Fort Payne High School senior Erica Hughes was recently named a semifinalist for the prestigious Cooke College Scholarship Program.
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, on Jan. 25, 2021, announced the selection of 496 high school seniors semifinalists chosen from a pool of 5,860 applicants and represented 428 different high schools.
The highly selective scholarship provides exceptionally talented students who have financial needs with up to $40,000 annually for four years of college, enabling them to attend a top-performing college or university.
“It’s pretty surreal,” said Hughes. “I’ve learned that the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is a pretty prestigious scholarship, so I was surprised to get the call that I made it as a semifinalist.”
Fort Payne High School Principal Brian Jett said Hughes is an outstanding student of FPHS who excels in the FPHS Marching Band, where she plays the clarinet and is a member of the Winterguard and Colorguard.
“Throughout her years here, she has taken honors, advance placement and dual enrollment college courses and is a member of the National Honor Society, Student Council and has participated on our school debate team,” said Jett.
Hughes said through her educational journey, she has pushed herself academically by taking honors classes, AP classes and dual enrollment classes through Northeast Alabama Community College.
This month she learned she is also a finalist for the Horatio Alger Scholarship, which seeks students who have exhibited determination, integrity and perseverance in overcoming adversity in their young lives.
“The Horatio Alger Scholarship, which is worth $25,000, will also provide me with many college and career success services,” said Hughes. “I think this is pretty exciting along with being a Cooke Scholarship semifinalist.”
Hughes has been accepted to Jacksonville State University and plans on majoring in either psychology or education.
“My main piece of advice is to work hard and be true to yourself,” she said. “I would like to thank my family and friends who have supported me these past few years. I would not have gotten this far without every single one of them.”
Every year, students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Marianas, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa apply, and around 60 students are chosen for the scholarship.
“Erica is a hard worker and for her to be a semifinalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship and a finalist for the Horatio Alger Scholarship speaks volumes of her work ethic, determination and achievement,” said Jett. “We are so proud of her as these are two very prestigious national scholarship programs.”
In April, the 2021 Cooke Scholarship recipients will be announced.
“These semifinalists embody determination and resilience as they navigate finishing high school during one of the most difficult and unprecedented times of American history,” said Executive Director Seppy Basili. “In the midst of these challenging times, we remain deeply committed to ensuring that students have the opportunity to access an education and reach their fullest potential. I am honored to recognize these students for their hard work and achievements.”