Beaverton scholarship recipients grateful for city's contribution to Future Connect

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KATE CHESTER - Beaverton schools Superintendent Jeff Rose greets Future Connect scholars Kesia Tosh, Manny Romero, Tatiana Umana and Cristian Perez-Vidal at Portland Community College.If not for a scholarship program geared toward recent high school graduates from lower-income families, Manny Romero realizes his future prospects would be rather limited.

“I had no other options,” he said. “It was either coming (to Portland Community College) or taking a couple years off and working.”

Fortunately for Manny, who graduated from Beaverton High School last spring, the newly launched Washington County Future Connect scholarship program provided the right opportunity at the right time. Started in 2011 as a collaboration with Multnomah County, the newly expanded program targets promising recent high school graduates from low-income families in the Beaverton and Hillsboro areas who face financial, social or other barriers. Washington County’s Future Connect provides full two-year PCC scholarships to 100 students. Scholarships include two years of personalized coaching, individualized academic advising, access to tutoring, internships and cohort support.

PCC celebrated the program’s new collaboration with the cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro at a luncheon event on Thursday at the PCC-Rock Creek Campus’s Event Center. Dignitaries from the college including PCC President Jeremy Brown and Birgitte Ryslinge, the Rock Creek Campus’ interim president, spoke alongside Beaverton City Councilor Marc San Soucie and Hillsboro City Council President Aron Carleson.

“Future Connect works,” Brown said. “We don’t have many programs in the state or the nation that really works (in the same way). With this program, we’re coming together to make a real difference.”

In addition to the program’s cooperative aspect, Brown praised the individualized attention students receive and the resulting long-term benefits to the local and regional business community.

“The business community and the civil service sector know the importance of well-trained, motivated workers to really help grow the prosperity of a region,” he said, adding an educated work force results not just from the classroom, but also through career counseling, internships and other collaborative efforts. “It’s a remarkable case study. One that really has an impact on our community and region.”

With the Washington County program, PCC matches the $100,000 the cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro each contribute toward the program.

Addressing the audience, which included a chunk of the Future Connect scholars, San Soucie stressed the importance of the program’s growth and ability to motivate students in need of opportunity.

“There’s a benefit that comes to you is if you love to learn,” he said. “Sharing that love with others and embracing it helps to foster a level of respect for education. Your adventure will be our gain. Let’s keep expanding the culture of education in our community.”

Since the program’s launch in 2011, more than 70 percent of Future Connect students have gone on to their second year of college. Of the success stories, 92 percent of students come from low-income families, 62 are students of color, and 83 percent are first-generation college students.

Romero is certainly one of the latter. When he graduated from Beaverton High School in May, he became the first member of his family to complete that milestone.

“My family expects a lot of me,” the PCC freshman said after Thursday’s ceremony. “Future Connect has given me the opportunity to be a success, so I feel some pressure. It also gives me the motivation for me to work hard to get where I want to be.”

Kesia Tosh, a Beaverton High School classmate of Romero’s, is channeling the motivation she gets from Future Connect toward fulfilling her aeronautical dreams.

“I’ve wanted to be a pilot since I was in ninth grade,” she said, noting she plans to further her PCC studies at Oregon State University. “I love physics. I’ve always been fascinated by flight. It’s cool to be able to do what (my parents) never had the opportunity to do.”

Despite financial limitations, Tosh is grateful to have a family that stands behind her and her long-term goals.

“My mom and stepdad are amazingly (supportive),” she said. “They can’t support me economically, but they definitely support me emotionally.”

Although less certain about his direction of study than Tosh, Romero knows where he wants his education — which he’d like to further at Western Oregon University — and career to take him.

“I just want to help people,” he said. “That’s my goal. I want my pay to be, how can I help you? Yes, I want a paycheck too, but I want to be able to help.”

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