Mikiko Freund, Won Joon Kang and Lindsey Njanja.

PARAMUS, N.J. – Three Bergen Community College students, Mikiko Freund, Won Joon Kang, and Lindsey Njanja, have earned the 2019 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Nationwide, 1,500 community college students applied for the highly competitive scholarship with only 61 receiving the award. The scholarship provides up to $40,000 annually for a maximum of three years to complete a bachelor’s degree.

“When you consider only 61 students in the entire country earned the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship and three came from Bergen, I’m not only excited for the students, but proud for the institution,” Bergen President Michael D. Redmond, Ph.D., said. “Mikiko, Won Joon and Lindsey have distinguished themselves at the College and continued Bergen’s legacy of helping position students for this transcendent scholarship,” noting in the past five years 11 students have earned the award.

The scholars each participated Bergen’s Judith K. Winn School of Honors and the Alpha Epsilon Phi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society of two-year colleges, which recently earned the international and regional “Most Distinguished Chapter” awards. The trio graduated as part of Bergen’s class of 2019, which received its degrees at the institution’s May 23 commencement ceremony at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

Freund, of Little Ferry, a mathematics major, plans to continue her education in statistics at New York University and become a statistician or data scientist. Committed to service, she served as a mentor in the Turning Point program for intellectually disabled students and as a fellow for a professional development program, America Needs You, for first generation low-income college students.

“All of my life I have always worked hard in school toward my future, and to receive a scholarship acknowledging my effort is not only rewarding but it motivates me to continue to follow my dreams to succeed,” she said. “Being a first-generation college student from a low-income household, the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is incredibly life-changing and I know it is what will push me in the right direction. There are truly not enough words to describe how grateful I am for this opportunity.”

Kang, of Mahwah, a business administration major who recently established a public speaking and coaching business that now has more than 300 clients, represents the first male student in Bergen’s history to earn the Cooke scholarship. He also became the first Bergen student to receive Phi Theta Kappa’s Oberndorf Scholarship this year. Kang has served as director of communication and international vice president, division I for the honor society this year. Attending Columbia University in the fall, Kang aspires to establish a think tank focused on artificial intelligence ethics.

“As a speech coach, I can say that winning the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship left me speechless for the first time in a long while,” he said. “I am more than blessed to have had the support of Phi Theta Kappa, my chapter at Bergen, and my adviser. They have all been the basis for why I work so hard and how I was able to achieve what I never could dream of to accomplish. In every sense of the word, I am grateful to all those who have made an impact on me as well as the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for granting me this life-changing opportunity.”

Njanja, of Lodi, a natural sciences and mathematics major with a 4.0 G.P.A., graduated as Bergen’s class of 2019 valedictorian. Among her work at the College, Njanja served as a peer mentor for the Pathway Scholars program, a math/science tutor, vice president of the math club and secretary of the Judith K. Winn School of Honors. Aspiring to a career in medicine, Njanja has career-shadowed physicians at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital this year and completed a summer internship at the National Institutes of Health last year. Njanja plans to transfer to Johns Hopkins University to major in chemical and bimolecular engineering where she hopes to find the cure for HIV/AIDS and eventually build children’s homes in Kenya and Uganda.

“I feel very humbled, happy, overjoyed, and honored for getting this amazing opportunity and for knowing that the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is going to support my goals,” she said.

In addition to the scholarship, the Cooke scholars will receive comprehensive educational advising from the foundation’s staff to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year school and preparing for their careers. The foundation will provide opportunities for internships, study abroad and graduate school funding as well as a connection to a network of nearly 2,500 fellow scholars and alumni.

The Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship represents the largest private scholarship in the nation for students transferring from two-year community colleges to four-year institutions that award bachelor’s degrees. All Cooke scholars have financial need and strong records of academic achievement as shown by grades, leadership skills, awards, extraordinary service to others and perseverance in the face of adversity. The Cooke Foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Since 2000, the foundation has awarded $175 million in scholarships to more than 2,300 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive counseling and other support services. The foundation has also provided over $97 million in grants to organizations that serve such students. For more information, visit www.jkcf.org.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 14,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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