Seminole State College of Florida honors student Charles Bilyue is one of only 60 students in the country to be named a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar for 2012.
Bilyue, 30, was stunned when District Board of Trustees Chairman Scott Howat surprised him at the April 23 board meeting with the news that he had won the $30,000 annual scholarship. The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is considered the largest in the nation for community or state college transfer students. Bilyue will graduate April 27 with an associate degree from Seminole State.
No other college in the nation comes close to Seminole State’s streak of seven consecutive Jack Kent Cooke scholars since 2006. During the past seven years, students from Seminole State's Art & Phyllis Grindle Honors Institute have graduated with up to $420,000 in scholarship money from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Program. Bilyue is the only Central Florida student chosen for the award this year.
Home-schooled for most of his formative years, Bilyue developed an interest in science and technology early on, becoming a hobbyist software developer at age 13. Because of family and personal issues, Bilyue postponed college for 10 years after receiving his high school diploma. He was introverted, lacked confidence and had no goals, Bilyue says. However, a discussion with a relative finally snapped him out of his malaise.
Soon the Casselberry man was exploring different career paths at Seminole State, eventually choosing the Legal Studies Program. Through his involvement with that program, he became active in Seminole State’s Pi Lambda chapter of Phi Theta Kappa and in Phi Beta Lambda, the College's Future Business Leaders of America chapter.
“I’m glad the College encouraged me to get involved with leadership retreats because they put me in a position to get moving and to focus,” he says. Then he took a macroeconomics class. “That’s where I really found out what I want to accomplish in my life – to become an economist.”
An honors oratory class confirmed him in his decision when the professor had the class debate whether deficit reduction should be the priority in 2011. “The research I came across showed there are causes of our financial problems that aren’t being addressed,” Bilyue says, recalling how fascinated he was by the topic. “If I’m excited about it, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be part of the solution.”
He’s hoping to attend the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School or Stanford University and eventually pursue a doctorate in macroeconomics.
“I want to get into academia,” he says, “to do research and teach and be influential on macroeconomic policy.”
Among Seminole State’s previous Jack Kent Cooke winners are Lalita Booth, a Truman Scholar who is graduating from Harvard this spring with two master’s degrees; and Daniel Leon, who is attending American University in Washington, D.C.
For more information about Seminole State's Art & Phyllis Grindle Honors Institute, visit the Honors website, or call 407.708.2062.