Two Montgomery College Students Awarded Prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarships

Montgomery College students My Duyen (Grace) Le and Trinh Nguyen have been awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship that will provide up to $30,000 each year for tuition, books and living expenses to use at the four-year transfer institution of their choice.

The Foundation provides scholarships for up to three years to the nation’s best low-income community college students seeking to complete a bachelor’s degree at an accredited college or university. This cohort is the largest in the program’s 13-year history, with 85 finalists selected from 3,705 applications representing 737 community colleges from 48 states, two U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.

To see a Montgomery College Television video of the surprise announcement, click here. “Trinh and Grace exemplify what it means to be Montgomery College students and scholars, and today, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship winners,” said Dr. DeRionne Pollard, president of Montgomery College. “They immigrated to this country amidst challenges that could have made them wither. Instead, they persevered and are now shining stars with amazing futures before them. We cannot be more proud of these two extraordinary young ladies.”

Scholars were selected based on high academic ability and achievements, persistence, leadership, and financial need. The average GPA of the incoming class is 3.98 and the Scholars come from families with an average adjusted gross income of approximately $25,000.

“The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has long been committed to helping outstanding community college students transfer to and succeed at the nation’s top colleges and universities,” said Emily Froimson, vice president of programs at the Foundation. “Since the program started in 2002, the Foundation has supported 643 community college students directly, and thousands more through the Foundation’s grant making initiatives.”

Le was born in Vietnam, where her mother introduced her to community service and volunteerism. Le and her family immigrated to the US after her father faced difficulties arising from his protest activities. In the US, she lived apart from her parents so that she could attend a better high school. It was a difficult and lonely time for her, but she overcame her challenges and rediscovered the “same girl who had self-discipline and a desire to help others.

“Enrolling at Montgomery College, I met other international students who shared similar experiences to mine,” said Le. “People saw me as an individual... acknowledging my hard work in classes and inviting me to get involved with civic activities on campus.... ”

Le is concluding her studies with a 4.0 grade point average. A chemical engineering major, she serves as an active leader on campus. She is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, serves as president of the student senate at the Germantown Campus, and also serves on the Student Advisory Council of the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Le is also a Montgomery College student ambassador, and president of the Engineering Club at the Germantown Campus.

While at Montgomery College, Le also has been an active member of the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program, a scholarship program that supports future leaders and entrepreneurs. She has been accepted to the University of Maryland, where she would continue her involvement in this program to graduate with a minor in Technological Entrepreneurship along with her bachelor's degree. She plans to continue studying chemical engineering.

Nguyen was also born in Vietnam. She and her family immigrated to the United States, leaving her father behind. Since her mother knew little English, Trinh took her father’s place, managing her family’s finances, applying for social services, and helping her brother adjust to school.

“It was overwhelming, but I also learned many lessons during this time,” said Nguyen. “I became a good manager, developed skills to deal with challenging situations, and increased my confidence and independence. I was also proud to be able to help my family adjust to their new life.”

A bioengineering major, Nguyen will conclude her studies with a 4.0 grade point average. She was a research fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., and also held a prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute summer internship at Georgetown University. She was vice president of the Engineering Club at the Germantown Campus, a member of Phi Theta Kappa, a participant in the S-STEM Scholars program, and volunteered for many campus organizations.

Nguyen is considering Smith College, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Maryland and will major in biomedical engineering.


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On September 16, 1946, the first Montgomery College classes were held in the evenings at a local high school with a student body of 186 men and women. Today, the College has grown to a multi-campus institution and serves nearly 60,000 students a year, through both credit and noncredit programs, in more than 100 areas of study.