Four students and one graduate from Georgia State University’s Perimeter College recently were named as semifinalists for the 2022  Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is a competitive scholarship for the nation’s top community (two-year) college students, and provides recipients up to $55,000 per year, placing the scholarship among the largest private awards in the country for community college transfer students. The following is a profile of one of the five semifinalists.


By Kysa Anderson Daniels

Photo by Bill Roa

Dunwoody, Ga.–Ariana Castro isn’t afraid of a good challenge—a trait that has served her especially well over the past several years.

She started her studies as a biology student at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in fall 2020. Castro says transitioning from high school to college during a pandemic was a bit stressful, but she persevered.

Once at Perimeter, she challenged herself to enroll in the Honors College, which meant that she’d be attaching extra rigor onto her classes. She’s currently taking an 18-hour course load which includes physics, biology, microbiology and calculus.

A determined, high-achiever, Castro breathed a sigh of relief after learning that she’d been selected as one of 440 national semifinalists for the 2022 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

“I felt overwhelmed with happiness,” she says of the honor. “I was in awe, that they chose me to be a candidate.”

Castro’s desire to succeed is partly rooted in her parents’ ambitions.

“They heard of the American dream and that everything could be possible,” she says, noting that her mother and father came to the U.S. after fleeing civil war in El Salvador in the ’90s.

These possibilities are one reason that Castro works so hard in her classes. In high school, she excelled in advance courses, but didn’t do so well on the standardized exam required for college attendance. Castro says she knew that she had the ability to do honors class work in college. So, she worked to make exceptional grades and eventually got accepted into the Honors College at Perimeter.

“I quickly persisted and acted…because test scores do not reflect on a student’s capability but rather their actions,” she says.

Castro has received financial and academic assistance from her participation in Georgia State’s Gouizeta Scholarship program. She’s also a Coca-Cola Scholar.

As a Perimeter College student, Castro also has gotten involved outside the classroom. She is vice president of the Perimeter’s Dunwoody Campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, an honor society for two-year college students.

Castro also participates in the MESA (Math, Engineering, Science and Achievement) program which is aimed at preparing students to graduate with STEM degrees. Similarly, she is active in Perimeter’s LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation) program.

She even credits LSAMP with helping her to confine her career goal of becoming a doctor working in either radiology or surgery.

“I am so impressed by Ariana’s grit, determination and work ethic,” says Dr. Kari Miller, English professor and Perimeter’s Honors College coordinator for national scholarships and the college’s Decatur Campus.

“Her desire to go into the medical field is proof of her dedication to helping others.”

After graduating from Perimeter in May, Castro hopes to transfer to Emory University, then later attend Cornel or Yale for medical school.

“I want to give back to my community in whatever career I choose,” she says.

In addition to financial need, Jack Kent Cooke Scholars are selected for their academic ability and achievement, persistence, service to others and leadership.

“I’m a first generation student…and my parents are immigrants and it’s very hard to find resources. Getting this award would be so very helpful.”

Winners of the 2022 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship will be announced in May.

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