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Student earns Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, call from Ivy League school
Photos and Story by James Hill
It’s not every day a Portland Community College student is told by Columbia University to “please, apply.”
For Adam Eide, 33, that day did come as a result of The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation awarding him its Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. It will provide him with up to $30,000 a year for three years ($90,000 total) towards tuition and a stipend, beginning in the fall. The Vernonia native and Northeast Portland resident is the first PCC student to win the scholarship in five years and is the first-ever male to represent the college. He is one of 60 scholars that were picked from 786 applicants nationwide and he’s the sixth PCC student to win the award since 2006.
“It was a complete surprise,” said Eide, who took classes at the Sylvania Campus. “I keep thinking, ‘Is this real? Am I going to wake up soon?’”
As a result of this honor, the math major has been earning inquiries from prestigious colleges and universities all over the United States that would love it if he applied to their institutions. Eide, who has already been accepted into Pacific University and the University of Portland, said that list of possible transfer destinations includes Columbia, which sent him an application shortly after being named a scholar.
“All throughout college, you kind of have to compromise your education a little bit because of costs,” he said. “Now that my finances are taken care of, I can say ‘What do you have to offer me?’ I don’t have to compromise my education. I can go and pick the school that is the best.”
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Program supports achieving community college students with financial need as they transfer to and complete their bachelor’s degrees at the nation’s top four-year colleges and universities. Michael Morrow, who works as a financial aid liaison for PCC, immediately saw the potential in Eide when he attended Morrow’s scholarships class last fall.
“(Adam) is impressive in his academic accomplishments, but even more, he is devoted to his family, and is doing whatever it takes to be successful, working and volunteering far more hours than most of us could and still keep his grades nearly perfect,” Morrow said. “I was delighted when I was notified that Adam has been honored as a Jack Kent Cooke scholarship winner. He will do the JKC Foundation proud, PCC proud, and his family proud.”
Eide’s goal is to become a mathematics teacher. This trajectory toward reaching this goal probably wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for his tight-knit family growing up in Vernonia. He admits his family struggled during those times as his single mother worked hard to raise seven children (Eide’s dad left when he was just 2 years old). He helped out the family when he was older by working at a Beaverton car dealership. He had been an honors student as a freshman, but his grades dropped off his senior year and missed 58 days of school, which he attributes to the family situation.
He even struggled with Algebra II until his mother intervened. Barely proficient with eighth-grade algebra, she helped her son work through problems anyway.
“She bugged me and bugged me to help,” he remembered. “So I showed her that this is what I’m doing and she said ‘Okay, what are you doing next?’ and then, ‘Why are you doing that?’ And I would explain it. Every time, sure enough, I’d think, ‘Oh, that’s what I did wrong there!’ My mom didn’t even know what was going on and I’d explain enough to her, and every time I’d figure it out.”
Wanting do more in life than just manage an auto dealership, Eide enrolled at PCC in the fall of 2010 where he re-kindled his love of math. After burning through savings to pay for his first year, he earned a $2,000 Howard S. Wright Scholarship from the PCC Foundation for his second year. At the same time, he became so proficient at math that he was hired on as a math tutor five days a week at the Cascade Campus Learning Center.
As he exits community college, Eide has one last problem to solve – what university will he transfer to? The pressure is on to find an answer.
“Not only do I have myself not to let down, but all my family – my mom, my aunt that has always helped and pushed me, my friends,” he said of making the most of the scholarship. “And now I have a foundation that invested a great deal of money because they believe in me and I can’t let them down. I have to make sure I succeed for those people.”