May 7, 2019, Jersey City, NJ – Hudson County Community College (HCCC) student Sarra Hayoune is one of just 61 national recipients of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s prestigious Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The highly competitive national scholarship will provide Ms. Hayoune with up to $40,000 annually for a maximum of three years to complete her bachelor’s degree.
In addition to the monetary award, Ms. Hayoune will receive comprehensive educational advising from Foundation staff to guide her through the process of transitioning to a four-year school and preparing for her career. The Foundation will additionally provide opportunities for internships, study abroad, and graduate-school funding, as well as connection to a thriving network of nearly 2,500 fellow Cooke Scholars and alumni.
“Our recent ‘Persistence’ report highlights the vast potential, and achievements, of community college transfer students — who go on to outperform their non-transfer peers at selective four-year institutions," said Seppy Basili, Executive Director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “In an era where many high-achieving students often begin their higher education journey in community college, the Foundation is committed to enabling these transfer students to pursue their academic dreams at the nation’s top colleges and universities.”
Nearly 1,500 students applied for the 2019 Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The Foundation evaluated each submission based on academic ability, persistence, leadership, and service to others. The recipients selected represent 18 different states, have a median household adjusted gross income of $28,000 and an average GPA of 3.93. This year’s cohort of Cooke Transfer Scholars has applied to the nation’s most selective institutions.
Last month, Ms. Hayoune took her place on the stage at the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Centennial Convention in Orlando, Florida as one of just 50 students in the United States to be named a PTK Silver Scholar and a member of the 2019 All-USA Academic Team. She was selected for the honor from more than 2,000 applicants and will receive a $1,250 scholarship.
In 2018 she was named a Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar. She has also been awarded a Research & Development Council of New Jersey 2018 Merit Scholarship, and Garden State S-STEM 2017 and 2018 Scholarships.
An Algerian immigrant and first-generation college student who speaks Arabic, French and English, Ms. Hayoune arrived in the United States in 2014. A short while later her arrival her son was born and her husband, Aberdahim Salhi, who is also an HCCC student and the recipient of prestigious PTK scholarships, encouraged her to take ESL classes at the College. She subsequently set her sights on pursuing a degree in Computer Science and began her studies in 2016.
Ms. Hayoune used cosmological simulations to study supermassive black holes and developed a Python program to track and analyze their positions in dwarf galaxies. That project propelled her into a position as an Astrophysics Research intern at the American Museum of Natural History last summer and provided the opportunity to continue her research for the academic year. The unique experience also allowed Ms. Hayoune to present her findings at the Museum, at the 50th Anniversary of the Astronomical Society of New York, the 16th Annual Physical Sciences REU Student Symposium, and at Queensborough Community College, where she was selected to participate in a 10-week National Science Foundation (NSF) research project.
Ms. Hayoune also presented her research at the 10th Annual GS-LSAMP Research Conference in 2018 at Rutgers New Brunswick. At that conference, she was one of 22 presenters to receive the “Outstanding Poster” award. Last month she presented her research at the Scientista Symposium at Harvard University, and she also earned first place in the prepared speech competition at the Middle States Regional Convention.
In addition to devoting time to her family, Ms. Hayoune was named to the Dean’s List throughout 2017 and 2018, has been a 2018 Fellow of the America Needs You leadership program, and a participant in the 2017 and 2018 Goldman Sachs Local College Collaborative. She was a member of the National Tutoring Association and served as the President of the College’s STEM Club, and Vice President of the HCCC Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa.
“All of the opportunities I have are the result of Hudson County Community College,” Ms. Hayoune stated. “Hudson County Community College is my second home; my professors and mentors have opened so many doors for me.”
Ms. Hayoune will be awarded her degree in Computer Science from HCCC this month and will participate in an astrophysics research project at Princeton University this summer. She plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Astrophysics at Columbia University, Princeton University or Rutgers University - New Brunswick.
“We are very proud of Sarra and congratulate her on this honor,” said HCCC President Dr. Chris Reber. “She is one of our brightest and most accomplished students, and one of the kindest and most caring people in the world. She is inspirational, and her success is well deserved.”