Northwestern Center for Talent Development Outreach for the Cooke Young Scholars Program

Northwestern CTD helps the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation provide a pathway to opportunity for talented seventh-grade students. The outreach manager shares insights about this scholarship.

Resources, support and opportunity are factors that contribute to a student’s success. Recognizing that many talented students may not have access to these key factors, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation created the Cooke Young Scholars Program and works with Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development to provide outreach to schools and families

“The Cooke Young Scholars Program seeks to identify and support academically gifted seventh-grade students facing financial barriers,” says Northwestern CTD’s Tammie Stewart, Outreach Manager for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars program. 

What criteria does the scholarship require?

“Students that meet the scholarship criteria are everywhere,” notes Stewart, who reaches out to all types of schools, neighborhoods and community organizations. She encourages schools and organizations to contact her as well. “Talent knows no boundaries.”

While the net is cast wide, there are a few basic scholarship criteria:

  • Academic excellence: Applicants should demonstrate strong performance in core subjects, typically maintaining As and Bs.
  • Financial need: Families must have a household income below $95,000.
  • Demonstrated commitment: Beyond grades, candidates are evaluated based on their motivation, resilience and passion for learning.
  • Extracurricular engagement: Some involvement in extracurricular activities, leadership roles or community service is valued.

Stewart notes that there is no “perfect” scholarship candidate. Every student has a different life circumstance. “Some of our strongest applicants may not be able to do extracurricular activities. That’s OK—any areas where you show leadership, including at home, are relevant,” she says.

How to prepare and apply for the scholarship

Stewart suggest the following steps as a guide to completing the application:

  • Research and preparation. Get familiar with the program requirements and eligibility criteria. Gather necessary documents such as transcripts, financial records and letters of recommendation. 
  • Attend workshops. Stewart offers free virtual workshops and presentations through Northwestern CTD. These sessions offer invaluable insights and guidance on completing the application.
  • Start early. The application process is comprehensive and requires time and effort. “Start early to ensure ample time for gathering materials, writing essays and obtaining necessary recommendations,” Stewart suggests.
  • Craft your story. Use the application essays as an opportunity to showcase your achievements, extracurriculars and personal aspirations. Be authentic and compelling in your responses.

“We don’t just want to hear about success,” says Stewart. “Everyone fails; what did you do after that? We want to see a candidate’s resilience and leadership.”

  • Seek support. Throughout the application process, Stewart encourages applicants to lean on the resources available through their schools. We are here to help,” she says.
  • Submit and await notification. Once the application is complete, submit it according to the specified deadline. Approximately 60 scholars are identified each year. Applicants are typically notified of their status in the fall of their eighth-grade year.

Scholarship success stories and future outreach

Success stories are many and Stewart has notable examples. “Most of our scholarship winners go on to graduate from top-tier universities.” Young Scholar graduates have become civil engineers, doctors, lawyers and everything in between. 

Several participants have demonstrated leadership by creating opportunities for those coming after them, says Stewart. 

“We had a student accept a job with a prestigious law firm on the condition that she could create an organization there that helped other students in her situation. Our scholarship winners know that they want to give back.”

For more information about the Northwestern CTD and the Cooke Young Scholars Program, visit

Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.


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