Three years ago, Woodburn Academy of International Studies student Maritza Leon was accepted into Chemeketa Community College’s Upward Bound program.
Now the Class of 2012 valedictorian is headed to the University of Portland, thanks to a prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship.
“I know I will be successful in college,” Leon said in a speech to Chemeketa’s Board of Education. “With education and determination, and the Gates scholarship that I have earned, I will continue to earn good grades. With this scholarship I know that all of my dreams will come true and all expenses are covered. I will become a psychiatrist.”
Chemeketa will continue to help students like Leon, as the college was awarded a new five-year, $1.5 million U.S. Department of Education grant to improve academic success at three Mid-Valley high schools and their nearby middle schools.
Upward Bound will provide intensive academic and support services to 74 students per year from low-income families who would be the first generation of their families to complete college.
Chemeketa’s Grant Development Coordinator, Diane Schmitz, said Chemeketa’s new grant is no small accomplishment.
“In a climate of significant cuts to federal funding, Chemeketa was again awarded this very competitive grant–a testament to the quality of our past work and our commitment to help make college a reality for so many students,” Schmitz said.
Chemeketa’s program will serve students from North Salem High School, Santiam High School and Woodburn Academy of International Studies. The project provides mentoring, weekly on-site tutoring at the high schools, test preparation, academic planning, personal finance education, help with college financial aid application help, portfolio development and scholarship writing, academic classes, college applications and academic advising. In addition, students attend Saturday academies, a six-week summer program, and visit colleges throughout the year.
This Upward Bound grant builds on work from the 2007-2012 grant, which served Woodburn, North Salem and Gervais high schools.
Chemeketa’s Upward Bound participants have found great success. Graduates have attended and graduated from colleges including George Fox University, Willamette University and Western Oregon University. Alumni have received prestigious scholarships including Ford Scholarships and two Gates Millennium Scholarships, which pays for all expenses, including studying abroad, up through a doctorate degree.
In her speech to the board, Leon thanked Chemeketa’s staff for their help and support.
“They always help us know that everything will be okay and to work hard in class and learn all you can to prepare for college,” Leon said. “We attend Saturday events that include college visits and community service activities. We also have the opportunity to learn about different careers.”
Nationwide, Upward Bound has helped more than 60,000 students prepare for and enroll in higher education.
“This grant changes lives for the better,” Schmitz said.