Brooklyn, NY — Kingsborough Community College (KCC) students Ahmer Ali and Elizaveta Ulumbelashvili are among the 459 nationwide semifinalists the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation selected for its highly competitive Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. They join 24 other CUNY semifinalists, chosen from a pool of more than 1,700 applicants attending 215 community colleges in 38 states. The finalists will be announced by early May.
The highly competitive scholarship includes up to $55,000 per year to attend a four-year accredited undergraduate school, the ability to pursue any area of study, and personal advising about selecting a college and navigating financial aid. In addition to financial support, the selected finalists will receive comprehensive educational advisement to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year school and preparing for their careers. Finalists will also receive opportunities for internships, study abroad, and graduate school funding, and access to a network of over 3,000 fellow Cooke scholars and alumni. Awards vary by individual, based on the cost of tuition and other grants or scholarships they may receive.
Cooke Transfer Scholars are selected based on their exceptional academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, service, and leadership. Students must be currently enrolled in a community college or recent alumni. The coveted scholarship offers unmatched support to community college students seeking to complete their education at top four-year institutions. Each award is intended to cover a significant share of the student’s educational expenses, including tuition, living expenses, books and required fees, for the final two to three years necessary to achieve a bachelor’s degree.
“The Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship gives our students a chance to dream bigger,” noted KCC President Claudia Schrader. “Winning the scholarship would allow them to broaden their senior college search to include those that would have been financially beyond their reach. We are extremely proud of Elizaveta and Ahmer, and hope to see them included among this year’s finalists.”
Born and raised in Midwood, Brooklyn, Ahmer Ali is one of a set of triplets, all of whom attend Kingsborough and, together, are the first in their family to attend college. The liberal arts major is passionate about user experience (UX) design. Having grown up with deaf parents, he’s experienced many instances where they’ve struggled to use technology because it wasn’t accessible enough for them. “Seeing this firsthand has inspired me to make a change in technology. Once I’m done with my education, I plan to start my own company designing technology products for better accessibility and usability.” After graduating from KCC, he plans to attend New York University, where he wants to major in digital communications and media with a concentration in interactive media.
In the meantime, Ahmer has been gaining tech experience. As a work-study student, he works at CUNY as a user experience (UX) designer to design and improve the user experience of CUNY’s digital platforms, ensuring that they are intuitive, user-friendly, and meet the needs of their diverse community. He is part of a one-year fellowship program called the Knowledge House that prepares people from minority backgrounds for the tech industry. And this past winter, he was a research accessibility intern at MIT, working to solve food insecurity for low-income students through technology. In addition, Ahmer is a KCC student ambassador.
Being named a JKCF semifinalist is very meaningful to him: “I can’t express how much it means to me that a prestigious organization recognized the hard work I have put in these years. It’s validating to be acknowledged for my efforts on and off campus.”
Elizaveta Ulumbelashvili grew up in the Eastern European country of Georgia. She is also the first in her family to attend college. As a biology major, Elizaveta desires to contribute to society as a medical doctor or scientist, but not necessarily in a hospital setting. “Science provides a vast range of opportunities to support and impact populations, not just individual patients. I have always been interested in exploring the intersection of biology and technology. After completing my education, I see myself pursuing a career in biotechnology where I can work with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to develop new applications and solutions that benefit society,” shared Elizaveta.
She has already accepted an offer from Columbia University, where she plans to major in biology this fall, with a possible minor in computer science. “As a mother of a four-year-old and a working individual, pursuing education is a top priority for me, but it comes with its own set of challenges, including financial constraints,” she said. “The Cooke scholarship would provide an opportunity for me to continue my education without having to worry about the financial burden. As an immigrant, I am not eligible for most majority scholarships, which makes this opportunity even more important to me. This scholarship would make it possible for me to pursue my dreams and give back to the community in a meaningful way. I am grateful for the opportunity and excited about the possibilities it presents.”
Since 2000, the Cooke Foundation has awarded almost $250 million in scholarships to nearly 3,200 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive educational advising and other support services.
“By lifting the financial burden of pursuing a four-year degree off their shoulders, our goal is to help students take full advantage of a four-year college experience without taking on student debt,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Cooke Foundation. “This year’s selected semifinalists reflect the deep bench of talent across our community colleges today, and we’re looking forward to getting to know them better in our final application review process.”