Growing up in Pflugerville, a small town outside of Austin, Texas, Amber Traylor dreamed of changing the world but was unsure if she would get the chance.
"I grew up in a low-income household where no one in my family had graduated from college,” said Traylor, a first-generation honor student studying chemistry at Rutgers University in Camden. "When I graduated from high school, I had to work to support myself, and continued on that path for the next several years."
Traylor, a Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholar by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, is among 60 high-achieving community college students selected from a pool of more than 1,700 applicants to receive this scholarship, designed to allow students to complete their undergraduate educations with as little debt as possible.
“Ms. Traylor exemplifies our hopes for all Honors College students: in just four short weeks, she embraced the opportunities for students in the Rutgers–Camden community through her advocacy, her service to the Camden community, and her eagerness to develop robust relationships among her peers,” said Lee Ann Elliott Westman, director of the Honors College at Rutgers–Camden. “These early investments of her time and energy will be an asset to her and her fellow Rutgers–Camden Honors College students. We are privileged to work with exceptional students such as Ms. Traylor every day.”
Traylor has overcome many obstacles, such as a tragic, life-changing hit-and-run accident in her late 20s, which left her unable to work and with a great deal of debt.
“I met an amazing mentor who asked me a profound question: what do you really want to do with your life?” said Traylor. “I knew I wanted to help people, and I knew I wanted to go to college, so she convinced me to enroll in a local community college.”
“I can’t afford a four-year university, but The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is allowing me to do just that, and it is a tremendous relief,” said Traylor. Each award is intended to cover a significant share of the student’s educational expenses – including tuition, living expenses, books, and required fees – for the final two to three years necessary to achieve a bachelor’s degree and can be as much as $55,000 a year.
Along with financial support, Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars also receive comprehensive educational advising to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year college, opportunities for internships and to study abroad, and graduate school funding, as well as connection to a thriving network of more than 3,000 Cooke Scholars and alumni.
“It’s so amazing to have someone in my corner working to ensure that I am successful and can achieve my dreams,” Traylor said. “The Foundation pushes each scholar to dream big and experience everything this time in our lives has to offer. I cannot imagine my life without their support.”
Giving Back to the Community
Traylor is committed to giving back to the community and being a force for positive change; these photos are an example of the work she does in the community. Photos provided by Amber Traylor.
Traylor, who studied carbon capture technology and was a NASA Community College Aerospace Scholar during her time in community college, is thrilled to use the opportunity provided by the Cooke Scholarship to further her academic career at Rutgers–Camden.
“Since coming to Rutgers–Camden, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people that inspire me and are fueling my passion for chemistry, especially organic chemistry," said Traylor. Once she completes her undergraduate studies, she plans to pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry or biochemistry. However, there is one thing of which she is certain.
“I want to change the world and make it a better place for people who have struggled like me.”
Creative Design: Beatris Santos