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Gwinnett Student Wins Prestigious Cooke Scholarship

Gwinnett Technical College engineering technology student Michael Bradford has been awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship to complete a bachelor’s and graduate degree at a college of his choice.

Two years ago, at age 36, Michael Bradford hit a wall professionally. He could no longer advance without a college degree. He worked in manufacturing but dreamed of being an engineer. Launching into full-time studies felt like more than he could handle. Michael had family to support and was not willing to risk the stability and well-being of his family for his own goals.

After much research, Michael made the decision to start slowly at Gwinnett Tech because he could take classes at night, on weekends, online and still keep his full-time job. Fast forward two years and Bradford has completed his associates degree in Engineering Technology and, thanks to the Cooke Foundation scholarship, is well on his way to fulfilling his dream.

Bradford shares, “I didn’t want to be complacent in life. I knew I had more to offer, but I just wasn’t sure how to start. Finally, I sat down, did my research and wrote out a plan. I showed it to my family and that plan is now proof that you can do whatever you set your mind to do.” That was the message Michael wanted to send to his children. He says, “I felt I couldn’t preach to my kids about the importance of education, if I hadn’t done it myself. I knew I had to set the example I wanted them to follow.”

Michael recalls that his mother and grandfather were examples for him. His mom earned an associates degree as an adult and his grandfather went back to school in his 30’s to pursue his dream of being a civil engineer. Both worked full-time, went to school and supported the needs of their family. Michael says, “On those days when I feel like I can’t do it, it’s my grandfather who pushes me and reminds me that I can. He has been my greatest champion.”

Michael thanks many at Gwinnett Tech who also had a positive impact on his success. Bradford says, “I really want to thank everyone I’ve worked with and learned from at Gwinnett Tech. Especially Mr. Gregory Allen, who had the biggest influence on me as a professor; Mr. Travis Simpson, who gave an impactful recommendation for me in my scholarship application; and Mr. Bray Bonner, who was the one to encourage me to pursue the electrical engineering path.”

Thanks to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, Michael Bradford now transfers from Gwinnett Tech to Georgia Tech to pursue his electrical engineering degree. When asked what this scholarship means Bradford humbly replied, “It means everything. It has given me a new lease on life. I can now do much better for myself and my family.” When asked what his plan is moving forward he says,” I don’t plan on just going to school. I want to leave my mark. I am going to make something of myself. My goal is to graduate summa cum laude with an advanced degree in electrical engineering. I will be a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. I will pay this forward.”

The Cooke Foundation selected 55 outstanding technical and community college students from around the nation from a competitive pool of nearly 3,000 applicants to receive Undergraduate Transfer Scholarships this year. All of the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars have financial need and strong records of academic achievement as shown by grades, leadership skills, awards, extraordinary service to others and perseverance in the face of adversity.

The Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is the largest private scholarship in the nation for students transferring from two-year technical and community colleges to four-year institutions that award bachelor’s degrees.

“Our Undergraduate Transfer Scholars have a proven record of accomplishment at elite colleges and universities and have gone on to successful careers in many professions,” Cooke Foundation Executive Director Harold O. Levy said. “This is among the most prestigious scholarships in the country and we are extremely proud of the talented students who have been selected.”

Cooke Scholarships fund the costs of attending college not covered by other financial aid, plus academic advising, stipends for internships, study abroad and opportunities to network with other Cooke Scholars and alumni. In addition, after earning a bachelor’s degree, each Cooke Scholar may be eligible for a scholarship for graduate school.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, “nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States attend community colleges,” amounting to 12.3 million students.