'This Just Changes Lives'

DATE: Monday, April 10, 2017

HCC student Kiana Estime awarded prestigious national scholarship

Kiana Estime holds a certificate of recognition from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation while her adviser Irma Medina stands proudly by.

Holyoke Community College student Kiana Estime has been awarded a prestigious transfer scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, worth up to $40,000 a year, to complete her bachelor's degree.

Estime, a 20-year-old liberal arts major from Great Barrington, Mass., with a GPA of 4.0, was one of 55 students in the United States to be awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship this year. According to the foundation, this year's winners were selected from a pool of nearly 3,000 applicants.

The scholarships are awarded to outstanding community college students transferring to top-tier universities and colleges across the United States. To earn a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, applicants must have a demonstrated financial need and a strong record of academic achievement, leadership, service to others, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Estime is the fourth HCC student to win the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship since 2008. She has been accepted to both Smith College in Northampton and Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley and plans to pursue her bachelor's degree in anthropology.

"This is a very competitive national scholarship," said Estime's adviser, Irma Medina, coordinator of HCC's Pathways Program, which helps low-income, first-generation college students transfer to competitive four-year schools. "This is huge news, both for Kiana and for HCC. She is just an all around fabulous person and well deserving of this amazing award. I do not doubt that she will be an agent for change."

Estime credited Medina and the Pathways Program for helping her through the transfer and application process.

"These support systems here at HCC — this just changes lives," Estime said. "I feel like a great weight has just been lifted from me. As a first-generation, low-income college student, being able to have $40,000 a year for higher education will really allow me to achieve my dreams, as cheesy as that sounds."

Estime graduated from Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington in 2015. She has been living and working part time in Amherst while she attends classes at HCC.

In addition to her perfect academic record, Estime has been deeply involved in programs and projects on campus and in the community. She is a member of the HCC Committed Club and the Latino International Students Association (LISA) Club, and is a co-founder of the campus activist group ROAR, which stands for Resist Oppression Act Responsibly. She is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa national honor society and the HCC Green Key Honor Society and has won numerous academic and leadership awards.

She has traveled as a volunteer to Honduras and Haiti with the nonprofit group Pure Water for the World. In Great Barrington, she has a long association with the Railroad Street Youth Project, where she will be interning this summer to develop a college scholarship program. 

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

PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: (Top) Kiana Estime, right, with her mentor and adviser, HCC Pathways coordinator Irma Medina. (Thumbnail) Kiana Estime, of Great Barrington, holds a certificate of recognition from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.