January 20, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Santa Monica College Student Wins Prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship:

Santa Monica College student Jonah Okike-Hephzibah sat stunned on a chair in the campus’s quad – unable to say anything but “Oh my God!” –  as he was told that he had won the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, the nation’s largest private scholarship for community college transfer students.

Okike-Hephzibah, a pre-engineering major, is one of 90 recipients chosen from 2,061 applicants from 540 community colleges nationwide. Chosen by a selection committee of 18 admissions professionals, mostly from selective four-year institutions, he will receive up to $40,000 a year for up to three years towards his undergraduate education.

This makes Okike-Hephzibah the fourth SMC student to receive the award in five years – previous recipients included Siamak Khakshoor-Kohan, Scott Pine and Stephen Olsen, who was the first SMC student to win the JKCF scholarship in 2011.

While other boys dreamed of being superheroes, Jonah Okike-Hephzibah just wanted to invent things. Taking things apart – radios, old cellphones, his Playstation – and putting them back together was a favorite pastime.

At Verdugo Hills High School in Tujunga, CA, he played basketball and briefly considered becoming a professional basketball player – seemingly a fast way to make money to help his mom and five younger siblings – but ditched the idea at the realization that an injury would put an end to that career. He struggled with a lack of focus on his studies until a realization dawned on him.

“I was the head of the household after my parents divorced,” he says. “And I realized that I wasn’t showing my brothers and sisters the best way to go about their education.”

Okike-Hephzibah decided to use college as an opportunity to transform and came to SMC. He enrolled in business and computer science courses, his intended major – but would find his true calling a year later, when a counselor referred him to SMC’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program.

Through STEM – a program which offers tailored academic support and research opportunities to underrepresented students entering science and math-related fields, including a Summer Research Institute at UCLA – Okike-Hephzibah found out about mechanical engineering.

“As a kid, I loved engineering – I just didn’t know what it was!” he says. He enrolled in the STEM program, took science and math prerequisite courses and grew more and more passionate about the field.

SMC Chemistry Professor Sehat Nauli – who recommended Okike-Hephzibah for the JKCF scholarship, along with Melanie Bocanegra, SMC’s Associate Dean of STEM and Student Equity – calls him “a dedicated student” and “a humble and caring” individual.

“He’s taking all these classes and works at our STEM program…when he goes home, he’s responsible for taking care of his younger siblings,” said Nauli. “Needless to say, Jonah is an extremely disciplined and focused person to do all this.”

Bocanegra said that the JKCF scholarship could not have gone to a more deserving person.

“Jonah is a strong role model at Santa Monica College,” said Bocanegra. “He is engaging, accomplished, and most importantly, approaches his work with a determination that is truly inspiring.”

Okike-Hephzibah plans on majoring in robotics, after finishing his undergraduate studies in mechanical engineering. He has been accepted into the University of Michigan, and is waiting to hear back from Stanford University, Columbia University, Cornell University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“Jonah embodies what SMC strives for – excellence with responsibility,” said SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang. “Here is a young man motivated by deep love for his family, who is willing to work hard to fulfill his own dreams. With students like Jonah, the world will truly be a better place.”

SMC Transfer Center Faculty Leader Dan Nannini points out that four JKCF scholars in five years is a testament to the willingness of SMC’s instructors to go the extra mile to support students – the application requires them to submit thorough, thoughtful recommendations.

“The Cooke Foundation is proud to be one of the few organizations that focuses on high-performing community college transfer students with financial need by providing the largest private scholarships to this population of students,” said JKCF Executive Director Harold O. Levy. “We do this not only because of the lack of scholarships available for them but also because they bring so much to their four-year campuses – performing as well if not better than the students who started at those institutions as freshmen.”

As for Okike-Hephzibah, he knows where he will be in, say, a decade – either finishing a dissertation at MIT or working at a place like engineering and robotic design company Boston Dynamics.

“When I was a boy, I dreamed about creating a super ‘geeked-out’ driverless car, with a robot-butler that takes care of everything,” he says.

in News
Related Posts

City Council Has Appointed An 11 Member Civilian Police Oversight Commission: Santa Monica Beat – January, 17, 2021

January 19, 2021

January 19, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * City Council Has Appointed An 11 Member Civilian Police Oversight Commission...

Edify TV: Ticketing Maskless Angelenos?

January 19, 2021

January 19, 2021

Los Angeles lawmakers want to fine people for not wearing masks. Learn more in this video made possible by School...

Santa Monica Pier to Close, Farmers Market Shortened for Inauguration Day

January 19, 2021

January 19, 2021

Library curbside service suspended as well By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica is closing the Pier and shortening the farmers market’s...

Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel to Turn Amber as Part of Nationwide COVID-19 Memorial

January 18, 2021

January 18, 2021

Pacific Park joins nationwide COVID-19 memorial Tuesday night By Chad Winthrop The Santa Monica Pier ferris wheel will light up...

Video: 25K New Housing Units in LA?

January 17, 2021

January 17, 2021

With a massive spike in homelessness forecasted, LA lawmakers want to build 25,000 new housing units. Learn more in this...

Edify TV: Overhaul for Canyon Property?

January 15, 2021

January 15, 2021

A unique Santa Monica Canyon property may be getting an overhaul. Learn more in this video made possible by School...

Edify TV: The Westside’s Best Pies

January 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

Here are some of the best pies on the Westside ahead of National Pie Day on January 23. Learn more...

City Council Votes Mayor Himmelrich And Team To Keep Council Positions: Santa Monica Beat – January, 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * City Council Votes Mayor Himmelrich And Team To Keep Council Positions...

65-Year-Old Santa Monica Bakery on Verge of Shutting Down

January 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

Westside Food Scene January 14, 2021 By Kerry Slater 65-Year-Old Santa Monica Bakery on Verge of Shutting Down  A beloved...

Food Review: The Westside’s Insanely Delicious Tijuana Tacos

January 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

Tacos 1986 in Westwood Village stands out amid a crowded taco scene By Kerry Slater In a city filled with...

Santa Monica Pier Closed for Five Days in a Row

January 13, 2021

January 13, 2021

City cites warm weather forecasted for Santa Monica By Sam Catanzaro With temperatures reaching the 80s expected, city officials are...

Edify TV: Westside Kids Compete to Keep Beach Clean

January 12, 2021

January 12, 2021

Westside kids are competing to keep the beach clean! Learn more in this video made possible by Santa Monica College.

Santa Monica Fire Department Rolls Out Vaccinations

January 12, 2021

January 12, 2021

SMFD helps with rollout across county  By Chad Winthrop Beginning this month , Santa Monica Fire Department firefighters and paramedics...

SMC and MLK Westside Coalition’s 36th Annual Celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 12, 2021

January 12, 2021

Mon, Jan 18, 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM Online Only at 9am on Jan. 18th – Visit: MLKjrWestside.org  The Rev. Dr....