Scholarship offers a full ride to either George Fox University or Warner Pacific College, and is only awarded to 17 students

Two of the 17 winners of an Oregon full-ride scholarship program are from Woodburn High School.

The Act Six Scholarship is provided to students who exhibit leadership and who go through a lengthy and arduous application process, from in-depth essays to team building exercises to overnight visits at Warner Pacific College or George Fox University.

The two Woodburn winners are Sofia Velasquez, a senior at Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy, and Sergio Ramirez Salazar, a senior at Woodburn Academy of Art, Science and Technology.

Since 2008, 11 students, including the two latest winners, have received the scholarship, according to college and career counselor Mario Garza.

“We had 17 students make it to round two,” Garza said. “I knew not all 17 would make it, but to have two from Woodburn is amazing.”

Sofia Velasquez

Sofia (Sophie) Velasquez, daughter of Ana Olivera, will be attending Warner Pacific College in Portland in the LINDSAY KEEFER - Woodburn senior Sofia Velasquez has been awarded the Act Six Scholarship. Velasquez plans to major in political science at Warner Pacific College.

Velasquez said she was interested in the scholarship because of its religious implications: The name of the scholarship is derived from the Bible verse that mentions the qualities of the apostles. She is active in the youth group at Woodburn Foursquare Church.

“I want to continue my faith through college,” she said. “My youth group went to Portland to help at a homeless shelter, so I already know ways I can help the community while I’m at school.”

Velasquez, who will major in political science but is also interested in becoming a speech pathologist, has taken an active role in the Woodburn community since the summer of seventh grade. Life at home had been difficult since her mom, a single parent of three, had separated from her dad, who was imprisoned in California and later deported to El Salvador.

“My community involvement was like my refuge,” she said. “Helping others gets my mind away from other drama in my life.”

Not only was it a distraction, but it soon became something she loved. She has since been on the Youth Advisory Board, served on the Fiesta Mexicana Court and she currently sits on the city of Woodburn Recreation and Parks Board. She can also be seen taking part in other activities, from Safety Camp to Relay for Life. Additionally, she’s involved in advanced choir and drama at school.

“I enjoy being with others; it’s become a part of me,” she said. “Being a volunteer has helped me become who I am today.”

Although she loves Woodburn, she’s excited to go to college in Portland. But she said she will be back, even setting her sights on possibly being part of the city government.

“I love Woodburn but I’ve never experienced the city life and there’s just so much you can do there,” she gushed. “I fell in love with it.”

She is grateful that she’s been given the opportunity to be the first in her family to attend college.

“This is such a blessing,” she said. “It’s so nice to know people are willing to invest in someone’s future.”

Sergio Ramirez Salazar

Sergio Ramirez Salazar, son of Salvador Ramirez and Zenaida Salazar, received the Act Six Scholarship to attend George Fox University in LINDSAY KEEFER - Woodburn senior Sergio Ramirez Salazar has been awarded the Act Six Scholarship. Ramirez Salazar will attend George Fox and plans to major in computer science.

“It’s more than a scholarship,” he said. “You (Act Six recipients) stick together as a cadre. It’s like a special family.”

Ramirez Salazar plans to major in computer science, having already developed ideas for a program that could teach English to English-language learners.

“I was inspired by my parents, who don’t speak English,” he explained. “They can’t communicate in English, so I translate for them, but I want them to be able to speak for themselves. I want to help people in some way.”

Ramirez Salazar not only helps his parents communicate, but he has also helped them get their GEDs. He hopes to start a similar program for other families like his.

“They (his parents) have given me the motivation to strive for more because they didn’t get a lot,” he said. “They both have less than a third-grade education, and they didn’t want that for me.”

He has spent summers working in the fields alongside his family, and he knows that’s not what he wants for his future either.

“I’ve been doing that since I was 9… or younger,” he said. “It stinks, standing there with the sun hot on your back and doing the same thing over and over.”

Not only has he helped his parents, but he’s also volunteered at Washington Elementary School with their after-school program, at Nellie Muir Elementary with the district’s migrant summer program and with Family University, a program that has classes in which parents and children can learn side by side.

On top of that, Ramirez Salazar is enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program and hopes to earn an IB diploma, which is contingent on passing specific and challenging criteria.

Still, Ramirez Salazar humbly said he’s still letting it sink in that he was selected for the scholarship, which allows him to be the first in his family to attend college.

“They believe in me that I could make a difference in the community,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

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