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Student leader honors his family, leads by example
Photos and Story by Janis Nichols
Angel Camacho is the 2014-15 ASPCC director of campus affairs at Portland Community College Rock Creek Campus. His major is accounting and business administration and he is on track to graduate this coming spring. He is soft spoken and while some might call him shy, the people who know him best call him a role model.
Born in Mexico, he ran away from his mother’s house when he was 7 years old. He lived on the street for a year before his dad took him in. Together they moved to the U.S. when Camacho was 10. He couldn’t know it at the time, but his connection with his father would bring transformational changes to him and to his entire family.
Camacho admits to being indifferent to learning until a friend told him about the Early College High School Program, a collaboration between PCC and the Beaverton School District. It meant he could take free classes at Rock Creek full time and earn both high school and college credit. It was the first in a string of unexpected gifts. He graduated from Sunset High School in 2013 with a stack of college credits in his pocket.
“PCC is affordable and the college has given me many opportunities to develop as a leader,” he said.
In additional to his role with ASPCC, he is also a PCC Student Ambassador. In that role, Camacho is asked to attend a variety of PCC events as a student representative. One event that was particularly memorable for him was the Native American Youth Association fundraiser sponsored by the PCC Foundation to benefit foster youth.
“Because of my time on the streets in Mexico, I could relate to what foster kids experience,” Camacho said. “It was very personal for me.”
While the Early College program was his first gift, the second gift came from the President of the United States.
Last November President Obama announced a series of executive actions that focused on illegal immigration. Among other things, his directive expanded the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program. It means that people of any current age who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. continuously since Jan. 1, 2010, would see a shift in their work authorization period increasing from two years to three years.
For Camacho, it means he is now documented and has two years remaining on his current work permit. He can reapply, and if all goes according to plan, he will be eligible for an additional three years.
“What the President did takes away a lot of stress,” he said. “I can now have more confidence in my future. My dad and my brother and I have started a painting and restoration business. They’ll focus on the construction side and I’ll focus on the business side. My dream has always been to support my dad. He has been working since he was 13 years old.”
Camacho’s third gift came in the form of an opportunity. The family business required a license and the license meant that someone had to take a written test that is both difficult and expensive. It involves 800 questions from which 80 questions are selected. Proficiency in English was the key and his father and brother were not prepared for the challenge. It meant that the accounting student needed to get his head around a manual that could be measured in pounds.
“I took the test on a Tuesday and failed it,” he said. “My dad asked me if I thought I could pass it. I told him I would try again. Two days later, I took the test again and passed it. I went to see my dad at his work site to give him the news. When I told him I passed, he cried.”
Camacho is the first in his family to go to college and siblings, cousins and extended family members all look to him for motivation and guidance. He is gently prodding both his brothers to consider college and his cousin’s wife is now attending PCC because of Camacho’s encouragement.
His advice for people like him who are considering college?
“Take advantage of every opportunity, especially those focused on leadership,” he said. “You will have the support you need and the experience will give you confidence that will help you long after graduation.”