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Media Advisory: PCC Scholars Honored by Governor

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PORTLAND, Ore. – The spotlight will shine on community college scholars across the state for the 10th annual OCCA Outstanding Student Scholar Awards, presented by Gov. John Kitzhaber at 1 p.m., Friday, April 12, in the governor’s ceremonial office at the state capitol. A brunch honoring the students will be held from 10:30 to noon at the Creekside Golf Club, 6250 Clubhouse Drive S.E. in Salem. Doreen Margolin, vice president of the PCC board and president of the Oregon Community College Association board, will serve as emcee. Six Portland Community College students will receive awards for their academic and service excellence. Kitzhaber will commend 36 students from the state’s 17 community colleges. PCC’s six scholars represent the diversity that is a hallmark of community college students. They range in age from 19 to 36; hail from locations as varied as St. Helens, Ore. and Rome, Italy; major in fields such as women’s studies, art, economics and international studies; and come from a variety of educational backgrounds. Several are high school dropouts who have found the community college’s nurturing environment a place to start over and succeed. By campus:Cascade CampusAmy Dwyer-Wiegand, 27, now lives in Portland, but grew up in Port Townsend, Wash. She has a 3.94 GPA and plans to transfer to Portland State University and earn a degree in Women’s Studies. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the two-year honor society, a volunteer on the Cascade Campus literary magazine, The Pointed Circle, and spends her free time experimenting in the kitchen or gardening in the community garden plot. John Gorman, 36, 3.82 GPA, is majoring in English and plans to transfer to the University of Oregon. The Portland resident is the father of "an incredible 12-year-old,"president of the Cascade Campus Phi Theta Kappa chapter, a columnist for the school newspaper and a computer lab assistant. Gorman says, "Yes, I was a high school drop-out who toiled in endless dead-end jobs that had no future and brought no sense of fulfillment. But that is only partially correct. I love to read, write and stuff my head full of knowledge some consider a pure waste of time, but what I consider fascinating and fulfilling."Gorman adds, " I plan to give it back to others like myself,"with his goal of becoming a teacher.Rock Creek CampusMichael Anderson, 22, a resident of St. Helens, is majoring in economics and business. The 4.0-GPA student plans to transfer to either Reed College or Lewis and Clark College. He is the president of the student body at the Rock Creek Campus, on the board of the Oregon Community College Student Association, and a member of Phi Theta Kappa. He is also co-organizing two governors’ candidate forums on the PCC campus this spring. "My higher education experience has been a fertile bed for academics and civic involvement,"said Anderson. "Since attending community college I have gained a passion for the hard work required for success in life and learning. I am a student who wants to learn, and this drives me to look for skills in diverse areas of life. Student government is one area where I can acquire skills. I have had the chance to volunteer my time to service projects, allowing me to give back to society."Kyla Howell, 19, of Portland, is majoring in art. The 3.92-GPA student is transferring to the Art Institute of Portland, an executive officer of the Rock Creek student government, a member of the Phi Theta Kappa, the Art Club and a student organizer for the "Journey to a Hate-Free Millennium"event held in Portland April 3. "College is more than learning what I need to know to obtain a degree; it’s learning about who I am,"Howell said. "At PCC, I’ve been introduced to a variety of lifestyles and backgrounds that have opened a whole new perspective of life for me. Not only this, but I have also been given support and direction by faculty and staff who include me as a part of the community, rather than a number on campus. Because of this respect and responsibility, I feel confident in communicating my perspectives as well as gaining the insights of others."Sylvania CampusBritta N. Simonson, 20, is from Duluth, Minn., is majoring in sociology and women’s studies. The 3.8- GPA student plans to transfer to PSU. She is an All- USA Today Scholarship award winner, a student advocate with the PCC Women’s Resource Center, a Students United Network representative and a volunteer at In Other Words Books (nonprofit women’s bookstore and resource center). Simonson, who grew up in a rural area of northern Minnesota, had a difficult time in high school and dropped out when she was a sophomore. She moved to Portland at age 18 after earning a diploma through an alternative learning center. "When I relocated to Portland, enrolling in college was a crucial step in establishing myself and taking responsibility for my future. My experience in college has changed my attitude about education, about learning, and most importantly, about myself,"she said. "Because of my success as a student thus far, I feel more empowered to be an effective member of my community." Giorgia Vergnani, 21, is from Rome, Italy. The international studies major has earned a 3.87 GPA and plans to transfer to PSU. She is active in student government at the Sylvania Campus, works as a volunteer with children at Volunteers of America, cooks Italian food, enjoys dance and reading the classics. She has earned numerous scholarships. Vergnani says, "I have come from far away, leaving my family, my friends and my town in order to achieve my goals. It has been a long process full of sacrifices and hard work, but day after day, achievement after achievement, I feel I am making my dream come true. This dream is to have a good education that will lead me to success in all aspects of life. As my Roman ancestors used to say: ?Carpe diem!’"

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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