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Three MassBay Students Awarded Prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

Thursday, May 7, 2015

WELLESLEY HILLS, MASS. (May 7, 2015) — Three Massachusetts Bay Community College students are the recipients of the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, the largest and most prestigious scholarship for community college students in the country.

MassBay’s John R. Brown, Cristel Callupe, and Suhaily Penix are three of only 90 students nationwide to receive the Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship from the foundation. Each student will receive up to $40,000 each year for up to three years to cover tuition and school-related expenses to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year institutions

“This is an incredible honor for our students and for the College,” said Bryan Wint, coordinator of transfer affairs and articulation at MassBay, who supported the students in their application for the scholarship.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is the largest private scholarship for two-year and community college transfer students in the country. Selection criteria focus on academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, leadership, and a desire to help others.

This year, more than 2,000 students from 540 community colleges applied for the scholarship, and MassBay was one of the few colleges to have multiple recipients of the award.

The students were recognized by the College community, along with other MassBay scholars and honors students, at the Evening of Excellence ceremony on Thursday night.

John R. Brown, Liberal Arts (Boston, Mass.)
John R. Brown, a native of Jamaica, is an aspiring physician who plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in sociology or black studies while fulfilling requirements for medical school. He has been accepted to Suffolk University, UMASS Boston, and Northeastern University.

“MassBay has been the driving force that’s helped me excel in my journey to higher education,” Brown said. “If it wasn’t for the professors that believed in me, the students that motivated me, the staff that encouraged me or the hardships that made me push harder, I’m not sure if the experience would have been the same. I am extremely grateful for the great mentors I have met at MassBay.”

At MassBay, he serves as student trustee on the College’s Board of Trustees, holds a leadership role in the Young Men of Color program, and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Brown has used his passion for the arts, particularly in dance, theatre, and fashion, to work towards social justice within the college and the greater Boston community.

Last summer, Brown was one of just 50 students to participate in the Student Medical/Dental Education Program at the Yale School of Medicine, a competitive 6-week intensive for students of underrepresented students.

Cristel Callupe, Liberal Arts (Brookline, Mass.)
In the fall, Cristel Callupe plans to attend Dartmouth College, where she hopes to pursue astrophysics or engineering. She is also looking forward to studying additional languages, including Mandarin and Japanese, as well as Quechua through Dartmouth’s Indigenous Living Language Program to reconnect with her indigenous heritage.

“I’m humbled and grateful that I was selected for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Callupe, crediting the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation with removing major financial barriers to pursue her bachelor’s degree. “This scholarship is more than an honor. It is the only way that I would ever be able to complete my college education.”

Callupe moved to the United States as a young child from Peru. As a child of undocumented immigrants, she remains one of roughly 1.8 million children who lack official status in the United States, which makes her ineligible for federal financial aid. Callupe, who graduated with honors from Brookline High School, has worked full-time while attending MassBay to help pay for her tuition.

This year, Callupe collaborated on the design and build of a hybrid solar electric car as a member of the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team. With the solar car, she will take part in the international World Solar Challenge, where she race 3,021 kilometers through Australian Outback. The competition will take place in late October.

At MassBay, she has worked as physics teaching assistant, tutored math and science students at the Academic Achievement Center, and supported migrant students in their transition to the United States. She hopes to work in the solar energy research field in academia or the automotive industry after graduation.

“MassBay welcomed me when other doors were closed, and I will always be glad that I began my education here,” Callupe said. “I made strong relationships with professors, who have encouraged me and advocated for me.”

Suhaily Penix, Bioltechnology (Hyde Park, Mass.)
Suhaily Penix, a wife and a mother of three, will pursue her bachelors degree in biological sciences at Wellesley College, with the plan to eventually earn her Ph.D. in molecular converge marine biology.

In March, she received Honorable Mention from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Foundation, the awarding body for the highest and most prestigious undergraduate prize in science, engineering, and mathematics, going toe-to-toe with students from research powerhouses like Harvard and MIT. She was the only student nationwide from a community college to receive such an honor.

She was also named by the Department of Higher Education selected Suhaily as one of the “29 Who Shine,” a recognition that goes to the best and brightest students from the state’s 29 state universities and colleges and she will be honored by the Governor and the Commissioner of Higher Education at a ceremony on May 14.

 She began her studies at MassBay, in large part to show her daughters, ages 14, 11, and 8, how important it is to make education a priority.

 “I am so overcome with emotion to know that I will be able to continue my education without the worry of continued debt, as I still have three girls to put through college,” she said. “One of them not far behind me!”

 As a student at MassBay, she pursued independent research at Boston University around protein-protein interaction and studied the interaction of a newly developed compound with different mutant forms of this protein. She will be interning again at BU this summer. She also acted as chief mentor to incoming students in MassBay’s biotechnology department and a mentor to young girls pursuing science.

 “I have accomplished more than I ever thought I would with the help of the incredible faculty here at MassBay and the support of my family,” she said.

MassBay Community College is a comprehensive, open-access college dedicated to student learning and achievement through academically rigorous courses and programs. MassBay awards associate degrees and certificates in more than 70 academic programs in the liberal arts and in career-driven fields, such as business, health sciences, and automotive technology. On the college’s three campuses in Wellesley Hills, Framingham, and Ashland, as well as online, MassBay offers day, evening, and weekend classes that meet the needs of degree-seeking students and career-minded life-long learners.

More information about MassBay and the upcoming academic semesters can be found at, or by calling  (781) 239-2411.