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Two students awarded Jack Kent Cooke scholarships

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Portland Community College graduates Nikki Hurtado and Elizabeth Bair are in rare company.

The two are recipients of the three-year, $90,000 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship – two of 51 nationwide awardees to help them complete her bachelor’s degree. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation awards the undergraduate transfer scholarships each year to students attending two-year institutions in the United States who plan to transfer to four-year institutions. This year, the Foundation received 723 applications for the scholarships.

“I had no clue,” Hurtado said. “I’m just amazed. It is such a big award that I thought I couldn’t ever win it.”

Bair was equally surprised.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me,” said Bair, who earned a two-year degree in gerontology and a transfer degree at PCC. “I’m a later student and by the time I finish my bachelor’s degree I’ll be 52. This makes all the difference. I can’t believe it.”

Bair, 48, of northeast Portland, plans to attend Pacific University. In 2004, Bair was working at a call center in Portland while supplementing her income by making jewelry and cleaning houses when she decided to enroll at the college to become an occupational therapist. An occupational therapist helps those injured in accidents to live independently. She was inspired by her mother, who was diligently cared for by therapists, marveling at the difference they made in her life.

“I decided I’d rather do that than be a manager of a call center,” said Bair, who lives part time in Coos Bay. “The hard part was believing that I could do it at my age. I went through a lot of changes at that time, a divorce, lot of things changed in my life. So I decided to take a few months off. I wanted to spend some time alone to think what I wanted to do with my future. I have a lot of life left and I didn’t want to sleep through it.”

To read her complete story, read Elizabeth’s Web Feature.

Nikki Hurtado, who once gave up on her education, enrolled at PCC in 2004 for one reason: she wanted to be the first in her family to attend college after dropping out of high school to have a child. The 34-year-old Hurtado, a resident of Beaverton, majored in history, sported a 3.91 grade point average and plans to study at Pacific University in Forest Grove. She has made the President’s List and is an active member of Phi Theta Kappa, is a devoted community volunteer, and plans to be a high school teacher.

“I thought I’d go to college when my kids were all grown and in college,” she said. “But I was tired of dead-end jobs and friends kept telling me that it was possible to go to college and raise a family. Now I’m doing homework on the sidelines of my kids’ soccer games. It shows my kids what their mom did and what my children can do with their own lives.”

Hurtado has been heavily involved with community service work, including helping at El Monica Elementary School in Beaverton where she works with kids through an English as a Second Language literacy program.

“I help them bridge that gap between themselves and the teacher,” said Hurtado, who is fluent in Spanish. “I tell them what the teacher is saying and what is going on in class. It’s great to see them go from being completely clueless to understanding everything that is going on in class and being a part of it.

“I want to be a high school teacher and help kids not fall through the cracks,” she added. “My life experience has prepared me for this.”

To read her complete story, read her Nikki’s Web Feature.

The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Program is designed to help community college students with exceptional promise and demonstrated financial need make the transition to four-year colleges and universities. Each year, the Foundation selects approximately 50 high-achieving, low-income students from community or two-year colleges for scholarships that provide funding for tuition, room and board, fees, and books. As the largest scholarship offered in the U.S. to community college transfer students, the awards can total up to $30,000 per year for up to three years. The amount and duration of the scholarships vary for each student, according to the cost of attendance at the school, the length of the program, and other grants and scholarships received.

“For many low-income, motivated students, community college is an essential part of their plan to eventually obtain a Bachelor’s degree,” said Matthew Quinn, the Foundation’s executive director. “Our 2007 Undergraduate Transfer Scholars share the ability and willingness to prevail over many limitations, including pressing financial need. We’re pleased to help them realize the next step in their educational development.”

Portland Community College is the largest post-secondary institution in Oregon, serving approximately 88,200 full- and part-time students. For more PCC news, please visit us on the Web at PCC has three comprehensive campuses, five workforce training and education centers, and 200 community locations in the Portland metropolitan area. The PCC district encompasses a 1,500-square-mile area in northwest Oregon and offers two-year degrees, one-year certificate programs, short-term training, alternative education, pre-college courses and life-long learning.

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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