Three LaGuardia Community College students awarded prestigious national scholarships

Jonathan Morales (l-r), Konstandinos Gobakis and Miguel Castillo beam with pride after they were selected as Jack Kent Cooke Scholars.
Courtesy LaGuardia Community College
By Bill Parry

When 55 community college students from around the nation were selected Tuesday for the 2017 Jack Kent Cook Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarships, three were from LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City. Each will receive up to $40,000 a year to complete a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university.

“Having three students be selected for the prestigious Jack Kent Cook Scholarships is a testament to the work these incredible students and to the high-quality education delivered by LaGuardia faculty,” LGA President Gail O. Mellow said. “This scholarship represents the national imperative to open up the doors of our nation’s most elite institutions to community college students. We need our nation’s top colleges to reflect our nation’s diversity, and LaGuardia and the nation’s community colleges are an often ignored pipeline that can bring talented, motivated, and proven students to these institutions.”

They were selected from a pool of 3,000 applicants nationwide. LaGuardia is one of only two institutions in the country to have three Jack Kent Cooke scholars this year.

Jonathan Morales, 24, dropped out of high school and earned his high school equivalency diploma to seek work to help his mother — who raised him and his brother as a single parent — with their family’s expenses. After several years working as a carpenter, Morales decided to go back to school and found his way to LaGuardia, where he excelled both academically and personally.

“Becoming a Jack Kent Cook Scholar has given me a new higher-education pathway with significantly fewer financial barriers,” Morales said. “I hope my selection for this award will show other LaGuardia students that they, too, can win a competitive national scholarship, regardless of their cultural background or hardships they’ve endured.”

Morales was accepted at Brown, Amherst, Michigan, and a host of other institutions, He has decided to attend Stanford. His professional goal is to facilitate the sharing of self-published narratives and news for the Latinx gender-fluid community and other marginalized communities through a new social media platform he intends to develop.

Miguel Castillo is a first-generation Mexican-Dominican, raised by a single mother. He is also a Marine Corps veteran who completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He has completed research at Columbia University and the Brookhaven National Laboratory and will be at Stanford this summer for a technology and entrepreneurship program. Castillo intends to pursue a dual-major in computer science and electrical engineering at an institution to be determined.

“Being named a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar has made me dream bigger — beyond even obtaining a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “In addition to becoming an inventor and an entrepreneur, I want to give back to society in the future.”

Konstandinos Gobakis embraced and excelled in opportunities he found at LaGuardia, especially the Peer Activist Learning Community. He has been accepted at Swarthmore College, where he plans to earn his bachelor’s in computer sciences and humanities.

“I am extremely proud to have received this Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship,” said Gobakis, a Liberal Arts: Math and Science major. “It has opened new doors for me.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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