The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation dedicated to helping young people of exceptional promise reach their full potential through education. While the Foundation's scholarships are not specifically for foreign-born students, the Foundation has provided scholarships to numerous foreign-born students with remarkable stories to tell. Kojo Wallace is one of them.
“I’m from Ghana West Africa and I grew up in a small city called Takorabi and I had most of my education there until the end of high school and I started at a community college when I came to the U-S mostly because of financial issues and because of the fact I was working full-time then to take care of myself and pay tuition,” he says.
“When I graduated I wanted to move on to a good school which would be more challenging and open more doors and wouldn’t cost too much so I received the Jack Kent Cooke foundation scholarship which pays up to thirty-thousand dollars a year for my undergrad education now at Cornell.”
Having a strong interest in Physics, Biology and Mathematics in high school, Kojo knew that whatever career he chose to study once he transferred into Cornell University from CUNY Bronx Community College in Bronx New York it would be in the sciences. “I’m studying Plant Sciences. I’m a Pre-med student and I plan to go on to medical school and I’m majoring in Plant Sciences right now at Cornell. Academically, Cornell is quite challenging, there is always lots of work to be done and the professors have more open attitude when it comes to teaching because they don’t dwell on actually force feeding the students they expand on the material during the lectures, so it is mostly the work of the students themselves you have to really work outside of the class,” he says. “You have to prepare yourself for every lecture, so it is very intense.
“Socially, it is actually very friendly and very open. Considering the amount of work that has to be done, people actually take time off to have fun and to have a social life. So it is very friendly and very challenging at the same time. I basically comes down to time management and if you go off schedule you pretty much end up in a bad place, but it is very nice to be here.”
When Kojo is not studying he enjoys listening to music, playing soccer and learning to play the guitar, but he says receiving the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship has helped to inspire him to be all that he can be. “I’ve been involved in several positions in the past. I’ve been involved in clubs and societies, had leadership roles since probably high school, but through the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation it has been on a larger scale because when you get the scholarship you go through this whole process where you basically exposed to the world in newspapers and other forms of media, but even though I’ve been in leadership positions I don’t try to get into the spotlight much, but what that does is that when you get exposed at that level those that are paying for you, you have a higher impact on your community,” he says.
“For instance after getting this scholarship, I am now working with a program called Friends of Ghana which was founded by a man called Joseph Johnson who lives in New York. He has put together a team including myself, one student from Burkina Faso who has worked for the UN for about eight years and another gentleman who has worked for about eight years organizing programs in Ghana and he has had this NGO going on for some time where he has been sending medical equipment to Ghana, some aid to Ghana and he has taken care of some students in Ghana, so through this exposure I’ve received I actually working as an international student coordinator and I try to get students on other campuses to contribute to it so now it is just not me working on the campus with a club or a society, but I am having a larger impact,” he says.
“The foundation has made me do things that probably would never happen, but at this point and time in my life I realize that the foundation has put me on a different level in the sense that I am now able to inspire younger children immigrants who would have otherwise limited themselves to getting their certificate or some sort of lesser degree and are now thinking about dreaming big. The foundation has really changed my life and I am really appreciative of that. Now all the things that I do I don’t have to be limited by having to work full time as I use too to pay for tuition because they are taking care of that part so I am now able to dedicate myself to other things that benefit the society too.”
Kojo Wallace will graduate in May 2010, then go on to medical school.