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MCC Grad Receives Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

Zizhou Zhao, who graduated May 20, is one of 40 students across the nation to receive the 2010 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. This is the largest and most prestigious scholarship in the nation for students transferring from a community college to a four-year institution.

Mr. Zhao graduated with three degrees: Mathematics, Physics and Engineering Science. He has a 4.0 average and received a Frank M. Chambers Award, which is named for the College's founding president and is given to those with a perfect grade point average. Twelve other students are Chambers' winners.

The Fushun, China native is also the College's valedictorian and addressed the class during the ceremony.

Mr. Zhao is transferring to the University of California at Berkeley and is planning to major in Chemical Engineering, with a minor in Math and English. He plans to become an engineer and later open his own international engineering company.

"This is a great honor for Zizhou and for the College," said Sheema Majiduddin, co-chair of the College's Jack Kent Cooke committee. "Cooke receives about 500 applications and awards 40 scholarships. It is extremely competitive, and also rewarding. The staff of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation will work with him to make sure he can spend all his time studying. They don't want him to be worrying about tuition or expenses for the next two years. He is a very persistent student who has taken on a lot of leadership roles on campus. That he went from English as a Second Language classes to valedictorian in two years is amazing. And he is such a nice, humble person."

Mr. Zhao's inspiration came from his grandfather, who died of cancer several years ago. His last words of advice to his grandson were: "Become a useful person to benefit society."

"His death determined my destiny," Mr. Zhao said. "I told myself that I would produce new affordable and effective medicines to help people live longer."

He felt an education in the United States was his best move. A friend in China recommended Middlesex County College and Mr. Zhao arrived in 2008, with limited English skills. He worked hard and became successful.

"Middlesex is an excellent school," he said. "It provides a very good foundation to prepare students. Classes are small and the professors pay attention to all the students. I got a lot of help from my professors. And I've really enjoyed the campus life."

The Jack Kent Cooke program was designed to help community college students with exceptional promise and demonstrated financial need make the transition to four-year colleges or universities.

"The men and women who receive these scholarships have demonstrated their potential in ways that go well beyond their academic performance," said Dr. Lawrence Kutner, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. "They are future leaders. We're proud to play a role in supporting them."

Mr. Zhao is the founder and president of the College's Chinese Club, vice president of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges, a peer mentor in the Minority Access to the Professions program and the president of the Chemistry club.

He is the College's second Jack Kent Cooke recipient. The first was Namema Amendi, who received the scholarship in 2007. He graduated in January from Columbia University.