Kimberly Cocchi, JKCF Semifinalist, Focuses on Creating an Equitable Future Through Law

April 28, 2023

Kimberly Cocchi (pronounced KAH-chee) is a non-traditional student-parent whose plan to go back to school ignited her dreams of achieving greatness. Cocchi aspires to help solve real-world problems, like closing the wealth gap and stabilizing the economy while creating equity and equal opportunity within diverse markets.


While going back to school at NOVA, she has held student leadership positions and has been nationally recognized while serving as the vice president of public relations and recruitment for NOVA’s chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. In just a few short years since she has gone back to school, she has made an impact on her peers and has become a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship semifinalist. Hear more about her journey as a Nighthawk and up-and-coming graduate.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:
I am a Jamaican-born and New York-raised scholar! I am currently studying social science and I look forward to finishing my associate of science and then progressing forward in studying economics. I am hoping to attend Columbia University or Harvard University, which has a less than 1% acceptance rate. But I am up for the challenge, as I am not afraid to try difficult things.

I am currently the sitting vice president of public relations and recruitment for NOVA’s chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. I am also an active member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and just recently joined The National Society of Leadership and Success. Of course, I am also a part of the present honors class here at NOVA. I’ve maintained a 4.0 GPA and plan to graduate summa cum laude. My future plan is to continue on to Harvard Law after getting my bachelor’s. I believe in setting high personal standards for myself and doing small things on my journey to attain big goals.

My mother and I immigrated from Jamaica. She was an excellent example of a hardworking scholar herself. I always saw my mom work extremely hard to make sure there was food on the table. She made sure that we had good clothes to go to school. It was incredible to see her as an accountant. Later, she followed her passion, went back to school and became a school teacher. Her journey, like many of the women that I have encountered, has enlightened me to keep reaching for my dreams. At times, she is a guiding light, and our story really embodies the immigrant journey.

I myself am a mother and a wife. I have a seven-year-old son. He is a rambunctious little boy. I have a great support system where my mother and father-in-law have all gathered to really support me and help me. My son is a wonderful angel. I often reflect on how lucky I am to have the opportunity to go back to school through our hands-on assistance. I see how wonderful and smart my son is, and I see myself in him. I want to give him all the opportunities in the world, and I’d do anything for him. The best way for me to do that is through my academics. So far, it has shown me so much promise and I look forward to what the future holds.

My family and I moved to the Northern Virginia region from Long Island at the end of the summer in 2021. My husband had received a promotion at a hospitality company during the pandemic. We have in-laws in Northern Virginia, so it was the obvious choice to get out of the hustle and bustle of New York. This was a great environmental choice at that time.

I had not started school when we first transitioned to the area from New York because of setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were a lot of “what ifs,” and we did lose a few loved ones to the grips of COVID-19. My sincerest condolences go out to those who have also suffered losses.

What will you be thinking when you walk across the graduation stage in May?
I am very grateful and happy I had the opportunity to go to NOVA. What you put in is what you get out! I am so thankful to be a Jack Kent Cooke Semifinalist. It shows how far I have come. I hope that it shows others like myself that your goals are achievable even after kids, even after time has passed. You are still possible.

What brought you to NOVA?
I wanted to give myself a chance to get back on track with schoolwork, and to progress toward a future career of my dreams. I didn’t know what school to go to or how I could afford it. When I moved to the area, I had a background in finance and customer service. I was a former auditor for Hilton. My husband, who previously worked in D.C. and lived here years before, said that NOVA was a great school. He said there was so much opportunity, and he knew I was going to love it.

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA, i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met.
Dr. Tamara Warren, Professor Charlie Errico and Professor Todd Natti have shown so much passion for their jobs and student success. They all helped me continue to strive for my own success. They gave me insights that help me challenge my goals and to help fund them. I would have to say that I have a super supportive circle, which helps me deal with people who give me restricting thoughts on my goals.

When I began my classes in the summer of 2021, I had a few college credits from my high school. Beginning school again after not being in school for years, I was nervous and thought it was going to be a lot harder than it was. I found myself being challenged by my professors, and I wanted to try as hard as I could. I wanted to be the best in maintaining my coursework, and I thank my incredible professors.

I also did an interview in December of 2022 with the College President Kress, and it was so exciting! It all started as an assignment in Professor Natti’s class. I chose to write to the President’s Office in hopes of an interview. I finally landed the interview and during that time, I received a lot of insight into Dr. Kress’ background and the programs she put in place. These programs grant NOVA students greater and more equitable opportunities.

I learned about the progress that NOVA has made in creating equitable pathways. I was able to talk about challenges like FAFSA, in which it was hard for first-generation immigrant students or students with prior criminal backgrounds to fill out the form. It seemed like the FAFSA form was the gatekeeper to an affordable education for some. Small changes like making the FAFSA form more understandable can open the doors to an education for many. I hope to make such changes in the future. I discovered how relatable and pleasant Dr. Kress was. It was also great to be heard from this wonderful and most inspiring woman.

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?
My target schools are Columbia and Harvard. I was hesitant in applying at first because I am a non-traditional student and felt that my background and my ability to fund any Ivy League education was impossible. I was intimidated by applying to some prestigious universities. However, my professors were so encouraging. Instead of asking me, “Why do you want to go to Harvard?” they were more like, “How do we get you to Harvard?” They encouraged me to take initiative and helped talk to advisors at Harvard about eligibility. I found a lot of cool information.

I want to pursue a bachelor of science degree in economics. I have an interest and focus in helping solve real-world problems, like closing the wealth gap, stabilizing the economy and creating equity and equal opportunity in diverse markets. I want to see great strategic implementations occur. I want to create impacts into the global market. After finishing my four-year degree, I want to then go to law school.

I plan on studying early for my LSATs [the Law School Admission Test], at the end of this summer. I want to take advantage of the opportunities I have and the opportunities that NOVA has provided me. I feel like the honor courses challenge you to do more. It puts a lot into perspective.

I want a stable background within my field. Once I go into law school and continue in my journey, I hope to have a few opportunities lined up. After I leave NOVA, I don’t have to question how I am going to do this or where I am going to go.

Currently, I am working on internships within government agencies, NASA and even public policy. Right now, while I am in school, I am reaching out to different internship programs to further my future career as a lawyer and want to gain more experience within public policy.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?
It is really awesome here at NOVA! I have to give credit to my amazing professors.

What I would tell an incoming NOVA student is to take advantage of every opportunity that you can. Maintain strong relationships with professors and fellow classmates. The affordability of NOVA and the rigorous coursework has opened so many opportunities toward a bright and promising future.

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