CONYERS, Ga. – Diana Ha, a Conyers resident and student at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College, is being awarded the Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) Foundation’s prestigious Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, one of the largest private scholarships in the country.
The highly competitive national scholarship will provide Ha with up to $40,000 a year to complete her bachelor’s degree. The foundation selected only 50 students nationwide to receive the scholarship this year.
Ha is studying biology and will graduate with her associate degree this summer. The 20-year-old Honors College student will transfer to Georgia State’s Atlanta Campus.
The JKC Foundation selected Ha and fellow Perimeter College student Matthew Wessler as two of this year’s winners. They were chosen from 1,500 applicants attending 311 community colleges, placing them in the top 3 percent of candidates for the award.
“I am shaking, I’m so excited,” Ha said upon learning of the award from Perimeter College Dean Nancy Kropf during a Webex conference, arranged to comply with the COVID-19 pandemic social distancing practices.
“I want to thank the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for supporting the dreams of so many kids like me — low-income, first-generation students going to college,” Ha said. “I have so much relief not having to worry about financial issues now.”
Ha said she didn’t tell her parents that she had applied for the scholarship.
“I didn’t want to get their hopes up,” she said. “ I like to take the initiative in what I do — and (I tell them) something when I know it is final and confirmed. I know they are going to be pretty surprised.”
While at Perimeter College, Ha excelled in the Honors College and maintained a 4.0 grade point average (GPA) while volunteering in her community and at her church. She was named a Georgia State University Coca-Cola First Generation Scholar, and received a scholarship to study abroad in Ecuador in 2019. Recently, Ha was accepted into Georgia State’s summer research program for undergraduates.
Ha is also active as a mentor and volunteer at Newton College and Career Academy’s STEM Institute, where she graduated in the top 10 of her class in 2018.
News of the scholarship was a relief for Ha, whose father is disabled. Her mother, who supports the family through working at a nail salon, has been unemployed during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place directives.
“Despite the coronavirus, they wanted me to continue my college education and go post-grad,” she said. “They want me to keep striving for my dreams.”
Ha wants to become a pediatric cardiologist.
“We know this is a very uncertain time for many students and their families. We remain deeply committed to supporting high-achieving community college students to ensure they have the resources to reach their full academic potential,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
In addition to financial support, Ha and the other JKC scholars will receive comprehensive educational advising from the foundation as they transition to a four-year college and prepare for their careers. Winners also will receive opportunities for internships, study abroad and funding for graduate school and will join a network of more than 2,700 JKC scholars and alumni.
This year, 12 Perimeter students were named semifinalists for the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, setting a record for the college. The 12 Perimeter students represent the majority of semifinalists from the state of Georgia and positioned Perimeter College among the top five institutions in the nation for its number of semifinalists.
The JKC Foundation evaluated applicants on their academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, leadership and service to others. This year’s selected recipients represent 17 states.
Since 2002, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has awarded 21 Perimeter students the Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The recipients have gone on to achieve success in bachelor’s degree programs (and beyond) at prominent institutions such as Georgia Tech, MIT, Emory University, Howard University, University of Southern California, Stanford University and Agnes Scott College. This year is the first year that recipients plan to continue their studies at Georgia State’s Atlanta Campus.
Read more about the challenges Ha has overcome to become one of this year’s winners. Learn about Perimeter College’s strong history with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and its scholarships at the college’s new Jack Kent Cooke website.