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Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Honorees

Bekim Bruka, Genesis Capellan, Ignacio Leon and Laila Metwaly.

PARAMUS, N.J. – Following in the footsteps of a dozen Bergen Community College alumni, four class of 2021 graduates have earned the most prestigious award for junior college students – the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship, which provides up to $40,000 per year for each student to complete a bachelor’s degree. It marks the first time in the College’s history that four students have each earned the scholarship in the same year. Graduates Bekim Bruka, Genesis Capellan, Ignacio Leon and Laila Metwaly learned they became the latest Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Scholars earlier this month.

“I am incredibly proud of Bergen Community College’s newest Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Scholars,” Bergen President Eric M. Friedman, Ph.D., said. “It’s rare for a community college to have a student receive this prestigious honor. To have four receive it in the same year speaks to the incredible aptitude, character and resolve of Bergen students. This life-changing scholarship will help them continue on a path for success.”

The Jack Kent Cooke Scholars:

  • Bruka, of Palisades Park, emigrated to the United States from Albania in 2018. An active member of Alpha Epsilon Phi, Bergen’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, Bruka became a co-author and translator for a children’s storybook focusing on multiculturalism for an Honors in Action Project. He plans to pursue a juris doctorate degree and establish a non-governmental organization that operates in countries affected by past wars.
  • Capellan, of Englewood, a professional studies major and NJ STARS student, served as president of PTK and as an ambassador for the Violence Intervention Prevention Center. She recently sang the national anthem at the College’s 2021 commencement exercises and previously earned a spot on the 2021 New Jersey All-State Academic Team.
  • Leon, of Rutherford, participated in many activities at Bergen, including the 11th annual speech competition, the Torch student newspaper and PTK, where he served as a chapter officer. He distinguished himself as the co-creator and social media coordinator for The HUB, a project that brought together disconnected students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Metwaly, of Fairview, led the class of 2021 as student government association president. An NJ STARS student, she also worked as a peer writing tutor for the Cerullo Learning Assistance Center and in the Office of Student Life. Metwaly served as the director of service for PTK, participated in a research group on COVID-19 epidemiology and collaborated as part of the College’s STEM program.

In addition to the scholarship, Cooke scholars 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 $200 million in scholarships to more than 2,700 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive counseling and other support services. The foundation has also provided over $110 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 13,000 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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