Sean Moore, of Boonton, a liberal arts major at County College of Morris (CCM) and a graduate of Kittatinny Regional High School in Hampton, has been selected as one of only 73 recipients nationwide of the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship.
“This news, as is true about a lot that has happened to me, has been life changing,” says Moore.
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation supports outstanding community college students with financial need to transfer to and complete their bachelor’s degrees at one of the nation’s top four-year colleges or universities. As a recipient, Moore will receive up to $30,000 per year for two to three years while pursuing his bachelor’s degree. As a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar, Moore also is eligible for an additional $50,000 scholarship to pursue graduate studies.
Moore has taken a long but ultimately inspiring path to academic excellence. After suffering a horrific family tragedy at an early age, Moore began a journey searching for purpose that led him to want to help others.
“When I was 8-years-old and in first grade, I lost my parents to a murder suicide committed by my father,” says Moore. “That derailed any sort of immediate academic interest. I lost faith in people as well as any chance of having a normal life at that point.”
After high school, Moore took to travelling to make sense of life and the events he had lived through. He wound up in Mexico, where he witnessed more heartache, but this time it provided him with a renewed faith in mankind. He lived with a family there who treated him like he was one of their own, though they barely had enough to survive themselves.
“I think that’s where I started having a huge life perspective shift at that dinner table with the people of Mexico,” says Moore. “Seeing those residents – who only have the option of working in a dangerous factory for nothing while receiving no benefits – help me while I had the option of returning home, it was truly transformative.”
Upon his return to New Jersey, it was his friend and CCM alumnus Michael Klinger who put Moore on his current academic course.
Klinger, who went on to Cornell University, Harvard Divinity School and is now at Harvard Law School, isn’t the only CCM influence to make a difference in Moore’s life. Moore credits Professor Laura Gabrielson, Dr. Edward J. Yaw, president of CCM, and Dr. Bette Simmons, vice president of student development and enrollment management, with believing in his ability to ultimately make a difference for others.
“Each one of those people had faith in me in a different area of life,” says Moore. “Professor Gabrielson (head of the Honors program at CCM) having belief in my writing, academic ability, and how I performed in the classroom told me I was a standout student and that I could do everything I planned on doing. Dr. Yaw recognized my character and leadership potential and built my self-esteem, helping me believe in myself and that I had the power to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Dr. Simmons encouraged me in general to engage with the student community.”
Moore has some major objectives for the near future. He has applied to three Ivy League universities with the goal of obtaining his bachelor’s degree in a major that would give him the best foundation to head to law school with an eye on human rights and labor law.
Studying at any of these institutions would be a tremendous experience, but it was at Cornell where he first felt the pull of being a leader in labor relations and studying at an Ivy League campus. The ultimate goal for Moore is to parlay his next educational experience into law school – he has aspirations of attending Harvard.
“After living in Mexico and then observing a labor relations class at Cornell, that’s when I kind of realized my shot at life wasn’t that fair, but it was a lot fairer than being born in a place like Tijuana, where there is little option. It was a culmination of things. Once I visited Cornell and tapped into that, I felt this was what I was going to put every ounce of energy into.”
Moore, who is vice president of leadership for the Phi Theta Kappa honors society and a member of the Student Government Association at CCM, found out about his latest honor in a special way. Yaw, who is currently in Russia taking part in a Community College Administrators Seminar on a Fulbright Scholar Grant, appeared before Moore via Skype in the CCM boardroom. It was there with Simmons and Dr. Dwight Smith, vice president of academic affairs, that Yaw revealed the great news.
“You’re one of 73 students and you should be really proud. You deserve it,” Yaw told Moore.
Moore notes that he will never forget what he has experienced at CCM, and how it has changed him.
“I don’t think any other community college could have put me in a better position than CCM,” he says. “The opportunity and help I have received here is better than any I could have expected from anywhere else in world.”