Six current Essex County College students and one recent alumnus have been selected as semi-finalists for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

The scholarship carries an award of $40,000 a year for up to three years at a four-year college or university.

Fifteen ECC graduates have received the Cooke award since 2006, the most of any two-year school in the state.

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“This is a true testament to the high quality of our students, and faculty and staff. Clearly an outstanding effort," ECC President Anthony Munroe said. "Essex County College continues to make a tremendous difference each and every day."

The Foundation received more than 2,400 applications this year, with the semi-finalists representing the top 20 percent of all applicants.

The college’s semi-finalists include Karen Correa Faro (Environmental Science), Eniola Kolawole (Biology, Pre-Medicine), Natacha Lima (Liberal Arts), John Nwankwo (Engineering), Dereck Retana (Liberal Arts), and Leonardo Ruales (Mathematics). Class of 2017 alumnus Diego Neira, who earned an Associate's Degree in Music, is also a Cooke semi-finalist.

“Becoming a semi-finalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship feels as I am one step closer to reaching my dreams,” Corra Faro said. “Potentially, not having to worry about my financial circumstances for at least three years is a significant amount of weight taken off my shoulders.”

Corra Faro plans on transferring to Colorado College where she hopes to major in organismal biology and ecology.

Kolawola hopes to attend Rutgers University-New Brunswick to pursue a doctorate in pharmacy.

“Being a semi-finalist is such an honor and I do not take it for granted,” she said. “I initially did not want to apply because I know that there are so many qualified and well deserving candidates that would be applying. That is why being considered a semi-finalist is so important to me because my confidence has improved greatly and it will help me when it comes to pursuing my goals in the future.”

Lima, a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient, said her passion lies with education.

“I plan on becoming an educator myself, specifically college level,” Lima said. “My parents migrated here so that I can go to school and make something of myself, something that would not be possible in my home country. Words can't even describe how grateful I feel. This means I am one step closer to doing what I came to America to do-get an education and make something of myself.”

The scholarships will be awarded in April.

The Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is the largest private scholarship in the nation for students transferring from two-year community colleges to four-year institutions that award bachelor’s degrees.