Record number of LaGuardia Community College students selected as semifinalists for prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

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Record Number of LaGuardia Community College Students Selected as Semifinalists for Prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY—Eight LaGuardia Community College students have been selected as semifinalists for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship []—the nation’s largest transfer scholarship for community college students.

This highly competitive program provides stand-out community college students with up to $40,000 per year toward the completion of a bachelor’s degree. This year, 406 national semi-finalists [] were selected from about 1,500 applicants from 398 community colleges across the US. Winners will be announced later next month.

“We are incredibly proud of our eight Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship semifinalists,” said LaGuardia Community College President Kenneth Adams. “To be selected as a semifinalist is a mark of a student’s exceptional academic ability and achievement, as well as their persistence, service and leadership. To have so many students selected as semifinalists is a credit to the hard work of these students and their faculty and staff mentors.”

The eight LaGuardia students selected as semifinalists include:

Sara El Houzaly, Biology Major


Born and raised in Morocco, Sara El Houzaly moved to New York after completing high school in 2019. Her passion for human anatomy and physiology has led her to pursue a career as a medical physicist. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society, the Honors Student Advisory Committee (HSAC), is a Dean’s List Scholar and a trainee in the NIH Bridges research program. She is also a member of the President’s Society, LaGuardia’s professional development program for high-achieving students.

Josephine Elumeze, Electrical Engineering Major


Josephine Elumeze is Nigerian-American and aspires to earn an electrical engineering degree to work on renewable energy in Africa. She is vice president of the PTK Honor Society, an Accelerated Studies in Associate Programs (ASAP) student and a student recruiter in LaGuardia’s Admissions office. She was a fall 2020 President’s Society Ambassador. Josephine is passionate about STEM and educational equity; she conducts research on the effects of aerosols in society and creates YouTube videos for African students who intend to enroll in US colleges.

Carmen Escudero, Biology Major


Born in Colombia and raised in NYC, Carmen Escudero is majoring in biology. She is treasurer of the LaGuardia Student Government Association and a member of HSAC, PTK Honor Society, and CUNY Research Scholars Program. She is also a President’s Society Environment Ambassador and has made the Dean’s List. Carmen aspires to enroll in medical school and specialize in dermatology after earning a bachelor’s degree.

David Fuentes, Earth System Science & Environmental Engineering Major


David Fuentes was born and raised in Peru, where he studied civil engineering and worked at a soil mechanics laboratory, which led him to study renewable energy systems. At LaGuardia, he is majoring in mechanical engineering with a concentration in earth system science and environmental engineering. He is a member of HSAC and the CREAR Futuros Mentorship Program. He has participated in a solar panel research program and is a President’s Society Environment Ambassador. David aspires to obtain a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering in order to create more sustainable environmental systems.

Valeries Pires, Liberal Arts: Journalism Major


Valerie Pires is a New Yorker who describes herself as, “a nontraditional student who is pursuing a decades-old dream of higher education.” Before coming to LaGuardia, she worked in journalism and documentary film making in the US and abroad. She also taught ESL in Europe and South America. At LaGuardia, she has been involved with HSAC, is an assistant researcher on the LGBTQ Collection of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives. Valerie also volunteers as an ESL instructor for City Hall’s English Language program, We Speak NYC [].

Pema Tamang, Liberal Arts: International Studies Major

Pema Dolkar Tamang is a Tibetan refugee who arrived in the US two years ago. She is interested in gender studies, anthropology, and migration literature, and hopes to pursue a research career in any of these areas in the future. Her dream job would be as a policy analyst with the UN Women or UNHCR. She has interned with the New York Unified Court System as an interpreter.


Zilla Tofte, Engineering Major


Born in South Africa, Zilla moved to New York to pursue an education. She is a member of PTK, is on the Dean’s List, and is a recent recipient of the English Department’s Critical Writing Award. She was a President’s Society Ambassador and participated in a research program under the Gardiner-Shenker Foundation and LaGuardia and Wagner Archives. Zilla plans to transfer to a four-year university to study environmental engineering and computer science.

Alejandro Toro Monrroy, Liberal Arts: International Studies Major


Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Alejandro Toro Monrroy moved to the US in 2016. After traveling and working across different states, he decided to pursue his studies in international relations in NYC. Driven by multiculturalism, diplomacy, social sciences and traveling, Alejandro would like to become a human rights researcher. While at LAGCC, he made the Dean’s List, he is a member of PTK Honors Society and the CREAR Futuros Mentorship Program, a Student Success Mentor, and was nominated for the Transfer Scholars Network program. He is a Spring 2021 President’s Society Ambassador.

The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship seeks to increase the number of community college students completing their education at top four-year institutions. Community colleges are full of aspiring individuals with larger-than-life goals but have limited financial resources. The Jack Kent Cooke scholarship provides transfer students with the necessary resources to further their education goals.

Why is this scholarship so important? As stated in a Jack Kent Cooke Report, “Community colleges are filled with bright, talented students ready to earn a bachelor’s degree, and most community college students express a desire to earn a bachelor’s degree (81 percent). Unfortunately, only 33 percent transfer to a four-year institution within six years. For many community college students, failure to complete a bachelor’s degree is not a measure of their academic ability, but rather the result of insufficient financial resources, transfer advising, and limited course planning.”

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LaGuardia Community College, located in Long Island City, Queens, educates thousands of New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. Our guiding principle Dare To Do More reflects our belief in the transformative power of education—not just for individuals, but for our community and our country—creating pathways for achievement and safeguarding the middle class. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all U.S. college students study. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education. We invite you to join us in imagining what our students, our community, and our country can become.

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