Paw Ser Soe - Image Courtsey: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

Hartwick Student Wins Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship

October 31, 2013

Hartwick College student Paw Ser Soe '15, a recent transfer student from Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC), has been awarded a 2013 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

"My life has completely changed," she said. "The Foundation has given me a great future that I thought could only happen in a dream."

Soe is currently a resident of Utica, NY, but was born in the jungles of Myanmar. During a time of war when she was a child, she escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand and lived there until age 19, at which point she immigrated to Utica to reunite with some of her siblings. There, she learned quickly and established herself as a top-notch student at MVCC where she founded the "American & Refugee Students for Closer Connection" organization. She also won the Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence, was a 2013 Coca-Cola Gold Scholar, and made the All-New York State Academic First Team.

In making her transition from MVCC, Soe cites the faculty and staff as one of the main reasons why she chose to attend Hartwick College.

"By choosing Hartwick, I hoped to receive greater opportunities to educate people about my life story growing up as a refugee and an internally displaced person," said Soe. "Another big reason I chose to come here was because of the staff and faculty. They are so welcoming, nice, kind, and helped me with everything I need."

At Hartwick, Soe is currently working to complete an Individual Study Program (ISP) major in International Studies with a focus on International Human Rights, Refugees and issues relating to Internally Displaced Persons.

Paw's inspiration to succeed came from her late father, Doh Soe, who always had a positive attitude, and who continues to inspire her to "be great and never give up!" Her goal for the future is "to create a better life for the poorest people in the third world." Upon receiving the JKCF Scholarship, Soe said "My dad always said, 'There are bad days and good days in every human's lifetime. Today it may not be your day, but someday it will be your day.' I think someday is today because today is my day."

One of the many things Soe is most proud of involving her work to date is her creation of the group "American and Refugees Students for Closer Connection (ARSCC)." In 2012 with the support of her friends, Soe created the group in order to introduce more American college students to refugee students.

"Most refugees that I work with are between 16 to 21 years old and have been in the USA less than two years, some of them just a few months. Most of these students don't speak any English at all, and they want to make friends with American students, so I created ARSCC to connect the two groups. This connection is made in many ways, including volunteer opportunities to teach English to those students in need, and we also do a lot of activities outside of the classroom to learn about basic American culture. Many of these activities were the first time in many of their lives which they were able to experience such things, and I enjoy seeing their happy and surprised faces when they do! American students learn so much from them as well - about their culture, beliefs, languages, and so on. I look forward to helping Hartwick College students to get involved in this group, too!"

She received her American Citizenship less than two months ago, an achievement which Soe refers to as the most important and best day of her life. Upon receiving her American Citizenship, Soe shared that "This is the most special day of my life because I am an equal and have freedom like other people! Finally, I feel like I belong to one country in this entire world. I am a citizen of one nation. I am very honored and proud to be an American citizen!"

Soe has big plans upon graduating from Hartwick, hoping to continue to share her experiences with others in order to increase knowledge surrounding refugee situations.

"In the summer of 2014, I want to go back to the very small village where I used to live," said Soe. "There, I would like to build a small library for everyone - especially for the children there. This would be the first library in the town. In the future, I want to build more libraries around the world in third world countries and in small villages that don't have any schools. Then, someday, I hope to create a non-profit organization that works with youth in refugee camps around the world."

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Logo

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF), founded in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, is a private, independent foundation that is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptional students who need financial support. The JKCF gives scholarships and grants to students at all levels of education-elementary through graduate school-and has awarded $120 million in scholarships to nearly 2,000 students. The JKCF Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is a generous scholarship given to the nation's top community college students so that they may complete their bachelor's degrees at four-year colleges or universities. The Foundation provides up to $30,000 per year, which makes it the largest private scholarship for two-year and community college transfer students in the United States.

"The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is one of the largest scholarships in the Country which supports outstanding students in need who want to continue their education," shared Soe. "It's not only about the money, though. When you become a JKCF Scholar, you also become part of one big family that will always take care of you."

For more information about Soe's ARSCC group, visit To learn more about the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, visit

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Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,500 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive curriculum emphasizes an experiential approach to the liberal arts. Through personalized teaching, collaborative research, a distinctive January Term, a wide range of internships, and vast study-abroad opportunities, Hartwick ensures that students are prepared for not just their first jobs, but for the world ahead. A Three-Year Bachelor's Degree Program and strong financial aid and scholarship offerings keep a Hartwick education affordable.

Contact: Valerie Capullo
Phone: 607-431-4031