top of page

PRCC has four Cooke Foundation semi-finalists

image via

POPLARVILLE – Pearl River Community College continues to be a pacesetter when it comes to recognition from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation in competition for its Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship program.

The Cooke Foundation recently selected 534 high-achieving community college students from a pool of nearly 2,500 applicants from across the U.S. as semifinalists to compete for its transfer scholarship.

Seven students from Mississippi were selected, and four of those attend PRCC.

They include sophomores Cody Hudson of Oak Grove, Lorenzo Anthony Catlett of Hattiesburg, Said D. Otwane of Petal and Hannah Weir of Carriere. Hudson, Catlett and Otwane attend the Forrest County Center and Weir is a Poplarville student.

“In the last four years, we have had nine semifinalists and two finalists,” PRCC instructor and the school’s Jack Kent Cooke representative, Dr. Ryan Ruckel, said. “We are so excited about this. These students complete a rigorous application process. And the faculty recommendations for it are just as rigorous. These students compete with applicants nationwide for this honor.”

This highly competitive scholarship offers selected finalists as much as $40,000 per year for up to three years to complete their bachelor's degrees at selective four-year colleges and universities.

Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars will be selected in April, based on their academic performance, leadership, perseverance, and service to others.

“Community colleges hold many of the nation’s most gifted students,” Executive Director of the Cooke Foundation, Harold O. Levy, said.“Yet too often these students are denied the opportunity to fulfill their potential due to lack of adequate resources and support. Our scholarships help to remove these barriers so that talented students with financial need have a chance to complete their college education and pursue their goals and dreams.”

“We are thrilled with having four semifinalists. For us, this really puts us on the map," Dr. Ruckel said, "It fulfills and completes our mission. When they become a finalist, they can go to school anywhere they want. That is the point of the scholarship.”

PRCC’s previous two finalist winners were Trevor Creighton, who recently completed a B.S. degree at Columbia University, and Rachael Carraro, who currently attends Mississippi State University.

Hudson, 23, is an electrical engineering major at PRCC and plans to transfer to a four-year university. His goal is to work for NASA one day. A president’s list scholar, he is an Honors Institute ambassador, Phi Theta Kappa vice president, Mu Alpha Theta president, and a member of Sigma Kappa Delta, History and Humanities, and Chess clubs.

“When I first heard of this honor, I was completely shocked,” Hudson said. “To be recognized in such a way is really special. The possibility of winning as a finalist is closer and that would help me move forward in my academic journey.”

Catlett, 19, is a kinesiology major and plans to transfer to Mississippi State University with a goal of becoming a doctor of physical therapy. A member of the All-Mississippi Academic Team, he is a Coca-Cola Leader of Promise Scholar and a vice presidential scholarship recipient.

Catlett is a Phi Theta Kappa vice president, Honors Institute program president, and a member of Sigma Kappa Delta and Mu Alpha Theta honor societies.

“It’s a great honor to be selected,” Catlett said. “I did everything in my power not to scream in class when I found out about it. It’s going to be great for my future and my education. I am looking forward to where it brings me.

Otwane, 19, graduated from Petal High School. He plans to attend a four-year university and major in computer engineering. A president’s list scholar, he serves as Phi Theta Kappa president, Honors Institute Ambassador, Chess Club president, and is a member of the History and Humanities Club, the Science Club, Video Game Club and the Student Government Association.

“Winning this honor validates my choice in coming to Pearl River,” Otwane said. “I am proud of myself. This honor opens doors for me that people said would be closed by coming here. I can move forward and go as far as I want to go.”

Weir, 19, graduated from Pearl River Central. She plans to attend a four-year university and major in psychology. A vice presidential scholarship recipient and president’s list scholar, she is Vice President of Fellowship in Phi Theta Kappa, a member of the Honors College Institute and the STEM Club, and was a work study in the Student Success Center.

"I was really surprised and excited to hear this,” Weir said. “It was kind of a last-minute deal for me as far as applying. Winning a scholarship like this can mean all the difference in the world as far as keeping you out of debt.”

Photo Captions:

Top Image - via

Photo Grid - Top Left: Hannah Weir of Carriere, Top Right: Cody Hudson of Oak Grove, Bottom Left: Lorenzo Anthony Catlett of Hattiesburg,

Bottom Right: Said D. Otwane of Petal


bottom of page