dessi carbajalDessi Carbajal

DVC student Dessi Carbajal of Berkeley has received a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

The scholarship is for up to $30,000 per year and is intended to cover a significant share of the student’s educational expenses, including tuition, books, required fees, and living expenses for the final two to three years necessary to achieve a bachelor’s degree. Awards vary by individual, based on the cost of tuition as well as other grants or scholarships the student may receive. Carbajal was nominated by Leslie Mills. 

With only 60 scholarships awarded and nearly 800 applicants from 20 states, “The competition this year was intense,” said Lawrence Kutner, Ph.D., executive director of the Cooke

Carbajal, who transferred (with honors) from Diablo Valley College in the spring of 2012, is one of 60 scholars selected this year. She is currently studying American Studies and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Her area of concentration within her major is Inequalities in American Institutions. 

“Out of all the accomplishments I’ve achieved throughout the years,” Carbajal said, “my greatest triumph was being able to turn my life around and become the student that I am today.” 

She was born in Peru but raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She lived on both coasts of the United States, and attended 16 different schools by the time she graduated from high school. She saw the community college route as an opportunity to get back on track and meet the goals she had set for herself long before. 

“Before community college my life at home was very unstable, so I lacked the structure and routine that would have been useful to develop my study regimen,” Carbajal said. “Luckily, when I got to Diablo Valley College, I joined the Puente Project, a learning community that gave me the encouragement I needed to succeed as a college student.” She was able to network with former Puente students and local professionals and soon after she joined campus organizations such as the Latino Student Alliance and the Q-VO925 broadcasting project that reached out to students in the Contra Costa community. 

“Joining Puente was a pivotal moment of my academic journey, and through it I gained valuable writing and study skills that served me well in all of my classes.” She said the teacher who “without a doubt” influenced her the most was her Puente English instructor, Patrick Leong. 

“Not only did Patrick teach me how to write a substantial and quality essay, he also taught me how to show my personality through my writing with style and finesse,” Carbajal said.

During the summer of 2011, Carbajal volunteered as an intern at the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), a non-profit organization in San Francisco that works with working-class families looking to start a business or purchase a home. Carbajal collected surveys from participating clients who had received social counseling that MEDA offers. She became intrigued by the intricate workings of policy analysis. 

“It was then that I realized I could see myself applying the same problem-solving techniques in order to generate solutions and create new policies that help people,” she said.

Carbajal was dumbfounded when notified that she had been awarded the scholarship, and said, “I called my mother and I just sat there crying with her for what seemed like hours, listening to her beautiful words of wisdom and motivation.”

Before receiving the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, Carbajal said, “I was researching ways to fund my education and preparing myself for the possibility of taking out loans. After investing so much time and energy into my education, I wasn’t going to stop my academic journey just because I didn’t get this scholarship, even though I wouldn’t have been able to afford it without taking out loans.

“More than anything, this scholarship has given me the peace of knowing that I can commit to my education 100 percent because for the first time in my life, I feel financially stable. Now I have the opportunity to get more involved in extra-curricular activities or start an organization of my own, for that matter. That wasn’t an option when I was at DVC, as I had to work 25-30 hours a week in order to support myself and help out my family. It’s an incredible feeling to know that someone, or better yet, an entire network is invested in my education– in my future. I feel it is my responsibility as a Jack Kent Cooke scholar to live out these opportunities to the best of my abilities.”

What are her plans?

“Over the years my educational journey has taken many paths and my plans are constantly changing,” Carbajal said. “Right now my educational goal is to achieve my Bachelor’s degree. I am definitely considering getting a Master’s in Public Policy because my dream job is to work as a policy analyst for an advocacy group or a government think tank and help find solutions for social issues in marginalized communities. I think this is how I can be an agent for change. After graduating I hope to get a job at a local non-profit or a government office and try to figure out my policy interest before applying to graduate school.”

As to the future, Carbajal said, “I hope that my life continues to be as academically, culturally, and spiritually enriching as it has been so far. I hope that after I complete my educational journey I can have a career where I can interact with people from different backgrounds and learn from them. I am a strong believer in paying it forward. My dream is to someday start my own non-profit organization in my hometown of San Francisco. I would love to work with diverse communities and help develop economic opportunities for them. I also think a lot about starting an organization that assists young girls in getting a higher education and developing their self-esteem. I hope to someday be able to help fund the education of young determined students the way I’ve been helped. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the individuals who believed in my potential and committed to helping me accomplish my dreams.”

Located in Virginia, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation was founded by Jack Kent Cooke, who was born in 1912 in Ontario, Canada and was an athlete and musician as a young man. His dream of pursuing a formal education was cut short when he left high school during the depression to work full-time to help support his family.

He worked selling encyclopedias door-to-door, managed a radio station, and eventually became a successful entrepreneur, operating radio stations and newspapers throughout Canada. He moved to the United States and became a citizen in 1960. His diverse holdings in the U.S. included television stations and newspapers, the Chrysler Building in New York City, and owning several sports teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings and the Washington Redskins.  He was also a musician and a member of the American Society of Composers and Producers. A passionate student his entire life, Cooke was knowledgeable in fields as diverse as literature, music, sports, and architecture. 

Cooke died in 1997 and left the bulk of his fortune to establish the Foundation, whose mission is to help exceptionally promising students reach their full potential through education. The Foundation works to expand educational opportunities through scholarship programs designed to support high-achieving, lower-income students in high school, college, and graduate school. The Foundation’s scholarship and direct service programs support the education of approximately 650 remarkable students each year.