Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include Suazo’s decision to attend Yale University.
By Gabrielle Gasser ASSOCIATE EDITOR
BIG SKY – Lone Peak High School senior Samantha Suazo was chosen this month as one of 100 Jack Kent Cooke scholars, a prestigious nationwide program for college-bound students. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a national organization dedicated to advancing the education of promising students who have financial need.
As a scholar in the Cooke College Scholarship Program, Suazo will receive up to $55,000 annually to help cover costs associated with her undergraduate education, ongoing undergraduate and career advising and access to an extensive network of over 2,800 scholars and alumni.
“I feel really proud of myself,” Suazo said of her achievement. “I think that it’s proved that I’ve worked really hard over the past few years. And if anything, it just [pushes] me to keep working even harder and challenge myself each day even more.”
Suazo, 19, has lived in Big Sky for seven years since moving here with her family. She is involved in a variety of extracurriculars at LPHS including the Latino Student Union, which she founded, Mock Trial Team and National Honor Society. Suazo is the founder of Montana’s only Spanish-language news source, Notícías Montaña.
Suazo is also a LEDA scholar. Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to diversifying national leadership and each year chooses 100 qualified high school juniors who show leadership potential.
Already part of one national scholar program, Suazo was inspired to apply to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation after reading a New York Times article about a student who was a Cooke Scholar. She said she admired the student and was especially drawn to the community offered through the foundation.
“They give you this community of students who have the same mission and the same passion as you,” she said. “By doing that they give you a lot of support from other people who have the same interests as you.”
Suazo said after meeting many wonderful people in her LEDA community she knew she wanted to be a Cooke Scholar as well.
“I believe in the value of community, the power of community,” Suazo said. “I think the other people who you meet really truly make the impact and the person you become.”
Suazo offered thanks to local community member Barbara Rowley, who helped Suazo pursue both scholar opportunities. She also expressed her gratitude to everyone in her life who has helped her get to this point.
“I’m really grateful to meet other individuals in my life that are truly passionate about the work they do,” she said. Suazo added that she looks forward to the next four years of her life at college and the opportunity to meet people and expand her community.
Suazo decided on April 30 that she will be attending Yale University and studying political science and government with a double major in ethnicity, race and migration.