Valencia College Honors Student Wins Prestigious Cooke Scholarship

Charlene Singh thinks doctors are today’s superheroes. And she is doing everything in her  power to become one.

Starting at age 16, she began volunteering at Florida Hospital South, spending as much as eight hours a day at the hospital, where she did everything from changing sheets on bed to handling secretarial duties for nurses.

But Charlene knows that going to medical school is expensive – and many doctors leave medical school with more than $180,000 in student loan debt.  That’s why Charlene has been careful to choose affordable colleges – starting at Valencia College, where the tuition is about $3,000 per year — with plans to transfer to the University of Central Florida, where she could complete her bachelor’s degree while living at home.

Recently, however, Charlene got great news from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Charlene, a graduate of Timber Creek High School and a member of Valencia’s Seneff Honors College, has been named one of 61 community college students nationwide to receive a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

The scholarship provides up to $40,000 for two or three years for a student to complete his or her bachelor’s degree, plus college planning support, personal advising and the chance to connect with a network of other high-achieving Cooke scholars.


Other recent Valencia graduates who have been selected as Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) scholars include: Angel Sanchez, who’s currently in law school at the University of Miami; Faith Culhane, a pediatric nurse who’s studying political science and medical anthropology at UCF; and Mikhail Elliott, who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Tampa and then a master’s degree in economics and public policy from the University of Manchester (England).

For Charlene, the news – delivered to her by Dr. Stacey Johnson, president of the East and Winter Park campuses – was both a shock and a relief.

The Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, she says, will help her pursue her dream – of becoming an internal medicine specialist in the U.S. Air Force.  Already accepted into UCF’s Burnett Honors College, Charlene says she believes she’ll still head for UCF – but she may now consider medical schools around the country.

“This is incredibly exciting,” she says. “I feel so lucky.”

Currently president of Valencia College’s Future Medical Professionals Club, Charlene was first introduced to the medical field by her aunt, Nicole Ng Fong.  When Charlene was in middle school, her aunt took her to visit the hospital where she worked so Charlene could observe the fast-paced environment.

Charlene was hooked. “Doctors save lives every day and I find that incredibly exciting and interesting. I’ve known for a long time that this is what I want to do.”

Now, thanks to the JKC Scholarship Foundation, she’s one step closer.