Three Miami Dade College Honors College students were awarded the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke undergraduate transfer scholarship: Valentina d’Empaire, Juan J. Albrecht,and Yessica Maltes.
A fourth student, Santiago Tobar, a senior at the School for Advanced Studies at Wolfson Campus, won the scholarship for exemplary high school seniors.
The Jack Kent Cooke scholarship is awarded to selected students based on exceptional academic ability and achievements, and support students who work hard and have financial needs.
The award is intended to cover up to $40,000 per year. Costs covered include tuition, living expenses, books and required fees in order to attain their bachelor’s degree.
In Tobar’s case, he is also eligible for access to summer internships and funds to study abroad.
Valentina d’Empaire, 21, a civil engineering major in the Honors College at the InterAmerican Campus received her associates of arts this past spring. She participated in the Salzburg Global Seminar during her freshman year.
D’ Empaire was born in Caracas, Venezuela and came to the United States in 2011.
“I feel amazing. I haven’t assimilated it yet,” d’Empaire said. “For the first time coming to this country was finally worth it.”
During her time at MDC, d’Empaire served as treasurer of Phi Theta Kappa and president of the Engineers for a Sustainable World at her campus. She plans to continue her undergraduate degree at John Hopkins University and eventually get her masters degree in business administration.
Juan Joel Albrecht, 19, a computer engineering major received his associates of arts degree from the Honors College at North Campus this past spring. Albrecht is now focusing on transferring to either University of California or Cornell University.
Albrecht was born in Matanzas, Cuba and arrived to the United States in January of 2013. He served as the president of the mathematics club, secretary of the biology club and vice president of Phi Theta Kappa at North Campus
“When I came here, I started teaching myself different programming languages and it was so fun to learn. I could spend eight hours sitting in front of the computer without even complaining,” Albrecht said. “At that moment, I knew programming was a big part of me, and I signed up for the challenge of reaching my full potential in this interesting field.”
His passion for math and science was abundantly clear when he was accepted to six transfer institutions, but Albrecht worried about how he would pay for his education once he left MDC. After winning the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, that is no longer a concern.
“I am feeling very grateful with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for giving me this opportunity to reach ambitious goals: obtaining a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from a top institution in my major and not asking my parents for a single dime,” Albrecht said.
Yessica Maltes, 20, an accounting/finance major, received her associates of arts from the Honors College at Wolfson Campus. Maltes will attend the University of Miami and double major in accounting and finance.
She was born in Uruguay and arrived in the United States at the age of seven. While attending MDC, one of her biggest achievements was a campus project she created called Own Your Future. The program offers a semester-long series of professional development workshops aimed at helping students network, build their résumé, and improve their interviewing skills.
Maltes also served as fellowship director of Phi Theta Kappa at her campus.
“A tip I would share with those applying to this scholarship next year is to respond to the questions and essays in a way that reflects who you truly are. Speak from the heart and don’t be afraid to put all your emotions down on paper,” Maltes said. “Also, no matter how successful you become, never forget where you came from and those who helped you along the way. Remain humble and reflect that on all applications.”
Santiago Tobar, 18, who recently graduated from the School for Advanced Studies at Wolfson campus, is an economics major who received his associates in arts degree from MDC before finishing high school. He is also a Questbridge Scholar—a program intended to connect low income students into top universities.
During his time at MDC, Tobar was an active member of the Confucius Institute, and served as a researcher for the bioinformatics laboratory and professor Edwin Gines-Candelaria. Tobar was named by Columbia University as a John W. Kluge Scholar, allowing him to participate in any study abroad or research project he’d like to take part in.
“I think all of this comes from [the] mantra I have [had] with me since my freshman year: ‘Try to make the best out of every single opportunity presented to you,’ ” Tobar said.
He will attend Columbia University this fall, majoring in political science.