A Guest Post from Isla, Class of 2016: Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship Recipient!

Written By: Isla Martinez, Class of 2016

Receiving the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship is a feat I could not have accomplished on my own. The Cooke foundation looks for students who not only have unmet financial need, but who also care about getting involved on and off campus.

It is important to have opportunities to grow as a person and as a student at your college. I’ve been lucky enough to have unyielding support from friends, family, and especially my Alma mater, Manor College.

My road to attaining a college education has been different from most. Like many students coming out of high school, I was confused about what I wanted to pursue. However, the biggest factor keeping me from going to college was not just confusion; it was financial need. Even if I had any idea what I wanted to study, I convinced myself that it was pointless because there was no way I could afford it. My parents encouraged me to work hard and save up money, so I did. After a year of saving up, I barely had enough money to afford a few credits for a semester at a community college. However, what I did gain was a reality check. I knew there was no other way out of my hopelessness but to simply take a chance and apply to college.

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Me with some other Manor students at the annual Student Leader Training

My time off also helped me figure out what I wanted to pursue; my passion for animals. After conducting some research, I found Manor College! Luckily, Manor was having an open house at the time, so I decided to attend. My first experience at Manor was one I’ll never forget. Everyone was so welcoming and excited to see all of the potential students. I immediately fell in love with the class sizes and the options for students wanting to pursue veterinary studies. Immediately afterwards, I submitted my application. I was beyond ecstatic when I received my acceptance letter in the mail, but soon the looming thought of college debt crept into my mind. How would I afford a private two-year college?

Suddenly, a miracle happened. I received an invitation in the mail to attend a scholarship competition at Manor College. Answering questions for various Manor faculty and staff members during the event made me realize that I had a lot more to offer as a student than I thought. It was the first time I had to talk about my personal triumphs and accomplishments. Manor College faculty and staff were able to see my potential before I could. I was awarded the Presidential Scholarship, which meant I could go to college tuition free! From that moment on, I knew I wanted to make Manor College proud and that I would take full advantage of such a wonderful opportunity.

My first semester was nerve wracking in the beginning. I had no idea what to expect. Within my 16 credits, I was taking two laboratory classes and an honors math course. I already doubted I could get through it. Even so, I found comfort in my wonderful professors, and each semester I had professors who truly cared about my success in their course. I knew I could approach them with any questions after class, during their office hours, or there was a likely chance I would just run into them on campus! Manor also offered a free tutoring center in case I ever needed help.

Eventually, I decided to change my career path because I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. Manor made changing my major easy and my academic advisor supported me through this change.

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Me and one of my mentors, Julie Senecoff, at my Manor College graduation!

My success in each of my classes gave me confidence to get involved elsewhere. Manor offered many opportunities to gain leadership and volunteer experience. I joined Student Senate, Phi Theta Kappa, Student Ambassadors, and the Campus Activities Board. Each club helped me gain different skills: Student Senate helped me develop as a student leader, something I never knew I could be! Phi Theta Kappa allowed me to explore various volunteer options and gave me the opportunity to organize my own fundraiser. The Campus Activities Board let me plan fun activities for students on campus, while Student Ambassadors let me connect with new incoming students to help show them what Manor is all about. Manor even gave me a chance to work on campus as a peer tutor so I could have a flexible schedule around my classes, but I could still work in an enriching environment.

When it came time to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, I knew I could count on anyone on campus for help. Manor’s transfer counselor was there to answer any questions about my application. My professors were more than willing to take on the application process in order to write my letters of recommendation.

Applying was the most stressful time of my semester and the long wait was excruciating to say the least. Through it all, faculty and staff were encouraging and always checking in to see if I had heard anything back.

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This is me and Ali Mootz at Manor’s reception celebrating the receipt of the scholarship.

In the end, the wait paid off and I was awarded the scholarship! Without the support and opportunities I was given at Manor College, I couldn’t have been awarded the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship. I got involved in these activities because Manor students, faculty, and staff made me feel welcome. I never knew that getting involved would lead me to receiving the biggest private scholarship in the nation! The Cooke foundation looks for students who care about getting involved on and off campus and students who are dedicated to succeeding academically despite all obstacles. If Manor had not believed in the student I could become, I may have never been awarded this scholarship. It takes just one person to believe in your abilities to give you the confidence to succeed; I found more than just one person at Manor College.

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