. “It’s like home,” Gomez said. “I love the place.”

Mikala Hutchinson: Hutchinson often faced homelessness while growing up and attended nearly a dozen high schools during her youth. She earned her high school diploma through MiraCosta College’s Adult High School Diploma Program, then decided to get her college degree. She can put her two children at the college’s Development Center while taking classes and studying through a scholarship she received. She often finds herself studying late at night to finish up her homework alongside her husband, who is also back in school. She said she learned to ask for the support that the college offers. “MIraCosta College has so many resources and supportive people willing to help,” she said. Hutchinson plans to transfer to a university, obtain her master’s degree, and pursue a career in social work.

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