PARAMUS, N.J. — Bergen Community College student Luis Cedeno Vera, of Hackensack, will receive up to $40,000 per year from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship to earn his bachelor's degree. 

Vera has become the twelfth student at the college since 2008 to earn the distinction. In a pool of about 1,500 applicants hailing from 331 community colleges around the country, Vera was among 50 selected to receive the scholarship.

“The Jack Kent Cooke is one of the most competitive scholarships available for community college students, and I am very proud of Luis for being selected as the twelfth scholar from Bergen,” Bergen Phi Theta Kappa honor society co-adviser Angie Goldszmidt said. “Luis is an outstanding student who made extraordinary contributions to our institution, and I am grateful for the JKC Foundation for supporting his pursuit of higher education.”

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The Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship represents the largest private scholarship in the nation for students transferring from two-year community colleges to four-year institutions that award bachelor’s degrees. All Cooke scholars have financial need and strong records of academic achievement as shown by grades, leadership skills, awards, extraordinary service to others and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Since 2000, the foundation has awarded $200 million in scholarships to more than 2,700 students from eighth-grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive counseling and other support services. The foundation has also provided over $110 million in grants to organizations that serve such students.

“I am honored to be part of this amazing community, and I will continue to think big, work hard, and achieve my goals in this adventurous life,” said Vera.

An Ecuadorian native, Cedeno emigrated to the United States five years ago and joined the U.S. Army Reserve. Following his stint in the military, Vera enrolled at BCC as an engineering science major and joined Bergen's cross-country team. Cedeno’s extracurricular activities also included various Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) projects, the STEM and mathematics clubs. His leadership roles includes working as both a tutor and a supplemental instruction leader in Bergen’s Cerullo Learning Assistance Center.

Vera will partake in his virtual graduation ceremony at BCC, which will be livestreamed tonight via the college’s website. He is considering Brown, Cornell or Princeton University in the fall. He aspires to obtain a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering and conduct research to improve efficiency in the generation and consumption of energy.