A Thomas Nelson First: Student Among National 2018 Cooke Scholars

April 20, 2018
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Thomas Nelson Community College’s Rebecca Holmes is one of 47 students nationwide named among 2018 Cooke Scholars who will receive the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The highly-selective scholarship for the nation’s top community college students seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges or universities provides up to $40,000 per year for up to three years.

The scholarship is intended to cover a major share of students’ educational expenses including tuition, living expenses, books and required fees. Cooke Scholars are also eligible for graduate school funding of up to $75,000. 

Holmes, who earned an associate of science in social science last year, is the first Thomas Nelson student to receive the prestigious scholarship and one of two Virginia students in this year’s class of recipients. “Getting this scholarship takes a lot of the pressure off. It means that I can pursue my dream without the stress of trying to figure out how I’m going to pay for it,” she said, thanking the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and Thomas Nelson personnel who served on the Cooke Foundation committee to assist her during the months-long application process. 

She toiled from August to October last year to complete the application and submitted it two days before the deadline. “It was a big application,” said the Newport News resident and 2015 Woodside High School graduate. “There was a lot involved. I did it in steps and I had help from the Jack Kent Cooke representatives at Thomas Nelson. So, I didn’t do it alone.”  

Among requirements was roughly five essays on various weighty topics such as one she wrote about ocean acidification. The application also called for several letters of recommendation, a resume, transcripts and more. “If anyone at Thomas Nelson in the future plans to apply for this, I recommend getting on it the day it opens,” she advised. 

Help also came from Holmes’ advisor, Melissa Gray, and Geology Instructor Lynsey LeMay, who have been her constant supporters at the College. When Holmes was a new student unsure about a course of study, Gray encouraged her to take one of LeMay’s classes to see if geology was a good fit.  She excelled academically leading Gray to urge her to vie for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.  In addition to introducing Holmes to the world of geosciences and affording her numerous opportunities in the field, LeMay submitted one of the scholarship’s required recommendation letters. It was one of many she has written on Holmes’ behalf over the course of the student’s Thomas Nelson experience. 

LeMay, from whom Holmes took Physical Geology, Historical Geology, Oceanography and Design & Application of Scientific Research, is not surprised by this latest achievement and is extremely proud. “Rebecca is a very motivated student. [She] has been ‘all in’ … This is huge in becoming successful,” said LeMay. 

“Since deciding to pursue geology, she has applied for and been accepted into an NSF-funded summer internship, become involved in the on-campus science club, attended regional geoscience field trips and national affiliate meetings, and she is constantly seeking opportunities to further engage with the community and to learn more about the material and its interconnectedness to other disciplines. This drive is admirable, and sets her apart from others.  In addition, she is willing to work hard and take ownership of her own learning, being ‘all-in’ in her classes as well,” Lemay added.   

A Phi Theta Kappa member in Thomas Nelson’s Phi Sigma chapter, Holmes enrolled at Thomas Nelson this semester to obtain transferable chemistry credits. Now on solid financial footing for the next phase of her college career given the scholarship, she’s bound for the University of Colorado Boulder this fall having completed an internship there last summer doing geological field work. “My take away from that internship in Colorado is that I was a scientist after that. I actively did research and I learned about myself that I could do it,” she said.

Holmes chose the Boulder university for the rich geoscience study opportunities it will afford. She aspires to a career in volcanology once she completes studies through the doctoral level. Although leaving home for the west is daunting, she’s excited and credits the Thomas Nelson experience for brightening her outlook on the future. 

“I discovered my passion at Thomas Nelson. I don’t think a lot of people know you can do that. But you can find those resources and that spark at your community college,” she said. “Even though I’m still an undergraduate at a community college, I’ve actually done research and had research presented at a very large scientific meeting. Were it not for my experience at Thomas Nelson, I certainly would not have the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship. I’m so happy that I chose to come here. It has changed my life.”