Two TCC Students Named Semifinalists for Highly Competitive Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

March 27, 2023
Two Tulsa Community College students -- Jesse Brownfield and Kelly Parsley -- have been named semifinalists by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for the highly competitive Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship with up to $55,000 per year to complete a four-year degree.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation awards community college students who have demonstrated exceptional academic ability, leadership, service, and a determination to complete their bachelor’s degrees at top four-year institutions. Brownfield and Parsley are among five Oklahoma students chosen from a pool of more than 1,700 applicants.

Brownfield is the first in his family to attend college and plans to graduate in May 2023 with two associate degrees – one in Mechanical Engineering and one in Mathematics. While at TCC he has served as a member of the student ambassador program True Blue LEAD, a member of the Engineering Club and TCC’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. He has been accepted into Oklahoma State University’s Honors College and will be continuing to study Mechanical Engineering with hopes to possibly complete a master’s degree and work in the space industry.

“Growing up desperately poor was my biggest disadvantage, and it was the single most important factor of being able to go to school,” said Brownfield. “It took me more than a decade to find enough stability to even consider taking the chance on it. I have always worked as much as I could but with no support system in my early adulthood I was starting from scratch. Through the support of various organizations, I have been able to push forward just enough to make my dream a reality and I will always be grateful for that. I wanted to attend TCC because it was nearby and affordable, but I decided to stick around because of the many students that seemed to be in a similar situation as myself and I immediately felt welcomed.”

Parsley is a 30-year-old single mom of five children and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and TCC’s Honors Scholar program. In addition, she has served as president of the TRIO Student Association and president of Motivated Scholars, an organization she founded in Fall 2022 which gives Honors students the opportunity to connect and inspire one another. She will graduate in May 2023 with three associate degrees -- Biology, Enterprise Development and Liberal Arts -- and plans to attend Northeastern State University.

“My amazing children drive me to excel in my academics,” said Parsley. “I have a goal of becoming a physician to underserved areas, especially in Oklahoma, in hopes of helping people who come from lives like mine.” She is grateful to many of her TCC professors and staff and adds, “I wouldn’t change anything about my time at TCC. I loved every minute of it.”

This year’s 459 semifinalists come from 215 community colleges in 38 states.

“This is a great honor for our two students to be named semifinalists for such a competitive scholarship,” said Dr. Allen Culpepper, TCC’s Jack Kent Cooke Foundation representative. “And their selection demonstrates the potential for students to achieve educational excellence at TCC.”

Some of the latest research from the American Talent Initiative estimates that roughly 50,000 high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds could transfer to four-year colleges each year but don’t, often due to cost.

“By lifting the financial burden of pursuing a four-year degree off their shoulders, our goal is to help students take full advantage of a four-year college experience without taking on student debt,” said Seppy Basili, Executive Director of the Cooke Foundation. “This year’s selected semifinalists reflect the deep bench of talent across our community colleges today, and we’re looking forward to getting to know them better in our final application review process.”

The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship offers unparalleled support to community college students. In addition to the generous financial support, selected Cooke Transfer Scholars will receive educational advising from the Foundation’s Deans of Scholar Support to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year school and preparing for their future endeavors. They will also have access to opportunities for internships, study abroad, graduate school funding, and the incomparable connection to a robust network of more than 3,000 fellow Cooke Scholars and Alumni.

The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship recipients will be announced in April.