FOR THIRD TIME IN FOUR YEARS, A WESTCHESTER COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS HAS WON A NATIONAL AWARD
For the third time in four years, a student from Westchester Community College has been awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, the nation’s largest and most competitive scholarships for community college students. Dwayne Kelly, a 22-year-old Jamaican-born honor student, is one of only 38 recipients of this year’s awards, which have been described as the equivalent of a Rhodes Scholarship for graduate students.
Dwayne, who lives in the South Bronx and spends four hours commuting to and from the college by bus every day, was selected by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation from among 676 nominees from more than 400 community colleges around the country. He is this year’s only winner from New York State, and the third Westchester Community College student to win the coveted scholarship since it was established in 2002. Westchester Community College is one of only eight community colleges in the nation that can boast of having three winners. Former student Peter Tascio of Patterson received the honor in 2003, and Sherice Hughey of Mount Vernon was a 2004 recipient.
“Dwayne is the third Westchester Community College student to be named a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Scholar,” said Sarah Levin, Program Manager-Higher Education for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “There are only a handful of community colleges in the nation that have been so honored and the Foundation salutes Dwayne and the college’s administration. This is an excellent reflection of the caliber of students and faculty at Westchester.”
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation was established in 2000 to help young people of exceptional promise reach their full potential through education. As part of its mission, it helps students in community and two-year colleges transfer to four-year institutions to pursue bachelor’s degrees. The Foundation identifies and supports young people of special intelligence, application, deportment, and character who have serious financial need and have demonstrated excellence in academic endeavors and extracurricular activities.
Dwayne Kelly is such a student. In addition to meeting the rigorous demands of his honors courses, he is heavily involved in campus activities and also does volunteer work for local community organizations in the south Bronx. He is deeply concerned about the problems facing inner-city youth and the high school dropout rate among African-American males. He wants to become a force that will help to turn the tide. To this end, Dwayne has always dreamed about becoming a medical doctor and being in a position to serve his community, and society as a whole, through the art and science of medicine. However, the stark realities of his dire financial situation had all but put that dream on hold.
Until now. As a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar, Dwayne can afford to apply to almost any four-year college or university of his choice. He has up to three years in which to earn his bachelor’s degree and will receive up to $30,000 each year for tuition, books, fees and other expenses. After recovering from the initial shock of learning he had won the scholarship, Dwayne got busy preparing his application to Fordham University, where he will begin his pre-med studies in the fall. In the meantime he is looking forward to receiving his Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts-Math/Science at the College’s commencement ceremony on May 18.
Several of Dwayne’s proud professors and members of the Westchester Community College administration were present when President Joseph N. Hankin gave him the news. Dwayne, who had been lured to the office by a “little white lie”, was definitely unprepared for what was to come. There were no dry eyes among the onlookers as the young man, totally overwhelmed, put his head down on the table and sat motionless, unable to speak for a long time. Everyone left the room feeling that they had just witnessed a person’s life being changed forever.
The two previous winners from Westchester Community College underwent the same life-changing experience. In 2003 Peter Tascio, then a resident of Patterson, was a Performing Arts major at the college. A guitar player with extraordinary musicianship and performance skills, Peter’s goal was to become not only a professional performer but also a music teacher and a composer, with advanced degrees in both. Two years later, thanks to his scholarship, Peter earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Jazz Guitar from City College of New York and is currently performing, composing, and teaching. He plans on going to graduate school in another year or two and wants nothing less than to become a major figure in the international music community.
In 2004, Sherice Hughey of Mount Vernon became the college’s second Jack Kent Cooke Scholar. Hughey, a single mother who majored in communications and media arts, was a brilliant student who desperately wanted a college degree but knew it was a financial impossibility. Thanks to Westchester Community College and the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, Sherice is graduating from NYU this month with a bachelor’s degree in communications, and will be working toward a combined MBA/Edd in Management and Educational Leadership at Columbia University. Her long-term goals include earning a doctorate in management, becoming an educational products consultant, and starting her own music publishing firm.