Avellaneda wins prestigious Jack Kent Cooke transfer scholarship

avellaneda and Brenda Godoy

Pictured: 2018 JKC winner from NTCC, Brenda Godoy (right), presents JKC plaque to Avellaneda (left)

By: Dr. Andrew Yox, Honors Director

Aaliyah Merced Avellaneda, the Dr. Jerry Wesson Scholar of Northeast Texas Community College, is one of 100 recipients of the 2022 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s prestigious Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. This highly competitive national scholarship will provide Avellaneda with up to $55,000 a year for a maximum of three years to complete her bachelor’s degree.

Aaliyah is a graduate of Mount Pleasant High School, a member of St. Michael’s Church, and the daughter of Blanca and Francisco Avellaneda of Mount Pleasant. At NTCC she developed a reputation as an academic superstar, winning three Eckman Awards in her first three semesters in Honors for placing first among her cohort in honors seminars, and also for writing a path-breaking study on Mount Pleasant’s own former Lieutenant Governor, Bill Ratliff.  Avellaneda interviewed Ratliff during the COVID-infested fall of 2020. She subsequently won a first-in-the-state Caldwell Award for her essay on the “Texas Ticketsplitter,” and a Britt Award from the Great Plains Honors Council for her poster presentation on the same theme.

Avellaneda with her poster research
Avellaneda presenting her prize-winning work in Orlando,
Florida at the 2021 Meeting of the National Collegiate Honors Council

The Coca Cola Scholars Foundation and national honorary association, Phi Theta Kappa have also recently named Avellaneda a 2022 Coca-Cola Academic Team Bronze Scholar, and for this she will receive an additional $1,000 scholarship.  

In the 2020-21 academic year, four-year colleges and universities saw nearly 200,000 fewer transfer enrollment applications nationwide, reflecting the pandemic’s disruptive effect on students and their plans for college. Despite that decline, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation in 2022 welcomed its largest class of Scholars to date, highlighting the talent and achievement of hundreds of community college students across the country. In light of growing financial hardship for so many families, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation also increased the maximum award amount by an extra $15,000 to ensure students can focus on their studies while enrolled. 

“Today, almost half of all college students begin their academic career at a community college. We know our community colleges are full of high-achieving students, and we’re committed to playing our part to ensure those students succeed,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “Congratulations to a cohort of students who have persisted in the midst of such unprecedented disruptions in our lives. We welcome you into our community and look forward to learning alongside you.” 

New Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars will receive comprehensive educational advising to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year college and preparing for their careers. Along with financial support, Scholars will additionally receive opportunities for internships, study abroad, and graduate school funding, as well as connection to a thriving network of over nearly 3,000 Cooke Scholars and Alumni.

Recently, NTCC alumna, Jessica Velazquez received her second Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, for $150,000, enabling her to pursue graduate school at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

This year, more than 1,200 students from 332 community colleges applied to receive the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The Foundation evaluated each submission based on students’ academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, and leadership.

A list of this year’s Cooke Transfer Scholars, their community colleges, and their hometowns can be found here.

NTCC Honors Director and JKC representative, Dr. Andrew Yox, notes, “Avellaneda has reached the summit of what we hope for.  She proved again that scholarship is a key to scholarships, and that students at NTCC can compete and win nationally. For this we thank a whole team of donors, professors, scholarship recommenders such as Dr. Melissa Fulgham, and Dr. Karyn Skaar, administrators, and parents who have helped us to capitalize on major opportunities with research, travel, and special awards.”

Anonymous donors of Honors Northeast, the NTCC honors program, and NTCC funded a special celebratory dinner for the Avellaneda family that was held in Mount Pleasant 6 May.  During the meal, a former winner of the Jack Kent Cooke from NTCC, Brenda Godoy, who was just recently admitted into Medical School, presented Avellaneda with the notification plaque from the JKC Foundation.