National Scholarship Winner Follows Her Passion

February 11, 2014

Hollie Wagner never thought she would be able to afford a college education that would allow her to follow her true passion.  Today, she is studying film and philosophy at The Evergreen State College thanks to an undergraduate transfer scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.  

Jack Kent Cooke was a Canadian entrepreneur who owned the Chrysler Building in New York, several news outlets and sports teams, including the Washington Redskins and the Los Angeles Lakers. After his death in 1997, Cooke willed his fortune to his foundation, which has awarded more than $100 million in scholarships to about 1,900 high-performing, high-need students since it was formed in 2000.

Wagner’s advice to financially struggling students? “There are all sorts of scholarships available and people just don’t realize it. Students assume a defeatist attitude and think they’ll never get a scholarship,” said Wagner. “Go apply for them, because the money’s out there.”

After experience working as a production assistant for several films, Wagner attended Oakton Community College in the Chicago suburbs. There, her passion for academia and activism blossomed. Her work combining the arts with social justice earned her awards, and one of her philosophy professors nominated her for the JKC Scholarship. After the lengthy application process, she was awarded a $30,000 scholarship, with the possibility of renewal.

With the scholarship money in hand, Wagner feared she would finally have to choose between her two academic passions: film and philosophy.

“My philosophy professors were encouraging me to enroll in a rigorous philosophy program because they knew I’d succeed. But I didn’t know if that’s what I wanted to do,” Wagner recalls. “The scholarship board kept encouraging me to follow whatever my passion was, which was this intersection between philosophy and film. Evergreen is the only college where I’m really able to do that.”

Wagner happily calls Olympia and The Evergreen State College her new home, making her the first Jack Kent Cooke Scholar to attend Evergreen. In true Evergreen fashion, she is in an interdisciplinary philosophy course this fall, with plans of focusing on film next year while furthering her philosophy work independently with faculty.

“This scholarship changed my life,” Wagner says. “There are people who have money that are working within the system who want to give it to you to help turn the system around. You just have to go out there and get it.”