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Oregon to Honor Community College All-Star Scholars
Photos and Story by Mark Evertz
The state spotlight will be on community college student scholars Wednesday, May 7, when they meet with Gov. John Kitzhaber at the State Capitol to be honored for their accomplishments.
The 34 scholars, representing each community college campus, will meet with Kitzhaber at 11 a.m. in the Governor’s ceremonial office followed by lunch at noon with state legislators and community college presidents. Roger Bassett, special advisor to the Governor on education and on leave from his post as Oregon community college commissioner, will officiate.
The event is sponsored by the Oregon Community College Association, who wants Oregon to celebrate scholarships in Oregon’s 17 community colleges. This is the fifth year of the annual event. At Portland Community College, six scholars have been named to Oregon’s all-state team. They are Jürg Baur, of Northeast Portland, Stober Davis of Northeast Portland, Rachel Edmonds of Beaverton, Nicole Jacobs of Aloha, Donna Johnson of North Portland and Kimberly Gaddis of Northeast Portland.
Donna Johnson, one of PCC’s Cascade Campus scholars, was also named to the All-USA Third Academic Team. Johnson was one of 60 top students in the country selected for the All-USA team, which is sponsored by USA Today and Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of two-year colleges. Johnson was selected for her academic excellence and community service.
The recipients are typical of the variety of community college students, from Stober Davis who plans to open his own auto body shop in North Portland, to Kimberly Gaddis who wants to be an attorney and specialize in international business law. Davis, a recovering drug addict, volunteers at the Stay Clean center in Northeast Portland as part of the PCC Service Learning scholarship program to help people who are struggling with drug abuse. He also works at The Gap as an assistant manager. He says Portland Community College gave him the chance he needed to succeed academically and personally. Davis is one of three scholars chosen to speak at the noon luncheon.
Portland Community College all-star scholars, by campus:
Cascade Campus —
Donna R. Johnson
Donna Johnson, a resident of North Portland, holds a 3.75 GPA, and at 27 says her "operating policy is to whom much is given, much is required." Johnson attends school full time and also works full time at Pacific Corp. Her goal is to earn a doctoral degree in pharmacy and eventually own her own pharmacies that "cater to the needs of all people, regardless of socio-economic background. I want to emphasize the value of a healthy society over a healthy checkbook."
Johnson says she has a "good chance of becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college." A single parent, she has three children, ages 10, 8 and 7, and is proud that they too are succeeding in school.
Johnson is a board member of the Urban League of Portland, the advisor for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth Council, and a volunteer for the Miss Black Oregon USA Pageant.
She confides that "none of this would be possible without overcoming many hardships. Poverty, welfare, rural education, urban migration, teenage pregnancy, divorce and the loss of young family members and friends, are just a few of the hurdles I’ve had to jump over in my life." Johnson credits her mother’s strong influence to her ability to overcome adversity.
A native of Switzerland, Jürg Baur moved to the United States in late 1995. "Coming from Switzerland and having lived near the German and French borders, different countries and cultures have always fascinated me," he says. Baur completed a four-year apprenticeship in Switzerland as a plumber and roofer and then traveled "around the world and worked at home at various jobs — social worker and ski instructor — when the unbelievable happened and I fell in love with one of my skiing students." Eight months later, he was on a plane to Portland.
After moving to Portland, he worked on his English and then enrolled at the PCC Cascade Campus. Baur soon joined the student government, became vice president, and also became a member of Phi Theta Kappa. "My philosophy is to give 100 percent in whatever I do," he says. This credo is reflected in his perfect 4.0 GPA. "Although these grades are important to me, the interaction with people from other cultures and the exchange of different cultural values far outweighs my school performance." Baur lives in Northeast Portland.
Rock Creek Campus —
Nicole Jacobs, 32, immigrated to the United States in March 1994 from Ireland. She came to the U.S., she says, because she was told she had no future as a college student in her native country. But her courage to try again and her belief in herself has awarded her a 4.0 GPA at PCC’s Rock Creek Campus. In the future, Jacobs hopes to complete her bachelor’s degree and eventually obtain a teaching position in a community college.
For Stober Davis, getting on with life means staying in touch with his past. A recovering drug addict, Davis volunteers at the Stay Clean center in Northeast Portland as part of the PCC Service Learning scholarship program and helps people who are struggling with drug abuse. Davis, 31, believes Portland Community College gave him the chance he needed to succeed academically and personally. He has maintained a 3.74 GPA while in the Rock Creek Campus Auto Collision Repair program and while working at The Gap.
When he graduates, he plans to open a auto body shop with his grandfather in Northeast Portland, where he lives. "When I woke up and got my life back on track, going to PCC seemed like the thing to do. My grandfather takes computer classes at PCC and he suggested the auto body program. I love it."
Sylvania Campus —
Rachel Edmonds, 19, with a 3.94 GPA, has a strong interest in a career in international relations. This came about through a study abroad session offered by Portland Community College at the University of London in England last spring. The course work satisfied humanities and social science requirements for the Oregon Transfer Degree, a program which guarantees junior status at Oregon’s public four-year schools for community college students.
"It was the highlight of my experience at PCC and has sparked an interest in pursuing an international studies degree," she says.
Edmonds particularly likes the language courses she’s taken while at PCC — Spanish, German and a year-long English literature series. "In the language classes I was also exposed to the customs, music, geography, culture, and history of the language’s origin. For that reason, I especially enjoyed these classes."
Edmonds is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, is a 1995 graduate of Beaverton High School and works part time at the Sylvania Campus as a student secretary. "I chose PCC after graduating from high school because of its location near my home and it is affordable," says Edmonds.
Kimberly Gaddis, who will be PCC’s 1997 student commencement speaker in June, wants to teach high school economics and political science and eventually earn a law degree specializing in international business law. The 30-year-old has earned a perfect 4.0 GPA while working full time as a customer service representative for Nike. A 1984 Wilson High School graduate, Gaddis started school at the Sylvania Campus fall term 1996. A member of Phi Theta Kappa, Gaddis also spends time volunteering at Albina Head Start in the "Drop Everything and Read" (DEAR) program. She is majoring in international relations and Spanish and recently received a scholarship from the National Security Educational Program to study this summer in Oaxaca, Mexico through the PCC study abroad program. Out of school for 10 years, Gaddis says PCC was the right choice for her return. "I wanted small classes and one-on-one attention from my instructors. I got that at PCC. I am very pleased with my college experience so far."