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Two Montgomery College Students Earn Prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

Scholarships provide Normand Bayigamba and Luiz Mata Lopez with as much as $55,000 a year to complete a bachelor’s degree

Normand Bayigamba and Luiz Mata Lopez, students at Montgomery College, are two of just 60 high-achieving community college students selected to receive the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The highly competitive national scholarship aims for Cooke Scholars to complete their undergraduate educations with as little debt as possible. The award, which is last dollar funding after all institutional aid, can provide Bayigamba and Mata Lopez with as much as $55,000 a year to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Along with financial support, new Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars will receive comprehensive educational advising to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year college and preparing for their careers. Scholars will additionally receive opportunities for internships, study abroad, and graduate school funding, as well as connection to a thriving network of more than 3,000 Cooke Scholars and Alumni.

Bayigamba, a graduate of Thomas C. Wootton High School, will take part in the College’s 2023 Commencement Ceremony May 19, having earned an Associate of Arts in general studies, with a concentration in social sciences, administration, and health.

Mata Lopez graduated from Col. Zadok Magruder High School in Rockville and will walk alongside Bayigamba and 2023 Montgomery College graduating class having earned an Associate of Arts in computer science.

“It is an honor to be a recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke transfer scholarship, with much thanks to the unbelievable amount of support and tutelage from my professors and mentors,” Bayigamba said. “Montgomery College has given me the resources to excel, and its top-class faculty have consistently put me in position to take advantage of opportunities. I am forever thankful for the brilliant people I have met along my way, and I hope to stay connected to the MC community long after I leave!”

This year, more than 1,700 students from 448 community colleges applied to receive the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The Foundation evaluated each submission based on students’ academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, and leadership.

“This award motivates me to continue working hard and gives me hope about attending graduate school one day. MC has provided me with everything I have ever needed in order to succeed,” said Matos Lopez, who credits the MC social clubs and organizations run by “passionate and helpful” professors, for keeping him engaged in the total MC experience. “And if it were not for my amazing professors, who have guided me every step of the way, I would not be where I am today.”

Of the College’s 20 winners of the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, all but three were honors students. Two winners were Macklin Business Institute Scholars, three were in the Scholars Circle, one was a Montgomery Scholar and 11 winners have been Renaissance Scholars.

The Cooke Foundation award is another in a long list of honors for the 2023 MC winners. They have both been part of the Montgomery College Renaissance Scholars Honors Program, the STEM Scholars Program, and of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

In addition, Bayigamba participated in the Achieving the Promise Academy at the College, he has been a research fellow in the Humanities Collaboratory at Johns Hopkins University, and has been a student presenter at several conferences, including at the Johns Hopkins Summer Symposium, the Maryland Male Students of Color Summit, and the Maryland Collegiate Honors Conference.

Mata Lopez participated in the NSF Research experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Maryland, College Park, has served as collegewide STEM ambassador at MC, and been part of the Raptors Who Code student club. He has also been a presenter at the Montgomery College STEM conference.

“It’s an honor to congratulate these two Montgomery College student leaders - Normand and Luiz - for being named winners of the highly competitive Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship," said Dr. Jermaine F. Williams, president of Montgomery College. "This outstanding achievement shines a light on the amazing efforts and perseverance of students like Normand and Luiz, as well as the dedication of Montgomery College faculty and staff who are fully engaged with students from the beginning of their Montgomery College journey, to the day they walk across the stage as College graduates.”

Transfer institutions for past MC Cooke Foundation scholars include Georgia Tech, M.I.T, George Washington University, Morehouse College, Dickinson College, American University, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College, Stevenson University, Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of MD, College Park. Four scholarship winners have transferred to Georgetown University.

Bayigamba and Mata Lopez will be deciding on their transfer institutions in the coming weeks.

This year, overall undergraduate enrollment has remained comparable to last year’s numbers. However, for the first time in several years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, community college enrollment has increased by 2% nationwide.

“There are so many bright and persistent community college students in our nation who we know will thrive at four-year institutions if they can find a way to transfer without being weighed down by a heavy financial burden,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “We are excited to welcome yet another cohort of Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars to our community after learning about them through their applications and seeing their unbound potential.”

A list of the 2023 Cooke Transfer Scholars, including their community colleges, can be found here.