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Preston Pulliams wants to raise $1 million for student scholarships

Story by Christina Holmes. Photos by Jerry Hart and Vern Uyetake.

During his eight years at PCC, President Preston Pulliams led the college through a surge of record-breaking enrollment, built long-lasting partnerships with donors, community groups and corporations, oversaw the passage of a historic bond measure and advocated for all students who want a college education regardless of their ability to pay.

With only six months left in his tenure as president, Pulliams has one major item on his to-do list: create an opportunity fund for first-generation, low-income students who might not otherwise attend college because of costs. His goal is to raise $1 million in contributions to benefit these students who face the greatest barriers to college success.

Preston Pulliams speaks at last year's PCC Foundation scholarship reception.

Preston Pulliams speaks at last year’s PCC Foundation scholarship reception.

“The heart of my work for the last 40 years has been helping young people succeed in college who wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance. It’s the legacy I want to leave this community,” Pulliams said announcing his “Campaign for Opportunity.”

“Before I leave PCC I want to be sure I have raised the next million dollars for our students,” he said. “I want to ensure the next plank is laid in the road to student success.”

During the past five years, the PCC Foundation has awarded 3,000 scholarships, as well as provided student support services, enhanced faculty innovation and offered cultural programming. And yet, the fundraising is still meeting just a fraction of student need across the district. The Foundation was only able to award scholarships to 40 percent of the 1,600 students who applied this year. Since almost half of PCC degree-seeking students receive financial support to attend college, the overall scholarship need is still great.

“Launching this campaign will help more PCC students, now and in the future,” said Pulliams. “At PCC, financial support can mean the difference between attending college or not going at all. I believe those who come to PCC will have a better chance of realizing their academic aspirations and life dreams.”

A first-generation college student himself, Pulliams is the consummate leader with a memorable personality. He’s strengthened relationships with the community, always reminding Oregonians of the importance of a college education.

Pulliams has been instrumental in steering a partnership between PCC and the City of Portland to create the Future Connect Scholarship Program, and he championed efforts with Portland Public Schools to redesign Jefferson High School to become the Jefferson Middle College. Both initiatives took a critical step toward realizing his vision for some of the region’s most needy students.

“I want to leave PCC knowing that there are at least four cohorts of Future Connect students — nearly 800 first-generation college students — whose opportunity to earn a degree at PCC is secure, and that I have positioned the college and the PCC Foundation to provide these opportunities for hundreds more young people in the years to come,” he said. “I know that this initiative is only the start and will grow with PCC’s next president and future fundraising.”

Future Connect currently serves more than 300 Multnomah County students. Along with scholarships, they receive one-on-one academic advising and support through student services for two years. This approach has proven to double the retention and completion rates of these youth.

Added Pulliams, “Without contributions of all sizes from our community, hundreds of students would not be pursuing their dreams of a college education and career training. Alums, PCC faculty, staff and retirees, corporations, community organizations and foundations have all been thoughtful donors to the PCC Foundation over the years. With my ‘Campaign for Opportunity,’ we will build significant support for PCC students of today and tomorrow.”

To learn more about the “Campaign for Opportunity,” call (971) 722-4382.

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