Achieving one’s goals is no small feat, especially when faced with impossible circumstances. However, one determined college student has shown that she will do whatever it takes to meet her goals and achieve in life.
Vanessa Reynolds, a 31-year-old Fallbrook resident who is set to transfer from Mira Costa Community College, was recently awarded with the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, which is the largest private scholarship for community college transfer students in the United States.
Nearly 3,000 community college students applied for the 2017 Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, and only 55 scholarships were awarded to some of the nation’s top performing community college students.
The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is one of the largest scholarships in the nation, designed to propel high-achieving students at community colleges to four-year colleges and universities. The scholarship funds the costs of attending college not covered by other financial aid, provides academic advising, stipends for internships and study abroad, and also grants recipients many opportunities to network with other Cooke Scholars and alumni.
“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.”
Scholars have up to three years to complete their bachelor’s degree and once completed, scholars may be eligible to apply for the Cooke Graduate Scholarship worth up to $50,000 a year for up to four years.
“When I heard [I was a recipient], I was stunned,” said Reynolds, one of three Mira Costa students to receive the scholarship. “I had felt that I had won it in my heart, and felt good, but by no means did I think I was a shoe in.”
During her time at Mira Costa, Reynolds has been highly involved in many ways at her school, and took various leadership roles, such as being the president for the Gay-Straight Alliance for two consecutive years and being a fellow with the Social Justice & Equity Center at school.
Reynolds was also selected as a commencement speaker at the Mira Costa commencement ceremony, as well as a recipient of the academic medal of honor, the highest award given at Mira Costa.
“I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot,” she said.
Life hasn’t always afforded Reynolds such favor; prior to her time at Mira Costa she had faced enormous difficulties in life.
In 2008, Reynolds married and moved from Arizona to California to achieve the “Californian American Dream.” However, she and her husband were immediately met with difficulty.
“We were homeless for about a year, living in a 1976 Sunbeam trailer in Solana Beach, then we moved our trailer to my parent’s driveway,” said Reynolds. “We bounced back and forth, then divorced in 2010.”
Reynolds then met her girlfriend in 2013, but the relationship didn’t last.
“I knew I wanted to be here in California, so I started school,” she said. “When my girlfriend broke up with me, I was destitute, had no job experience, and no prospects. But I believe that everything happens for a reason.”
Reynolds received an email from her ex-husband, and when they met to talk, she was able to share her situation, and he offered her a guest house that she could rent.
“I wouldn’t have been successful without my community,” said Reynolds. “It really takes a village, and the only reason I’ve been able to get here is because people have been helping me along the way.”
According to a MiraCosta news release, Reynolds plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree in international business followed by a dual degree in Master of Business Administration and Juris Doctor from Stanford University. Upon the completion of her education, she aspires to work in international corporate law between the United States and France as well as other French speaking countries.