Middlesex Grad Receives Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, Most Prestigious in U.S.

May 13, 2010

Zizhou Zhao (New Brunswick), who will be graduating from Middlesex County College on May 20, is one of 40 students across the nation to receive the 2010 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. This is the largest and most prestigious scholarship in the nation for students transferring from a community college to a four-year institution.

Mr. Zhao is graduating with three degrees: mathematics, physics and engineering science. He has a 4.0 average and will receive a Frank M. Chambers Award, which is named for the College’s founding president and is given to those with a perfect grade point average. Twelve other students are Chambers’ winners.

The Fushun, China native is also the College’s valedictorian and will address the class of 2010 during the ceremony.

Mr. Zhao is transferring to a four year university – he is still undecided as to which one – and he is planning to major in chemical engineering, with a minor in math and English. He plans to become an engineer and later open his own international engineering company.

“This is a great honor for Zizhou and for the College,” said Sheema Majiduddin, co-chair of the College’s Jack Kent Cooke committee. “Cooke receives about 500 applications and awards 40 scholarships. It is extremely competitive, and also rewarding. The staff of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation will work with him to make sure he can spend all his time studying. They don’t want him to be worrying about tuition or expenses for the next two years. He is a very persistent student who has taken on a lot of leadership roles on campus. That he went from English as a Second Language classes to valedictorian in two years is amazing. And he is such a nice, humble person.”

Co-Chair Gina Bedoya also said Mr. Zhao is a very positive, energetic student.

“I think he can inspire many students who come to this country for a chance at success,” she said. “He proves that anything is possible.”

Mr. Zhao’s inspiration came from his grandfather, who died of cancer several years ago. His last words of advice to his grandson were: “Become a useful person to benefit society.”

“His death determined my destiny,” Mr. Zhao said. “I told myself that I would produce new affordable and effective medicines to help people live longer.”

He felt an education in the United States was his best move. A friend in China recommended Middlesex County College and Mr. Zhao arrived in 2008, with limited English skills. He worked hard and became successful.

“Middlesex is an excellent school,” he said. “It provides a very good foundation to prepare students. Classes are small and the professors pay attention to all the students. I got a lot of help from my professors. And I’ve really enjoyed the campus life.”

Lori Johnson is coordinator of Minority Access to the Professions, an academic support program that pushes students to excel.

“Zizhou is a dream come true,” she said. He was our top math tutor – the students just love him. He is one of those dream students that an advisor always hopes to have. He gives his all to everything he does. He was a joy.”

The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Program was designed to help community college students with exceptional promise and demonstrated financial need make the transition to four-year colleges or universities.

“The men and women who receive these scholarships have demonstrated their potential in ways that go well beyond their academic performance,” said Dr. Lawrence Kutner, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “They are future leaders. We’re proud to play a role in supporting them.”

Each year, the Foundation selects approximately 40 high-achieving, low-income students from community or two-year colleges for scholarships that provide funding for tuition, room and board, fees, and books. As the largest scholarship offered in the U.S. to community college transfer students, the awards can total up to $30,000 per year for up to three years.

Mr. Zhao is the founder and president of College’s Chinese Club, vice president of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges, a peer mentor in the Minority Access to the Professions program and the president of the Chemistry club.

He was a member of the College’s Math Team that placed third in the Garden State Undergraduate Math Conference, sponsored by the Mathematics Association of America. The team was first among all community colleges and first of all colleges and universities in New Jersey. The contest featured 25 teams from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Mr. Zhao is the College’s second Jack Kent Cooke recipient. The first was Namema Amendi, who received the scholarship in 2007. He graduated in January from Columbia University.

For mor information, visit http://www.jkcf.org/news-knowledge/press-releases/jack-kent-cooke-foundation-announces-2010-undergraduate-transfer-scholarships/