Two Students Receive Prestigious Cooke Scholarship

May 10, 2024

By PR Office

West LA College Students Among 60 Scholars to Receive National Award

Prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship Up To $55,000 

2024 Kent Cooke Scholars

Kent Cooke Scholars from West LA College, Marilyn Chavez and Oscar Lopez

Two students from West Los Angeles College were among the 60 sophomores selected to receive the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship for community college students transferring to universities in the fall. This year, there were nearly 1,700 applicants from over 380 community colleges across the country. The Cooke Foundation aims for their scholars to complete their undergraduate educations with as little debt as possible. The award, which is last dollar funding after all institutional aid, can provide as much as $55,000 per student toward the completion of their bachelor’s degrees.

In addition to the financial support, Cooke Scholars receive comprehensive educational advising – guidance that is crucial for navigating their transition to four-year colleges and planning their career paths. The scholars also benefit from access to internship opportunities, study abroad and graduate school funding, as well as a dynamic network of over 3,000 Cooke Scholars and Alumni. 

“This is the second time in three years that a student from West LA College has earned this elite honor – and this year we have two,” said Dr. James M. Limbaugh, College President. “It is a testament to the caliber of students we attract and the quality of education provided by our faculty and staff.”

West’s Scholarship Recipients

Oscar Lopez will be completing his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley. Marilyn Chavez will transfer to UCLA to study Climate Change Science, a passion she discovered while attending West.

Lopez is a Venice High School alumnus who says his interest in engineering can be traced back to his love of creating with Legos. His college journey began at a larger community college. But after a semester, he decided the more intimate experience at West was a better fit for him.

“I definitely had an advantage at West,” said Lopez. “I had more interpersonal connections with my professors.” Those connections, he explained, led to professors alerting him to and recommending him for unique internships and scholarships. While at West, Lopez had internships with the High Performance Robotics Lab (HiPeRLab) at UC Berkeley, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Caltech.

Chavez took a break between high school and college to work and start a family. When she enrolled at West, Chavez’s intent was to study dental hygiene to increase her income. But while at West, she got involved with the campus Center for Climate Change Education and realized she could make a difference in the world. Chavez interned with the Center and often served as a bilingual spokesperson. She played a key role in organizing major events, launching the Center’s social media (@climatectr_wlac), and attended seminars around the State.

“Receiving this scholarship means everything,” said Chavez who now imagines going to graduate school as well. “Now I can focus on my academics without worrying so much about my financial situation.” Chavez recalls feeling a little intimidated when she returned to college but “while I was here at West I was given the tools and skills to succeed at UCLA,”

According to Community College Research Center research, transfer pathways from community colleges are a significant contributor to enrollment and diversity at four-year institutions. However, a lack of scholarship opportunities for transfer students, as well as other obstacles like losing credits during the transfer process, continue to keep bachelor’s degree completion rates low.

“Community college students remain far too underrepresented at our nation’s top institutions, despite clear research demonstrating their success once they arrive. Our scholarship is one way we aim to ensure that high-achieving students have the opportunity to complete their degree where they want, regardless of their financial background,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Cooke Foundation.



West Los Angeles College is an ACCJC accredited California Community College that offers career certificates and Associate degrees as well as paths to transfer to competitive universities as a Junior. West also offers two Bachelor’s degrees in Dental Hygiene and Avionics. Students can enroll full-time or part-time, in-person or in the college’s award-winning online program. For more information, visit