Three GCC students semifinalists for competitive scholarship


Staff Writer
Published: 1/30/2020 4:55:32 PM

GREENFIELD — Three Greenfield Community College students are semifinalists for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Transfer Scholarship, and if one wins, they will receive financial support to attend a four-year college for up to three years to complete their bachelor’s degree.

There are 456 semifinalists for the highly selective award who were chosen from a pool of almost 1,500 applicants attending 311 community colleges in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The three local students are Nicole McGrath Coocen, Hannah Graves and Bene Nemadjilembaye. They will find out if they’ve received the scholarship in April.

McGrath Coocen said she’s excited about being a semifinalist for the second year in a row. The 46-year-old single mother of two teens said the application process was extensive, so she was able to use some of the same information to apply to the colleges she is interested in attending. Those include Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College and Hampshire College.

She said she plans to major in women and gender studies, with a minor in English or education, and would like to advocate for higher education and possibly teach at some point.

“I decided to go back to school as a non-traditional student,” McGrath Coocen said. “One of my children is also at GCC now and I have a 15-year-old who will be in college before you know it. I could really use this scholarship, because then I wouldn’t have to worry about student loans as I’m thinking about paying for their college.”

As an older student, McGrath Coocen thought she wouldn’t fit in, but has found just the opposite at GCC.

“The younger students really welcomed me and I’ve become very involved,” she said. “I’m the founder and co-leader of the Pride Alliance, Student Senate vice president, I’m in the Social Justice Club and serve on different committees. I’m busy and I love it.”

McGrath Coocen said she plans to get her bachelor’s degree and get a better job. She currently works part-time while going to school full-time.

“Year after year, we are impressed by the incredible talent and resolve of community college students,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “We are proud to recognize this outstanding group of semi-finalists for their academic achievement.”

Cooke Transfer Scholars are selected based on exceptional academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, service to others and leadership. Students must be currently enrolled community college students or recent graduates residing in the United States.

Since 2000, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has awarded more than $200 million in scholarships to more than 2,700 students from eighth grade through graduate school. The foundation has also provided $110 million in grants to organizations that serve students.

Graves and Nemadjilembaye could not be reached for comment.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or


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