Recently graduated from Pear River Community College, Hanna Lambert was overwhelmed and filled with excitement and joy upon learning she was selected as a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar. Lambert becomes the eighth recipient from PRCC in the past eight years.
“Being a Cooke Scholar means the world to me,” said Lambert. “I can attend my dream school without placing a burden on my mom’s shoulders or incurring a lot of debt. I will be forever grateful to have school covered.”
The Richton native found out about the honor Wednesday morning during a surprise Zoom interview with PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood and Dean of the Dr. William Lewis Honors Institute on the Forrest County Campus Dr. Ryan Ruckel.
“You are not only representing yourself and your family. You are representing our institution for the long haul. This is something they can never take away from you,” said Breerwood. “You will be cemented into the legacy of Pearl River. … This is a really big deal.”
The prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is awarded to the nation’s top community college students seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges or universities. The award covers a significant portion of their educational expenses, including tuition, living expenses, books and required fees.
This year, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation received more than 1,200 applications from 332 community colleges for the highly competitive scholarship. There are 100 Cooke Scholars from 42 states from the 440 students who were named as semifinalists.
Awardees can receive up to $55,000 per year for two to three years at a four-year accredited undergraduate school for any area of study. Beyond the financial help to complete their bachelor’s degree, Cooke Scholars also receive comprehensive advisement to guide them through the transition to a four-year college and preparation for a career, opportunities for internship, study abroad, graduate school funding, and access to a network of Cooke Scholars and Alumni.
“With the visionary support of our administration, we have built an opportunity engine that makes it possible for us to educate the whole person,” said Ruckel. “She had the opportunities through the Honors Institute and our close ties to Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, service and research projects, and the Honors Symposium, which in turn helped her become Student Government President.
“Hanna recognized the value of these opportunities, overcame her shyness, and flourished as a result. We could see she would be an excellent JKC candidate, so Dr. Terri Smith Ruckel worked extensively with her for a year to develop the strongest possible application. We are so very, very proud of her, but we’re especially proud of her willingness to try challenging things and then always to see things through. She will be successful all her life because of those character qualities.”
Lambert graduated from Richton High School. During that time, she was a member of the Beta Club and Science Club while also being named to the honor roll each year.
As a student on PRCC’s Forrest County Campus, she has been an active member of the Dr. William Lewis Honors Institute, the Beta Tau Gamma Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, and the Science Club. This year, she has served as the President of the Student Government Association.
“Before I came to PRCC, I was rather shy,” said Lambert. “My time here has been amazing. I became a member of the Honors Institute then started taking chances and opportunities as a student that have changed my life.”
She completed her Associates in Arts degree with a STEM pathway. She plans to attend Mississippi State University in the fall. Her goal is to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
Lambert sees that this will also benefit the community once her education is completed.
“I want to help animals,” said Lambert. “My community will benefit from my caring for their animals.”
Past recipients from Pearl River include the following students:
Trevor Creighton (2014): Columbia, Creative Writing (plus $200,000 JKC Graduate Scholarship to Harvard in Higher Education administration)
Rachael Carraro (2017): Mississippi State, Landscape Architecture
Said Otwane (2018): Columbia University, Computer Engineering (plus $200,000 JKC Graduate Scholarship; currently undecided)
Savannah Barnes (2020): Ole Miss, Multi-disciplinary Studied, Korean, TESOL
Riley Cleveland (2021): Mississippi State, Elementary Education
Kyle Simpson (2021): University of Michigan, Psychology
Quindalin Harper (2021): Ole Miss, Psychology (Psychiatric Medicine)
Hanna Lambert (2022): Mississippi State, Veterinary Science