Three Jersey City senior art students have landed the equivalent of $150,000 scholarships to attend Cooper Union, the prestigious Manhattan college.
Famed for selecting students based on their merit rather than wealth and connections, Cooper Union offers full-scholarships to all its students, making it one of the most competitive destinations for art students in the nation.
In a normal year, the Jersey City High School Arts Program might have one student accepted at Cooper Union, according to senior art teacher Carolyn Frazier.
But this year, seniors Batrek Yassa, 17, Dominick Walker, 17, and Alexander Bethea, 18, all members of the arts program based at Snyder High School, made the grade.
“These kids are the top of the crop and we have some very talented people in our program,” said Board of Education member Sterling Waterman.
Batrek’s award-winning portfolio was inspired by his family’s struggle to cope after his mother was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy.
He had won acceptance to Cornell University and Maryland Institute College of Art, and was one of 15 young artists nationwide to win a $10,000 2012 Gold Medal Award from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.
Nonetheless, news that Cooper Union wanted him floored him.
“I considered Cooper Union to be a gamble,” Batrek said. “It’s so selective. It was a complete surprise.”
More than 1,800 applicants applied for just 65 freshman spots at Cooper Union, Frazier said.
All three students attributed their success to the four-year Jersey City High School Arts Program and the 8th-grade “boot camp” they attended to prepare for the program.
“I owe everything to this program,” said Batrek, who attends County Prep High School on Montgomery Street for his academic studies.
A student at Snyder High School, Alexander is the winner of a National Merit Award for Visual Arts from the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts.
“This was a big surprise” said Alexander, who wants to pursue a career in video production and cinematography, about his Cooper Union acceptance. “This (high school) program has done a lot for me as an artist and as a person. It helped me think of art in a different way.”
Dominick said painting helps him escape the “corruption of society.” His interest in the arts was stoked at a young age as he attended Manhattan art galleries with his mother, he said.
The work of all three students is on display locally.
Batrek’s and Dominick’s art will be on display at the MANA Contemporary Art Center, 888 Newark Ave., Wednesday through May 21.
Alexander’s show, at the MACC Gallery, 380 Monmouth St., started May 4 and runs until May 14.