As her senior year at Reynolds High School came to an end in June 2011, Kristine Delos Reyes thought her future involved a plane ride back to the Philippines where she lived until four years ago. She came to Portland in 2008, her first time in the U.S., to live with her mom and stepdad, and attend school.
But when a Reynolds school counselor told her about a program aimed at first-generation college students, she knew her future was about to change.
“I didn’t think much about going to college because I knew I would have to take out loans to pay for it,” she recalled. “Luckily, my parents encouraged me to enroll at PCC. Now I’m so happy I’m here.”
Future Connect helps students succeed
Reyes is one of about 150 students who finished the first year of the PCC Future Connect Scholarship Program spearheaded by PCC, the City of Portland and the community. It targets low-income students that have shown promise for succeeding in college, but face barriers to success. Future Connect opens the door to college, offering a scholarship based on need and one-on-one support from a college success coach. Without Future Connect, many students wouldn’t have a shot at higher education.
The first Future Connect class is comprised of 75 percent of students of color and 95 percent are the first in their families to go to college.
This spring a second cohort of 200 student scholars were welcomed into Future Connect, building on the success of the first year.
Portland Mayor Sam Adams said that for every one percent of students who earn an associate or bachelor’s degree it translates into $1.6 billion for the local economy over time.
“We continue to grow and grow this effort every year,” said Adams. “This is our second year of actually being able to award scholarships and we have a waiting list. With more local youth successfully going on and getting a college degree or advanced skills training, this city will be more successful and this county and region will be more successful as well.”
Portland State lends a supportive hand
Adams, PCC District President Preston Pulliams and Portland State University President Wim Wiewel recently signed an agreement establishing a partnership between PSU and Future Connect scholars, which will allow them to continue on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Portland State. A similar agreement with Lewis & Clark College is being planned, according to the city.
Donations to the PCC Foundation fund scholarships for the program and the City of Portland doubles all gifts as part of a matching challenge of up to $380,000 each year.
In May, PCC raised $300,000 at the 50th Anniversary to benefit student scholarships. The money raised is in addition to a commitment from the Edwards Lienhart Family Foundation.
“These funds will play a critical role in opening the door to college for hundreds of students who otherwise would not have the opportunity,” said Pulliams. “There is simply no better way to celebrate the 50-year legacy of PCC than that.”
Future Connect made a difference
That funding will allow Reyes and other students to continue the program that helps chart a path for their academic futures and subsequent careers. Students are given not only financial support but strong academic counseling on how to navigate obstacles – both in the classroom and outside – that challenge college coeds.
“The teachers and our coaches are always willing to help us and encourage us,” said Reyes, who lives in Gresham. “I know they will be there for me.”
When Reyes, 19, applied for other financial aid and scholarships, a Future Connect college success coach offered tips on how to improve her resume. She was thrilled a professional took time to work with her.
With her sights set on a nursing career Reyes is taking a heavy load of science classes in the fall – biology, sociology and psychology.
“What I really want to do is be a pediatric nurse and travel to other countries and help kids. I’d like to travel on missions. I don’t need to make a lot of money but I do want to help others,” she said.
She’s already met some of the new Future Connect cohorts and hopes to take on a big sister role and assist them as needed.
“Last year I was thinking of going back to my country and then Future Connect came along and it’s leading me to a wonderful future,” she said. “I keep telling all of my friends that they should come to PCC.”