Two Kendall Campus Students Snag Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

This piece was published in the Miami Dade College student newspaper, The Reporter. It’s part of a series of articles I wrote for them between August 2013 and May 2015, now being uploaded in whole to


Two Kendall Campus students were awarded a prestigious scholarship to complete their bachelor’s degrees at highly selective universities.

Norka Lecca and Karen Burgos won the $30,000 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship that recognizes students’ academic persistence and achievement in the face of difficult circumstances.

“[Karen and I] were invited to go see [Lourdes] Oroza, the [Kendall] Campus
president, with our Honors College adviser, Jennifer Bravo,” Lecca said. ”We thought we were there for a ‘special project,’ but little did we know that we would
instead be told that we had received the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship.”

Considered the largest private scholarship available for students at twoyear institutions, the 13 year old scholarship selected 85 finalists from across the country this year from a pool of 3,705 applicants whose academic persistence and achievement in the face of difficult circumstances, such as an average gross adjusted family income of $25,000, made them worthy candidates.

Lecca plans to transfer to the University of Miami. Burgos hopes to transfer to Swarthmore, Florida International University or the University of Florida.

“I was taken completely by surprise,” said Burgos, who graduated from Miami Dade College on May 3 with a 4.0 GPA. “But when I realized it was for real, my first thought was that I couldn’t wait to tell my parents.”

Lecca was born in Lima, Peru. An alumnus of G. Holmes Braddock High School, she wants to pursue a career in political science, aspiring to be a civil rights lawyer and judge. During her time at the Honors College, she was a part of a student group that began a political awareness club. She was also involved with Phi Theta Kappa, becoming the vice president of scholarships by the end of her first year at MDC.

“This scholarship means everything to me,” Lecca said. “With it, I feel almost invincible, as if nothing and no one can stop me from reaching my goals.”

Burgos, a multilingual Cuban native, wants to pursue a career in linguistics. She sees language as a “giant series of patterns” that is worth analyzing, even though actual job opportunities for linguistics majors are “risky.”

A selfprofessed vocalist and longtime piano player, Burgos also enjoys songwriting and musical composition. Initially reluctant to attend MDC, the insufficient financial aid packages other schools offered, left her no choice. During her time at MDC, she maintained a 4.0 GPA and performed service activities in and outside of the College, from cleanup projects with Youth for Environmental Sustainability Club to working with autistic children at Caribbean Elementary.

“[The scholarship] means that the work I’ve done these past two years has paid off,” Burgos said. “In a way, it’s validating to know someone else finds value in what I’ve done.”

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