Honors student wins 2014 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Written by: Seminole State Staff

In a little more than a year, 18-year-old Gabriella Nicholas will have earned her two-year degree from Seminole State College of Florida and a scholarship worth up to $90,000 over three years.

Nicholas, 18, a Grindle Honors Institute student, is Seminole State’s latest winner of a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, considered the top prize for two-year and community college transfer students.

“This scholarship means the world to me,” says Nicholas, a 2013 graduate of Lake Brantley High School. “Before the announcement, my parents were losing sleep stressing about paying for college for me. Seeing the joy emanating from their faces was indescribable – just to know that I actually made them prouder of me than they’ve ever been.”

The scholarship opens the door for Nicholas to attend one of the nation’s top universities to pursue her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Seminole State President E. Ann McGee surprised Nicholas, 18, of Longwood, with the news at the annual Honors Institute banquet on Wednesday, April 9.

Nicholas is one of just 85 students nationally to be awarded the JKC undergraduate scholarship out of more than 3,700 applicants.

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.

Nicholas is the eighth Jack Kent Cooke scholar from Seminole State since the award’s inception in 2006. Seminole State is one of only 10 colleges in the nation with eight or more JKC scholars.

Nicholas, who will graduate with her Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree this summer, began at Seminole State in Fall Term 2013 with a year’s worth of college credit finished thanks to Advanced Placement courses. She joined the Honors Institute right away, which she says was one of the best decisions of her young college career.

“Looking back, making the decision to attend Seminole State College was an absolute blessing in disguise,” she says. “I met wonderful people, received great opportunities and developed lasting relationships with the staff and administration.”

Seminole State’s previous recipients of the award are Lalita Booth, Isa Adney, Sarah Holland, Sally Rodriguez, Tatiana Viecco, Daniel Leon and Charles Bilyue.

“Seminole State has a great network of previous Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners,” Nicholas says. “It’s more like a family. It’s inspiring how tight-knit and connected they all are, and it’s something I can’t wait to be a part of. We’ve all gone through similar paths in life to succeed in something greater, and we all want to make a difference in the world.”

Nicholas plans to pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree in journalism and then land a job as an investigative reporter at a prestigious publication with her sights set on a Pulitzer Prize.

Nicholas was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, where her father served as a crash/structural firefighter for the U.S. Air Force, but her family moved to Florida when she was young.

She has always been interested in reading and writing, and she showed interest in journalism as far back as middle school, when she organized a newspaper club.

She aims to master journalism from all aspects – writing, editing, photography and Web design – and do her part to help revitalize the craft.

Nicholas is already developing her style as a writer. While at Seminole State, she started www.TheCampusBug.com, which focuses on news and topics relevant to college students.

“Creating the website was one of my greatest achievements while I was at Seminole State,” she says. “It gave me an outlet to practice what I’m passionate about without interfering with my classes.”

Wherever her career takes her, she is thankful for the people in her life – parents, friends and teachers – who supported her, and she is mindful of her beliefs.

“My faith has played a huge role in overcoming some of the difficulties in life,” she says. “God is a huge part of my family, and having faith behind everything has made me the individual I’ve become today.”

The Grindle Honors Institute offers enrichment programs for academically talented students wishing to enhance their experience at Seminole State. For more information, visit the Honors Institute website, or call 407.708.2062.