East Harriet resident honored with Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship

Belarus native Anna Degolier will attend Cornell University

East Harriet resident Anna Degolier, 22, aspires to be a dentist, open a dog shelter and take her mom shopping at Bloomingdale's someday.

Originally from Belarus, she is working to bring her family and dog, Niki, to the United States.

In May, Degolier received a scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for $30,000 a year, honoring her achievements at Normandale Community College. When she first heard the news, she screamed, &#8220Now I can get my dog!”

Degolier is one of 38 recipients nationwide. Part of the Undergraduate Transfer Program, scholarships are given to students attending community colleges who plan to continue their education. Scholarships are granted based on academic merit.

This fall, she plans to attend Cornell University to study predentistry. She graduated from Normandale last month, with an associate's degree in biosciences and chemistry. Degolier, who also attended seven years of art school in Belarus, said that she wants to find a way to combine her interests.

When Degolier first arrived in the United States, she had no money and few friends. Her English skills were lacking. But her hard work and determination paid off. Degolier became an English tutor in the school's writing lab and earned numerous scholarships towards her degree.

&#8220It took me about a year to adjust. But I was able to conquer chemistry, physics, mathematics and biology taught in a language that was foreign to me,” she said. &#8220I'm a very driven person.”

Right now, Degolier is celebrating the good news with her family in Belarus. She hasn't seen her parents and grandmother since leaving her homeland to join her husband Caleb in Minneapolis two years ago. The couple met when she was in 10th-grade at South St. Paul High School, where she studied for a year as part of an international student exchange program.

When Degolier returned to Belarus afterwards, they kept in touch, and Caleb proposed over the phone. &#8220Getting married was the only way we could stay together,” said Degolier, with a laugh.

At Normandale, she joined a sorority, Phi Beta Kappa, in which she fulfilled many service learning projects. Phi Beta Kappa advisor, Linda Tezlaff, mentored her as she organized blood drives for the Red Cross, visits to Cornerstone, a shelter for battered women and others initiatives, which she said changed her life.

&#8220In Belarus, there's no such thing as volunteer work. Everyone works for self and family,” Degolier said.

For her efforts, Degolier won a &#8220distinguished chapter award.”

Tezlaff has high praise for Degolier.

&#8220Anna is an utterly reliable and focused young lady, with the integrity to direct that focus, not only toward her own clear plans for her life and career, but also outside of herself, to try to improve the lives of others,” she said.

Anna Pratt can be reached at 436-4391 or [email protected].