Five graduates of Portland Community College who have become community leaders along their professional and personal journeys since attending PCC have been tapped by the college to receive this year’s Diamond Alum Awards.
The 2014 winners include Abel Ahumada Alaniz of Garden Home, Cheryl Burgermeister of Southwest Portland, Rep. Chris Gorsek of Troutdale, Peggy Halley of Hillsboro and Hung “Lee” Nguyen of Beaverton. The award winners will be honored as part of PCC’s annual celebration of “Founders’ Week,” May 12-17, when the college salutes its history and accomplishments by way of a slate of activities in which staff, faculty, students, and the public at large can participate. Additionally, the honorees will celebrate together on June 11, in a special luncheon linked to commencement on June 13.
“I am so impressed by the caliber of the nominations we received, as well as the achievements of the winners selected this year,” said Jeremy Brown, president, Portland Community College.
“These five graduates exhibit the qualities of which the college is so proud. Each demonstrates a strong work ethic, a positive outlook on life, and a desire to give back to the community at large. We are delighted to honor them this year, to showcase their efforts and the inspiration they offer to others,” he said.
The judging committee was made up of a collective of external constituents, two former Diamond Alum Award winners, and PCC staff.
Diamond Alum: Abel Ahumada Alaniz
One of the five is Abel Ahumada Alaniz, who arrived to the United States in 1985 at the age of 15, ready and able to work as a beet and berry picker as a means to make money to send home to his family in Mexico.
While happy to earn money as a migrant worker to help his nine brothers and sisters, Ahumada Alaniz had bigger professional dreams – he wanted to become a dentist. But first, he needed to learn how to speak and write in English, then earn his high school degree.
He did just that – and then some. After obtaining his GED, he enrolled at PCC and earned his associate’s degree. From there he moved on to Portland State University for his bachelor’s degree, followed by his acceptance at Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Dentistry. Throughout his studies he regularly volunteered and assisted in the community – as a community health educator for the Virginia Garcia Health Center in Cornelius, as a guest speaker at local schools and for youth groups, as an advocate and health educator in migrant camps, and more.
Ahumada Alaniz graduated from OHSU in 2005, and the following year he opened a private practice in Southeast Portland that serves mostly the local Hispanic community. He allows students to “job shadow” at his office, to give them the chance to see if dentistry may be a profession they want to pursue. It’s one of several ways he strives to give others – many who have come from disadvantaged backgrounds, like his own – the chances he was given and also worked toward with determination. Ahumada Alaniz seeks to open doors for others and to give them the courage and confidence to pursue what’s behind those doors: The future is boundless.