Donaldsonville’s Joel Walker awarded Cooke College Scholarship

Staff Report

Donaldsonville High School Student of the Year and Early College Option student Joel Walker has earned one of just two statewide Cooke College Scholarships from The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Joel Walker

Walker will receive up to $40,000 each year to go toward costs associated with his undergraduate education, Ascension Parish Schools announced. 

This year’s winners were chosen from a pool of more than 5,800 applicants from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Marianas, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

 “The class of 2021 is incredibly inspiring - they’ve persisted through a year of unprecedented trials as they navigated remote learning, rapidly changing family finances, and of course, deep concerns over the health of their communities. Paying for college shouldn’t be another barrier,” said Seppy Basili, Executive Director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “At the Foundation, we remain deeply committed to ensuring that finances do not stand in the way of college success for the Scholars we are able to support. We know the resilience and accomplishments of these students will only add to our community of Scholars, and we are very excited to welcome them.”

The Cooke College Scholarship Program seeks to close the gaps in higher education access for driven students with financial need. Cooke College Scholars will receive financial support, along with ongoing educational advising from Foundation staff and access to a network of more than 2,800 active Scholars and Alumni. Scholars will also receive opportunities for internships, study abroad, and access to graduate school funding.

“I have known Joel since his days as a Lowery Middle School Tiger. His selection as a Cooke College Scholar is not a surprise to me,” said Donaldsonville High Principal Marvin Evans. “His ACT score places him in the 85th percentile nationally and is one of his many qualifications deserving of this scholarship. His family places a high priority on education, and they have invested their resources to expose Joel to opportunities beyond the classroom walls. We are proud of Joel whose actions embody our vision of students graduating college and career ready.”

Born and raised in Donaldsonville, Walker is dual-enrolled at Donaldsonville High School and River Parishes Community College through the Early College Option program. 

He will graduate in May with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. He plans to pursue an undergraduate degree in pre-med at Morehouse College with the ultimate goal to become a trauma surgeon.

 “Joel Walker is the epitome of everything our program stands for. It comes as no surprise that he has been afforded such an amazing opportunity. It is much deserved and well earned,” said Early College Option Principal Robyn Simmons, EdD. “I have had the pleasure of watching Joel evolve into the young man he is today, and it has been an amazing thing to witness. His dedication to his community, academics, and goals is unmatched. Joel is on the path to greatness, and I feel blessed to know that we were given an opportunity to prepare him to become a successful 21st-century leader.”

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Since 2000, the Foundation has awarded more than $222 million in scholarships to over 2,800 students from eighth grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive educational advising and other support services. 

The Foundation has also provided $115 million in grants to organizations that serve such students.