Three Rivers senior eying Stanford, Princeton after receiving Cooke College Scholarship

Three Rivers High School Senior Giovani Gioiosa has been selected for the Cooke College Scholarship, and is only one of two Michigan students to receive the award. (Courtesy)

Three Rivers High School Senior Giovani Gioiosa has been selected by The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation as one of 60 graduating high school seniors to receive the Cooke College Scholarship, an organization dedicated to advancing the education of high-achieving students with financial need. 

According to the Foundation’s website, it has awarded almost $250 million dollars in scholarships since 2000 to nearly 3,200 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive academic advising, career pathway counseling, and other support services. Scholars also receive ongoing academic coaching, graduate school and career advising, as well as opportunities for internships, study abroad, and access to graduate school funding.

Gioiosa and the other recipients of the Cooke College Scholarship will receive up to $55,000 annually to cover costs for their undergraduate education. The amount of the award varies by student based on the cost of attendance, as well as the amount of other scholarships or grants a recipient will receive. Each award may fund all or a portion of educational costs, including tuition, room and board, books, and other required fees for the period required to complete the bachelor’s degree program.

Gioiosa told Watershed Voice he is still unsure of the amount he will be awarded. “It depends on what the college has already given me through the CSS (College Scholarship Service) profile and FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and then the scholarship foundation will match or make up the cost.” He said most of the colleges he was accepted into would provide substantial financial aid relief, and he received “almost full-rides everywhere.” Gioiosa hopes because he will be attending a university out-of-state, the Foundation might help him pay for more personal costs, such as plane tickets. “I don’t know if they’ll be able to cover that, but that’s something I wanted to bring up to them.”

Students from all 50 states applied for the scholarship, including Puerto Rico, Washington D.C., Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands. The Foundation made their determinations based on evaluations of each student’s academic ability, persistence, leadership, and financial need. These selected scholars will go on to study in fields such as biological science, engineering, computer science, fine arts, and political science. Gioiosa is just one of two Michigan seniors to be selected as a recipient this year. “I worked really hard, and it’s just good to be recognized for that. I’m just really excited for the next four years.”

“I applied for fun back in October and never thought anything about it,” Gioiosa said regarding the application process. “Then, in late January I got an email that said ‘Congratulations, you’ve been selected as a semi-finalist’, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s nice!’” His next steps for the application process included filling out two more forms, as well as showing supporting documentation he had been accepted to various colleges. “Then it had me fill out the CSS profile, which is a financial aid application for need-based financial aid that the college board does. Then I waited until March, and got another email that I had been selected.”

Gioiosa applied to 24 colleges, including all eight Ivy League schools. “I got into three of them: Princeton, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania,” he said. “Then I got into some other schools like the University of Michigan, Tufts, Swarthmore, and Wake Forest.” Gioiosa is currently trying to decide between his top two choices: Stanford and Princeton. “Next week, Princeton is flying me out to do a Princeton preview and they are paying for everything, which is really, really nice. I’m going to go visit there, see how it is.” Because Stanford was unable to accommodate him in the same way, Gioiosa says his aunt is paying for his trip to visit there in order for him to make his decision between the two schools. 

Cooke scholars are required to participate in a foundation-sponsored scholars weekend in the Washington, D.C. area during the summer before their freshmen year of college. The Foundation also expects students to maintain good communication and to work closely with their designated Foundation educational advisor. Lastly, the Foundation expects recipients to maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, to act with honesty and integrity, to demonstrate character and leadership, to be concerned about and engaged with their community, and to maintain a good disciplinary record. 

While Gioiosa is not yet certain what he plans to study, he does have some ideas. “For the longest time I wanted to be a doctor. Then, around junior year, I decided to switch it up,” he said. “I’ve always loved English, and I thought about what careers I could go into that dealt a lot with English. I think I’ll study English and do a Pre-Law Track, but I don’t know. I just want to keep a really open mind in college and feel it out.”

While many high school seniors have their sights set on the end of the academic year and impending summer break, Gioiosa has packed his days with a rigorous class schedule. “The school (TRHS) only offers about four AP classes, maybe five in a good year. So, what I did starting junior year was really trying to advocate for myself to make sure I was getting the best of my high school experience, and really trying to take these rigorous courses.”

Gioiosa says he loves to work ahead in classes, and so, in order to work at his own pace, he decided to take online AP courses through Michigan Virtual. “I took two online AP classes this year, and I finished those back in February. I had two free hours from that, and so I took an online English class through Glen Oaks Community College and I finished that already. I also dual enroll at Western Michigan University, and I go there for an hour and 40 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

While his academic schedule keeps him busy, Gioiosa still finds time to have fun and says he loves to play tennis. “I definitely picked up the racket because of Serena Williams,” he said. Gioiosa also works at Starbucks in his free time. Still, he is eager to begin his college career and broaden his horizons. “I’m excited to have fun for the next four years and just enjoy it. I feel like I’ve just been so stressed out. I’m just ready to enjoy it, meet new people, and share new experiences.”

Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.