Two El Camino College Students Named Semifinalists for 2021 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship
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Two El Camino College Students Named Semifinalists for 2021 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

El Camino College pre-engineering major Brenda Fernandez Martinez and biology major Sara Kassab were recently named semifinalists for the highly selective 2021 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

The prestigious award supports exceptionally talented community college students working to complete their bachelor’s degrees in any area of study.

Each award is designed to cover a significant share of the student’s educational costs – including tuition, living expenses, books and required fees – for the final two to three years necessary to achieve a bachelor’s degree. Awards vary by individual, based on the cost of tuition as well as other grants or scholarships they may receive. Scholarship recipients will be announced later this month.

Martinez said she felt honored and relieved to be named a semifinalist for the prominent award and believes that the recognition confirms that her long hours of work and dedication to school will pay off in the future.

“I have faced many barriers to get to where I am in this world of higher education, and thanks to this achievement, I feel extra motivated to continue working hard in pursuing a bachelor’s degree this fall,” she added.

Martinez enrolled in El Camino after graduating from North Torrance High School. A straight-A student throughout her educational career, she has especially enjoyed her El Camino physics classes and many activities as well. She is a member of the college’s tennis team, the Society of Women Engineers Club, the Robotics Club, and is particularly passionate about being president of the UndocuWarriors Club, a group that offers a safe space for undocumented students and allies at El Camino College.

“When I was in high school, I was unsure if I could even attend college because of my Dreamer status; I had a lot of misconceptions,” Martinez said. “Now I want to make sure everyone knows that El Camino offers an inclusive college experience for all. Being a Warrior means becoming part of a community. The college’s slogan is ‘where you belong and where you succeed.’ I think that is definitely true.”

This year's 406 semifinalists for the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship were chosen from a pool of over 1,500 applicants attending 398 community colleges in 44 states and the District of Columbia.

“Congratulations to Brenda and Sara for being recognized as semifinalists for the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship,” said El Camino College President Dena P. Maloney. “This is an extraordinary award, honoring exceptional students who stand out in academics, service, and leadership, areas where Brenda and Sara have excelled. All the best to both scholars as they continue their educational journey and thank you to all the staff and faculty members who helped them achieve their goals.”

Kassab is looking forward to continuing her studies in biology and plans to become a dentist one day. The successful Redondo Union High School grad says the support she received from her parents, Yaser Kassab and Roula Abdulsamad, and sister Massa, along with El Camino faculty and staff were key to her success and in qualifying for the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

“I’m really proud of myself for making it to the semifinals,” Kassab said. “I’m excited to find out if I will make it to the finals, but even if I don’t, I’ll still be extremely proud of all my accomplishments and for having the courage to apply.”

Kassab is also proud that she was able to finish her biology degree in two years and looks forward to transferring to a university in the fall. She is a member of El Camino’s Honors Transfer Program (HTP); Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA); Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS); and the First Year Experience (FYE) – El Camino programs that helped her navigate the overall college and transfer process.

“I’m now in my last semester, and I’m so happy that I decided to go to El Camino,” Kassab said. “Not only did I save a lot of money, but also, I made amazing long-lasting friends, met incredible professors and counselors, and got involved in several programs and clubs. Although I didn’t get to spend a lot of time on campus because of COVID, I loved my experience, and I will be sure to visit the campus more in the future.”

In addition to financial support, selected Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars will receive comprehensive educational advising from the Foundation to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year school and preparing for their careers. Undergraduate Transfer Scholars will additionally receive opportunities for internships, study abroad, and graduate school funding, as well as connection to a thriving network of over 2,800 fellow Cooke Scholars and alumni.

Photos Available to Download:
Brenda Fernandez Martinez
Sara Kassab

April 13, 2021