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Nicholas Tracy, a Renaissance Scholar, Becomes the College’s 15th Winner of the Scholarship 

Nicholas Tracy, a student at Montgomery College
Montgomery College student Nicholas Tracy

Nicholas Tracy, a student at Montgomery College (MC), is one of 72 recipients nationally of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s prestigious Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The highly competitive scholarship will provide Tracy, who graduates from MC in the summer, with up to $40,000 annually for a maximum of three years to complete his bachelor’s degree. Tracy is one of two students in the state of Maryland to earn the scholarship this year.

Nearly 1,300 students applied for the 2021 Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The Foundation evaluated each submission based on academic ability, persistence, leadership, and service to others.

“If you had told me two years ago that this would be happening, I wouldn’t have believed you. My family has been living in poverty for their entire lives,” said Tracy. “A big driving factor in pursuing my education at all was to eventually reach the point to get back to my family and assist them. The opportunity and pathways that have opened up as a result of all the work that I’ve put in, as a result of getting such a prestigious scholarship, is incredible to think about and it feels unreal.”

Tracy grew up in Miami in a “ramshackle” house with a single parent. He and his brother shared a home with their mom, grandmother and aunts until he was in third grade, when his mom felt the school system wasn’t providing enough support for his brother, who is in the autism spectrum. She moved the three of them to a rural area in north-central Florida and homeschooled them for a couple of years, but her health started to deteriorate, which meant the time devoted to schooling declined over time. Tracy had been mostly relying on the Internet to learn since he was about 13 years old.

In 2018, he moved to Maryland to be with his girlfriend, got his GED the following year and then decided to attend MC. He knew he would need to go to community college because he had no GPA to show to a four-year university, but he also wanted to as he is a believer in the public benefit of these institutions. After research, talking to students and alumni, he decided MC would be a good fit.

“I had a lot of doubts coming into college. I knew how to educate myself, I did not know how to operate in a formal educational setting, especially in a college setting,” Tracy recalled. Soon enough, he started building confidence as he was doing well, participating in class, leading discussions and receiving positive feedback from his professors.

Tracy also connected with students from diverse backgrounds, including other nontraditional students, which made the transition easier: “The diversity at MC is incredible and seeing the success of others from different backgrounds who have faced many challenges in their lives, and seeing what they’ve accomplished really gave me confidence to give it my all.”

“We are very proud of Nicholas and his accomplishments, including being the 13th MC honors program student to be named a scholarship winner,” said Dr. Lucy Laufe, the collegewide honors coordinator and the catalyst for MC students applying for the Cooke Foundation scholarship. Dr. Laufe added, “As an honors student, the additional research, the writing, community service, campus engagement, and the strong letters of recommendation that come from honors faculty are instrumental in helping students like Nick be successful applicants.”

Not surprisingly, he hopes to focus his career on the intersection of technology and education, as it is what allowed him to keep learning. He is graduating from MC with an A.A. in General Studies (concentrations: Humanities, Arts, Communication and Languages; Social Science, Administration and Health). His plan is to major in Sociology and then double major in Political Science or Public Policy. Tracy is awaiting responses from half of the institutions he has applied to, including Georgetown University, but has already been admitted into Cornell University and Columbia University.

“We know how much exponentially harder this past year has been on students. It’s an honor to award this group of individuals as they have achieved so much both in the classroom and in their daily lives,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “We are proud to welcome this new class of Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars to our community and are excited to support them as they transition to four-year institutions.”.

In addition to the monetary award, new Cooke Transfer Scholars will receive comprehensive educational advising from Foundation staff to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year school and preparing for their careers. 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.

“I hope to continue inspiring other students from whatever background they may come from. I think anything is possible as long as you put in the work and you have that support network to aid you,” Tracy said. “I certainly found a great support network at Montgomery College.”

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