In 2018, Awa Cisse (A.A.S. ’21) arrived in the U.S. with a dream of getting a college education and becoming a physician, a career essentially unavailable to women in her native Senegal.
Three years later, the Perimeter College at Georgia State University graduate is continuing her studies at Yale University as a recipient of a $55,000 per year Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, one of the most prestigious national scholarships available to transfer students. At Yale, Cisse plans to major in molecular biology and French with the goal of attending medical school and earning M.D. and Ph.D. degrees.
Cisse attributes the opportunity to pursue her dream at an Ivy League institution on a Cooke scholarship to the inspiration and support she received at Perimeter College.
“I know it’s hard for women in their sciences, so having so many female professors was a constant reminder that I can do it as well,” said Cisse. “Dr. Kimberly Kellet is my role model. She wasn’t even my professor but would always take the time to listen and tell me that, with determination, I could master anything.”
Cisse also cites the multiple scholarships she received at Perimeter College as instrumental to her growth and achievement. Some of them, like the Coca-Cola First Generation scholarship and the State Farm Scholars program, helped her by covering her entire tuition. Smaller donor-supported scholarships helped her pay for school expenses and handle unexpected needs, like a new computer to handle her online classes during the pandemic.
Donor-supported scholarships gave Cisse something even more valuable and lasting.
“Donations to Georgia State are more than just the actual money,” said Cisse. “They are encouragement and empowerment. They show us that donors have faith in us.”
The practice Cisse got writing personal statements and essays and securing recommendations for multiple scholarships—and being awarded several—prepared her to apply for the Cooke scholarship.
“The scholarships I received gave me the confidence to apply for the Cooke scholarship,” said Cisse. “I would have never applied for a $55,000 scholarship if I hadn’t received a $500 scholarship.”