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Student wins $30,000 transfer scholarship

From left: Dr. Laura Ross, Honors Institute director; Tatiana Viecco; and Tina Woode

Seminole State College Honors student Tatiana Viecco is one of only 40 students in the country to be named a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar for 2010.

Viecco's scholarship makes Seminole State the only college in the nation with five consecutive Jack Kent Cooke scholars since 2006. All have been students in the Art & Phyllis Grindle Honors Institute.

The 21-year-old Winter Springs woman arrived in the United States from Colombia six years ago speaking no English. This year she competed against almost 500 applicants for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, the largest private scholarship in the country for community and state college students. She will receive up to $30,000 per year to complete her bachelor's degree.

"I was astonished! I couldn’t believe it!" says Viecco. She was aware of the intense competition for the scholarship but determined to apply anyway.

"Since I was very little, my parents have inculcated the importance of going to school," she says. "I knew I wanted to attend a university."

Viecco, who works in the College's Academic Success Center, plans to attend UCF and pursue joint bachelor’s-master’s degrees in industrial engineering.

The awarding of five back-to-back Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarships reflects Seminole State's focus on developing its students, says Dr. Laura Ross, director of the Art & Phyllis Grindle Honors Institute.

"We have a system in place that identifies potential candidates early in their academic career. Then we encourage them to take on leadership roles and community service," she says. "Our nomination committee, Professors Marisabel Irizarry, Kevin Jordan, and Barbara Lott, offers suggestions to the candidates, and our former Jack Kent Cooke Scholars offer advice and support throughout the process. My guess is that not many other colleges have this kind of support for their applicants."

Seminole State's honors program has been helping students reach their potential since 1981. A catalyst for the recent growth and expansion of the honors program was the generous donation in 2006 of $1 million by former state Rep. Art Grindle.

"Art Grindle's gift provided many benefits to the students," Ross says, "including scholarships and travel study opportunities, but it also established full-time personnel dedicated to the Honors Institute. We are able to make students aware of scholarships and provide opportunities for them to meet scholarship criteria."

The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship Foundation focuses on academic achievement and critical thinking ability, Ross says, as well as unmet financial need, the will to succeed and students' breadth of interests and activities.

Other Seminole State Jack Kent Cooke scholars are:

  • Sally Rodriguez (2009), who's attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She plans to pursue a career in dentistry, specializing in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Rodriguez, a first-generation American, is also a single mother.
  • Sarah Holland (2008), who transferred to Stetson University to major in communications, with a minor in entrepreneurship. Holland was the first in her family to graduate from high school.
  • Isa Adney (2007), who graduated from Stetson University with a major in communications. Adney, who works at Seminole State, just received word that her Jack Kent Cooke scholarship has been renewed for graduate school. She will receive up to $50,000 and has been accepted to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for its Ed.M. online program in Human Resources Development.
  • Lalita Booth (2006), who was named a Truman Scholar while at UCF. She is now pursuing joint Master of Public Policy and Master of Business Administration degrees at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Business School.

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