Last updated on May 18, 2021
Being recognized for excellence in the classroom and in his community isn’t anything new for Ferdinando Castro Gonzalez. Since stepping foot on the Dallas College Richland Campus, he’s been a committee chair, been on the Campus Activity Board and been an active Phi Theta Kappa and Street Team member.
It all led up to May 6, 2021, when his life changed. His professors, advisors, mentors and the Richland president gathered for a surprise virtual ceremony to congratulate Ferdinando for being named a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar.
Dallas College Honors Program Coordinator Kathleen Stephens asked Ferdinando to meet with her to help with a program. It was ultimately a ruse to ensure he was on the call with everyone who wanted to congratulate him.
“One by one, they congratulated me and expressed their experience with me as their student,” Ferdinando said. “I must say it was very emotive, not just for me, but for everyone who worked with me all these years.”
Earlier this year, Ferdinando was one of four Dallas College students named semifinalists for the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, a highly selective scholarship for the nation’s top community college students seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges or universities.
“I wanted to apply to Ivy League universities, more specifically, Columbia University,” he said. “I knew that I could only attend this institution if I had a big scholarship. My dream of entering this institution motivated me to apply.”
The scholarship awards students up to $40,000 per year to complete their bachelor’s degree. Ferdinando was one of just 72 students nationwide chosen from a pool of 406 semifinalists and more than 1,500 applicants.
“As an international student who has struggled every semester to cover my tuition, this honor means more than I can describe in a few words,” Ferdinando said. “I had to adapt to a new culture with limited access to important resources.”
Ferdinando immigrated from Venezuela, and he speaks English, Spanish, French and Italian. His selection is proof all his hard work has paid off, as scholars are selected based on their exceptional academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, service and leadership.
Ferdinando will graduate from Dallas College in June. His dream to attend Columbia was fulfilled when he was accepted March 21. He plans to pursue a degree in sustainable development there.
In addition to financial resources, the scholarship also provides Ferdinando with a personal academic advisor, internship opportunities and the possibility of graduate funds.
“Receiving this recognition also showed me that being consistent and a hard worker does make dreams come true,” he said. “Lastly, it also elevates the Dallas College Richland Campus name! “This institution has given me so much. They developed me into the person I am today, and all I have achieved during my time in the U.S. would not have been possible without their support. I am so happy to have had the privilege of representing my college and giving them the honors and recognition they deserve.”