Clatsop Community College is proud to announce that 3 of its students are semifinalists for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The semifinalists are Jennifer Ginn-Bennett of Clatskanie, Brandi Swiderski of Clatskanie, and Adam Smith of Seaside. This year’s 459 semifinalists were chosen from a pool of more than 1,700 applicants and attend 215 community colleges in 38 states. 8 Oregon community college students made it to semifinalist status with the majority coming from CCC. This scholarship provides up to $55,000 per year for community college students to continue their education at a four-year accredited undergraduate school in any area of study. As part of the application process for this highly competitive award, students must demonstrate their commitment to academic success, communicate their goals clearly, and express the impact that a scholarship like this could make for them.
Semifinalist Adam Smith mentioned that the deadline snuck up on him and he didn’t have a lot of time to plan out his essays. “I decided to be brutally honest in my essays and speak from the heart, and I guess that got their attention.” Adam didn’t hold back in writing about the adverse path he was going down having been in and out of jail on drug related charges, then deciding while in jail that what he was doing needed to change and after being released in 2020, connected with services that lead him to find a passion and work as a drug counselor and mental health associate. “I was told by my supervisor that if I wanted to keep advancing in this field, I’d have to get a master’s degree, so she took me to an appointment at CCC and I walked out enrolled in 4 classes.” Adam is graduating CCC this spring and has applied to Portland State University to become a licensed clinical social worker and get his master’s degree. “I spent the first half of my life being selfish, I’m going to spend the next half of my life giving back.”
Semifinalist Brandi Swiderski is also graduating with her transfer degree this spring and has been accepted to Portland State University where she is planning to study marketing analytics. She is a mother of a senior in high school who will also be attending PSU this fall. “I want to be the example to my daughter that I didn’t have growing up”, she stated while talking about her journey to get to this point in her life. “My past could have killed me. I’m a recovered drug addict and I got my GED. Now for the past two years I’ve been working and studying and
I really don’t want to take out student loans and have a goal of no student debt. I work while going to school which helps but this scholarship would make that goal achievable.”
Semifinalist Jennifer Ginn-Bennett has been studying business management while at CCC, but through her college journey found a love of writing and will be pursuing a master’s in English through Eastern Oregon University. “I worked 11 years in a business and worked my way up to administration but when the business closed and I had to look for work, I couldn’t get an administrative job because I didn’t have a degree, so I came to CCC to get the degree that matched my work experience. But I have found my passion in writing. I feel I expressed myself through my writing in the essays for this scholarship and even just getting to the semifinalist status has given me a boost in my confidence to know studying English for me isn’t a stupid idea. I get to follow what I love with English.”
All three of CCC’s semifinalists are members of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the International Honor Society for two-year colleges and are part of the TRIO program at the college. Adam serves as Vice President on the Associated Student Government, Brandi serves as the PTK President, and Jennifer serves at PTK Vice-President.
”We are so proud of these amazing, hardworking students and are thrilled that the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has recognized their potential. The opportunity of not having to worry about the cost of continuing your education is priceless, and I hope that all 3 of these fantastic students receive the Scholarship,” stated CCC President Chris Breitmeyer.
When asked what being selected as a semifinalist meant to them, all 3 students said what a confidence boost this has been. “Brandi checked her email before me, so I heard she had been selected, and before I checked my status I was getting congratulation emails coming in from my CCC instructors,” said Jennifer. Brandi and Adam both said they have had to fight the feeling of imposter syndrome. “I’ve looked at some of the other semifinalist and they are so impressive. It’s intimidating, but the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation saw something in me and chose me, so that is a major confidence booster,” stated Brandi.
Adam says he is impressed that there are 3 students at Clatsop Community College that are semifinalist out of the 8 from Oregon. “That just says we are doing something right here,” he said. “I’ve tried calculating out the odds of us getting the scholarship…we’ll see. I’ll be stoked for any one of us who gets it.”
Finalists for the JKCF Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is expected to be announced in late April.
For more information on the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, please go to www.jkcf.org.