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MDC Graduate Wins Prestigious $60,000 National Scholarship, Headed to Georgetown

Dr. Jose A. Vicente, Anahi Cortada, Jack Kent Cooke scholarship winnerand Dr. Eduardo J. Padron.

Anahi Cortada, Jack Kent Cooke scholarship winner, with Hialeah and North Campus President Dr. Jose A. Vicente (left) and MDC President Dr. Eduardo J. Padron.

Miami, May 11, 2009 - It wasn’t just that she was about to receive an associate degree in international relations after two years of hard work. Anahi Cortada burst into tears upon hearing Miami Dade College (MDC) North and Hialeah Campus President Dr. José A. Vicente announce she had also won a prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship worth up to $60,000 to continue her education.

The Foundation received nearly 500 nominations this year from colleges across the country. Cortada was among only 30 students chosen.    

The day before graduation, the MDC Honors College grad opened her acceptance letter from Georgetown University, a dream come true for the Cuban native who arrived in Miami just five years ago with her mother and a sister. 

“Oh, my God! I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I felt so happy.”

Cortada came to Miami in 2003, leaving behind family, friends and most things that felt familiar. At Hialeah Senior High she was enrolled in ESOL classes and worked hard to pass the FCAT and SAT exams. Learning English, she says, was the most challenging aspect of her new life.

She took additional classes at night, read books in English, avoided Spanish television, and even practiced talking in front of the mirror. She also found support in Stuart Carlin, a professor at Hialeah high who encouraged her to succeed.

As Cortada excelled in school, her mother worked factory jobs and at gas stations to support the family.

“There were days when I never even saw [my mom],” she recalls. “She was working so hard, had left her family behind to give me and my sister a better life. I wanted to show her it was worth it.”

The hard work paid off when Cortada graduated from Hialeah High summa cum laude. MDC’s Honors College offered Cortada a full scholarship, access to unique programs and new opportunities, as well as the chance to stay close to home.  

“She’s one who basically went for every opportunity that came her way,” says Dr. Michael Lenaghan, a Georgetown graduate who teaches government and international relations at the North Campus. He is also adviser of the Model United Nations association.    

Cortada participated in the National Model United Nations Conference in New York City two years in a row. This year, she was head delegate of the group representing the Philippines. She was managing editor of North Campus’ award-winning student newspaper, The Falcon Times. Last October, the 20-year-old received an award for design from the Florida Community College Press Association at its annual conference in Sarasota. 

Her favorite experience, she says, was attending the Salzburg Seminar in Austria with the Honors College last year. The Seminar brings together individuals from all over the world to explore social, political and cultural issues. The students are also treated to a two-day cultural tour of Vienna.

In addition to her academic accomplishments, Cortada has been active in the community. Through a service-learning project at MDC, she helped collect toys, books and school supplies for daycare children in low-income areas.  

Ambitious and fierce when it comes to accomplishing her goals, Cortada is considering a career in immigration or international law.

“I don’t have a clear idea of what I’m going to do, but I know I want to become a lawyer and be involved in immigration,” she says. “Coming from Cuba, from what I know, it’s part of who I am.” 

Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,
Tarnell Carroll, 305-237-3359,, media specialist

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