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Eight students recognized for excellence, one wins national Coke scholarship

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Tony Vezina’s incredible comeback is now complete.

Vezina, PCC’s Cascade Campus student body president and leader of PCC’s District Student Council, has been chosen as a 2016 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Gold Scholar by national two-year college honor society Phi Theta Kappa. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation recognizes 50 Gold, 50 Silver and 50 Bronze scholars nationally, and provides nearly $200,000 in scholarships annually. Each Gold Scholar receives a $1,500 scholarship and a special medallion.

His selection as a Coca-Cola Gold Scholar was based on scores in the All-USA Community College Academic Team competition, which included 19 other students nationwide. In addition, Vezina and seven other PCC students earned OCCA All Academic Scholar designations, getting to meet Gov. Kate Brown at a ceremony in Salem in April.

“I was born into poverty, generational drug addiction and incarceration, and survived a childhood of abuse that led me to drug use, criminality, the criminal justice system and eventually homelessness,” Vezina said. “I’ve been sober almost four years, three of them spent in higher education, which gave me the context to understand societal elements that led to my inadequacies.”

After earning his GED through a Multnomah County program, the Northeast Portland resident found his way to PCC by way of a recovery scholarship offered through the Cascade Campus Women’s Resource Center.

After earning his GED through a Multnomah County program, the Northeast Portland resident found his way to PCC by way of a recovery scholarship offered through the Cascade Campus Women’s Resource Center.

After trying several times to kick his addiction on his own, he found support at Volunteers of America, a nonprofit that provides a range of services for low-income and marginalized people. Once clean and sober, Vezina co-founded the 4th Dimension Recovery Center (4D), a Northeast Portland-based “event-driven” center for young people in recovery, offering a range of drug-free activities.

After earning his GED through a Multnomah County program, the Northeast Portland resident found his way to PCC by way of a recovery scholarship offered through the Cascade Campus Women’s Resource Center. Vezina started a student recovery club at the campus and joined student government. He was named president of Cascade’s PTK chapter and Cascade’s ASPCC office this year before being elected by his peers as District Student Council leader.

“PCC has been revolutionary in my life,” he said. “It’s changed how I see the world and my place in it. ASPCC has become my bread and butter. Working with diverse populations has expanded my reality so much. The things I learn from my colleagues every day are helping me to be a better human being.”

For more on his story, check out our in-depth profile on him.

The complete list of OCCA All-Academic Team winners from PCC include Vy Vo (Southeast Portland) and Gaetan-Dauphin Nzowo (Beaverton) of the Rock Creek Campus; Mana Amadon (Southeast Portland) and April Mogwai Turner (Southeast Portland) of the Sylvania Campus; Mallory Jasperson (Southeast Portland) and Tai Pham (Northeast Portland) from the Southeast Campus; and Andrew Viceroy (Southeast Portland) and Vezina from the Cascade Campus.

To read more about PCC’s OCCA All-Academic Team, check out The Bridge article.


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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x by Linda 1 year ago

Congratulations on your award, Tony, and your ongoing success in life. You are a testament to the power of education and hard work.

x by Lukas Soto 1 year ago

It has been a blessing to watch you grow and mature into the man you are today Tony. You’re a bright light in the community and a wonderful role model, keep up the great work man!

x by Tony Greiner 1 year ago

For more details on all the candidates, with photos, visit:

Congratulations to you all!

x by Adam 1 year ago

Seems like people are taught to like an “underdog” story.

x by Adam 1 year ago

Stay sober.

x by Heidi Dombek 1 year ago

Tony, use the memories and gain wisdom from past experiences. Then, keep pushing ahead like you always do. Thank you for being the caring, and authentic leader that you are at ASPCC. You have definitely made a ripple in the PCC waters. Congratulations on the DSC getting student representation on the PCC Board of Directors. Best wishes for your future as a scholar, and advocate.

x by Rhianna Johnson 1 year ago

Great story! Reminds me of this quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

x by Dani Dennenberg 1 year ago

Beautiful story of resilience!

x by Josh 1 year ago

Every time I see Tony in the community – he is leading. Thanks for the inspiration!

x by elizabeth baker 1 year ago

I just want to say to you what an awesome job you have done and even though I don’t know you know I will be praying for you.. Keep up the good work

x by Teresa 1 year ago

What an incredible story! Great job Tony!

x by Tammy Louie 1 year ago

Well deserved! Congratulations and a big THANK YOU for all you’ve done for the PCC Cascade community.

x by Tony Vezina 1 year ago

Thank you all for the kind words. I would like to say a couple things:

1) congratulations to my fellow PCC scholars, it was an honor to share this day, especially the PCC selfie w/ governor Brown. You can find the picture and a story of us all on PCC’s Bridge website, thanks Tony G for posting it.

2) my story is really great, it has been a difficult road for me since I was born; my “comeback” has been a path of least resilience, for the advantageous nature of my skin has given me certain privileges and I recognize that. I feel it is only right for me to say that if another white man’s success angers, upsets, or creates uncomfrability for you — I get it. I’ve never experienced racism and I won’t pretend to say I know what it’s like. I do understand the why and I encourage you to continue the fight.

3) My “comeback” is NOT complete – I feel I am just getting started and I look to those I admire, like my ASPCC family, to help me see what justice and equity means and how we get there, together.

4) James, thanks for the article, I am honored that PCC chose to make me the front page, but I know that this story has caused my fellow students of color to be upset – maybe in the future using critical race theory teachings could help create a more equitable picture. No hard feelings, just a potential learning experience.

5.) I love PCC, I have learned so much here from so many people. Thank you to everyone who has helped me. I promise to use my education for the betterment of humankind.

It is through the experience of my peers that I have learned what reality is.

x by fatmah worfeley 1 year ago

Hello James,

first thank you for writing and being a journalist, i know that it can be difficulty. but i would also like to point out several things to you: i really hope you make and consider these changes- if not then you will most likely be receiving other emails about this as well.

your article titled Tony Vezina and seven other students is very alarming. it definitely perpetuates the normative white male, professional image that we constantly see in media. also your subtitle is not inclusive and very very disrespectful and devaluing especially to students of colors who have been oppressed systematically, discriminated against, and have struggles just for the base of their skin. the award was given to all 8 students, and i think that having representation would be great as it creates inclusivity and empowerment for the under-represented students to see themselves in the spotlight.

i think that your article was great- but you need to include all the other students. it might not be intentional- but it definitely seems to be that way. i am hear voicing the concerns of several students of color that i have heard from personally calling out the article for disregarding all the other candidates, and why tony was selected as the screen for pcc websites.

i think that tony’s achievements are great- i am not disregarding him, as he is a valuable person and dear friend of mine, but as a student of color, and a student aware of the many identities, and systems that can continue to perpetuate systems of oppression in a micro or macro manner – this definitely does seem oppressive.

i suggest that you review- and change this asap – there already has been made a comment (by tony griener) please value all students’ successes. thank you

(way to go all 8 candidates)

x by Gregory 1 year ago

damn good seeing you up here Tony, and i will be going back for summer term. And if you are around maybe you can give me a hand on looking up scholarships. Love you brother.

x by James Hill 1 year ago

Thanks Tony and Fatmah, to answer your concerns, bios/photos of our great winners weren’t provided to us other than for Mr. Vezina (Kendi Esary rocks!). Because of his national recognition we featured him with a list of the All-Academic Team winners included. I’ve included the Bridge link for people to read more about our statewide winners. Thanks to Tony Greiner for providing that!

x by Steven DeLorenzo 1 year ago

Well, I think we are missing a very important point made by a very important person. Martin Luther King made a very righteous and honest observation to the effect that it is not important the color of a person’s skin, but rather that it is the content of his or her character that makes the difference. That is a perspective that will add value to all lives in all circumstances. One that we all can live up to by demonstrating better character and making less demands.

x by O’Nesha Cochran 1 year ago

Watching Tony Vezina become this amazing trail blazer for social justice has been amazing. He was already simmering for being a part of radical change in all fields of social work, working to demand equity over, what the masses label as “equality”. But after our alternative Spring Break trip to New Orleans, Mississippi, and Alabama, he came back a new person. It was like the blinders were taken off and he could see the world through a lenses of cultural acceptance. A new acceptance, where he understood, he could not readily identify with Every aspect of other peoples pain, but he could be a part of the solution to end racial inequality. Many people talk about cultural competency, but Tony is and always has been more than a talker. He is a person of action. I am proud to walk beside him in any organized effort to bring about change in our community. He is a leader, and I believe, his rise to leadership is only beginning.

x by lorri oneill 1 year ago

Thank you for being the kind of person that you are “Keep winning”

x by Maria Velazquez Ortiz 1 year ago


I like the news. It is a great article about students’ success, but I think there is something to fix on the following paragraph:

His selection as a Coca-Cola Gold Scholar was based on scores “the” earned in the All-USA Community College Academic Team competition, which included 19 other students nationwide. In addition, Vezina and seven other PCC students earned OCCA All Academic Scholar designations, getting to meet Gov. Kate Brown at a ceremony in Salem in April.

On the first line between “scores” and “earn” I think it should say “he” instead of “the.”


x by elizabeth knight 1 year ago

Recovery and transformation are not in a zero sum relationships. The success of one, is the success of all. Congratulations to all the winners.


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