MCC Students X Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship
Crystal Paulino, Safia Ansari, President Mark McCormick, Nima Sedghi, Vice President José Laureano, Theodore Kozak, Idaliz Herrera, Adriana Fung

MCC Students X Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship



Six Middlesex College students have been selected as semifinalists for the Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship. The students are: Safia Ansari of Woodbridge Township, Adriana Fung of North Brunswick, Theodore Kozak of Middlesex Borough, Nima Sedghi of Piscataway, and Idaliz Herrera and Crystal Paulino, both from Perth Amboy.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s prestigious Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is one of the most selective scholarships for the nation’s top community college students seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges or universities. Each Cooke Scholar has access to generous financial support for two to three years (which can be much as $55,000 a year after all institutional aid is considered), college planning support, ongoing advising, and the opportunity to connect with a thriving community of fellow Scholars.

In applying for one of the most lucrative scholarships in the country, Ansari, Fung, Herrera, Kozak, Paulino, and Sedghi, all part of Middlesex College’s Class of 2024, competed against thousands of community college applicants competing nationwide.

“To have six students from Middlesex College selected for the semi-final round of the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is a testament to the quality of education that our institution provides, but more importantly, the academic caliber of our students,” said President Mark McCormick. “We could not be prouder of Safia Ansari, Adriana Fung, Idaliz Herrera, Theodore Kozak, Crystal Paulino, and Nima Sedghi, and all that they have accomplished to have received this recognition. I have no doubt they will go on to achieve great things after they graduate from Middlesex College.”

That recognition was not lost on Fung, a psychology major who plans on continuing her studies at Rutgers University in the fall so that she can one day become a counselor.

“It’s a great feeling to be acknowledged for my efforts, especially when I’ve had doubts about whether I’m doing enough. Winning this scholarship would be life-changing. It would bring me peace and confidence, allowing me to focus on my studies without worrying about debt,” Fung said

Herrera, too, will be attending Rutgers this fall. The biology major plans to transfer to that university’s Environmental and Biological Sciences School.

“Once I transfer, I will pursue my bachelor’s in microbiology, with a possible minor in genetics. I want to work in a laboratory setting, but I am still deciding on what career will entail what I am looking for. So far, my interest lies in becoming a geneticist.”

Ansari will graduate with an associate degree in business administration. Her post-graduate plans include obtaining an internship in marketing, a bachelor’s degree in economics, and a certification in entrepreneurship. After achieving a bachelor’s degree, she hopes to work in business internationally, as well as pursue a master’s degree.

“Winning the [Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship] award would be life-changing for me. It would not only validate all the hard work and sacrifices I’ve made but also open doors to resources and opportunities that could shape my career and, ultimately, make a positive impact on the world,” Ansari aid.

Kozak had started his college career at another institution. He came to Middlesex College to pursue nursing but changed his major to philosophy after developing a love for the subject. He now wants to pursue a bachelor’s in philosophy and eventually become a professor at a college or university.

No one is more surprised by the Cooke Scholarship semi-finalist selection and all that has happened to him since enrolling at Middlesex College than Kozak.

“It was kind of life-changing in a way coming back to school. I’ve been out of school for almost a decade. So, it’s kind of shocking for all this to work out. I can say, for the first time, I have self-worth and it’s gratifying,” he said.

Paulino will be graduating with an associate degree in human services/pre-social work. She plans to pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees in her quest to become a licensed independent clinical social worker.

“I did not ever think I would graduate high school, let alone college. As someone who was raised on Section 8 and experienced homelessness, I genuinely did not believe I would be able to afford college,” she explained. “With motivation, support, and psychotherapy, any person can feel more than capable of making the world a better place, and I plan to spend every moment doing just that.”

Sedghi, a chemistry major, was born and raised in Iran and moved to the U.S. just a few years ago. As an immigrant and a non-traditional student, he says balancing his full-time studies while working full-time has not been without its challenges.

“The financial assistance from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation would not only relieve these pressures, it would enable me to participate in different research opportunities, have hands-on clinical experiences, and dedicate more time to study so I can pursue my lifelong aspirations,” said Sedghi.

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Middlesex College, established in 1964, is a public, two-year institution of higher education located in the heart of New Jersey. With a main campus in Edison and centers in New Brunswick and Perth Amboy, Middlesex College offers over 85 degree and certificate programs encouraging its more than 10,000 students to explore, grow, and thrive. Middlesex College, through dedicated faculty, state-of-the-art educational facilities, and holistic student supports, is committed to providing a high-quality, affordable college education that provides every student an opportunity for growth and achievement. Middlesex College is Middlesex County’s premier destination for lifelong learning and workforce training. Learn more at

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