Good news traveled in pairs this year for Georgia Perimeter College, as two students were awarded the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. This scholarship gives each of the graduating recipients up to $90,000 to pursue their bachelor’s degree.
Kadiata Sy and Huong Vu are this year’s award recipients. Both are graduating from GPC in May— each with two associate degrees. Sy leaves with an associate in political science (December 2011) and philosophy (May 2012) and Vu with associate degrees in mathematics and business administration (both May 2012).
The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship program honors outstanding community college students as they transfer to top four-year colleges and universities. The scholarship awards up to $30,000 per year and is intended to cover a significant share of the student’s educational expenses—including tuition, living expenses, books and required fees—for up to three years. Sy and Vu are two of 60 scholars nationwide selected to receive the scholarship this year and are the eighth and ninth GPC students to win this award since 2002.
“We didn’t’ know how I was going to pay for Emory University,” Sy said. “All this is more than my parents could have imagined.”
“I thought I couldn’t go to Georgia Tech, I couldn’t afford it,” said Vu. “I looked at the cost and saw it was impossible. My parents offered to borrow money but I said no and I just decided I wouldn’t go. Now I can.”
Growing up in Saigon, Vu told her father she wanted to “experience the world.”
“I’ll be your successful person for the family,” she told him. “I was first in all my classes in high school and I went to the best university in Vietnam but I knew that was not my dream.”
Looking on the internet for a good American college to study industrial engineering, Vu decided on Georgia Tech. She found that Tech offered one of the best programs, but she also noticed that, through the Regents Engineering Transfer Program, Georgia Perimeter College students could seamlessly transfer to Georgia Tech.
“GPC was more affordable,” Vu said. “It was the smart choice, but my dad said I was too young to come to America alone. When I turned 19, he gave in. He said, ‘Show me what you can do.’ I had culture shock when I got here. I called my dad and told him I wanted to come home, but he said stay a month.”
Vu made friends that first month, she also found work and applied for scholarships at GPC— earning five. She graduates in May with a 4.0 GPA and with the assistance provided through the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, she will continue on to Georgia Tech.
Sy was born in a refugee camp in Senegal after war broke out in her native country of Mauritania. She lived in the camp for 11 years, receiving no formal education until coming to America.
“When I got here I didn’t speak any English and I was placed in ESOL (English as a Second Language) classes in middle school,” Sy said. “The teachers were great. I remember reading Jack and Jill over and over again. By the end of the seventh grade I got a Harry Potter book and kept reading it.”
By time she moved on to high school, Sy was taking several Advanced Placement classes, including one for English.
When Sy was looking for a good college to attend, a family member recommended GPC.
“I planned on taking a few courses and then transferring but once I was on campus, I saw this was a great place,” she said. “I decided to stay.”
Sy plans on completing a dual bachelor’s degree at Emory University in political science and Middle Eastern studies and eventually become a human rights lawyer.
At GPC, Sy also won the 2012 Clarkston Campus President’s Award plus GPC Excellence Awards for General Humanities and Global Studies. She served as the president of the Clarkston Student Government Association and founded the campus’ Philosophy Club, all while maintaining 3.78 GPA.
Sy’s community service includes work for Keep DeKalb Beautiful, Global Village School for Refuge Girls, Fight Against Famine-Somalia and the International Rescue Committee.
“How fortunate we are to have both of you as students here,” said Georgia Perimeter College President Dr. Anthony S. Tricoli. “Thank you for continuing to build a tradition that makes the entire college proud. With the help of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, you both now have the resources you need to continue fulfilling your dreams.”
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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves approximately 27,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit www.gpc.edu.