First-generation student talks about PCC program
When Daniel Sanchez graduated from Beaverton High School in 2014, college was not in his plans.
Then he got a call from the manager of Future Connect, a Portland Community College program aimed at students from first-generation and low-income families.
"I wasn't a high school athlete, and I wasn't fantastic in my classes. But my life changed when Future Connect reached out to me," Sanchez said.
"At the time I did not have a direction education-wise. I never thought about college. It's something that didn't seem attainable. So I took the opportunity that Josh (Laurie) gave to me and I registered for the Future Connect program."
Since then, Sanchez said at a Feb. 6 presentation to the Beaverton City Council, he has learned to master public speaking, underwent basic training in the Oregon Army National Guard, and now helps students with math and science as an instructional aide at Mountainside High School.
His longer-term goal, after taking a couple of classes at PCC: Becoming a school resource officer in Beaverton.
"I do not want you to think about this program as just financial help to help students succeed in college," he said.
"Future Connect has pushed me and created me into a much more successful person than I ever thought I could be…. I began to reach out to do things I never thought possible. Future Connect has taught me to see and expect more of myself."
In addition to tuition aid, Future Connect matches each student with an academic adviser, known as a college success coach, who also steers students into appropriate internships and leadership training.
Sanchez was among PCC panel members — others were Laurie, PCC Foundation President Susie Lahsene, and PCC Rock Creek President Sandra Fowler-Hill — who presented a report to the council.
Beaverton has contributed $400,000 to the program from mid-2013 through mid-2017, and the 2017-18 city budget contains $125,000 to support 50 students each year. They must live within the city limits; the Beaverton School District extends well beyond the city.
A total of 254 Beaverton students have been in the program, which began back in 2011.
According to an analysis, 84 percent of them are first-generation college students, 79 percent from low-income families, and 74 percent from nonwhite families.
"Because of Future Connect, there are many stories out there like mine," Sanchez said. "I want to thank you for taking the time to listen to mine."
The entire program underwent an outside evaluation in mid-2017 by a Portland nonprofit, Education Northwest, to look at the number of credit hours, overall grade-point average of and completion by participating students, and career development activities such as internships and volunteer stints.
Portland and Hillsboro also contribute money, and the PCC Foundation also has raised money.
Participation in PCC Future Connect is part of Beaverton city plans for community vision and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Councilor Lacey Beaty, who is married to a National Guard officer and is an Army veteran herself, said she hopes Sanchez will be able to continue his military service.
Supporting Future Connect, she added, "is one of my easiest decisions as a city councilor."
"That's hard to follow. But it embodies why all of us do what we do," Mayor Denny Doyle said after Sanchez spoke.
"You are doing it. We are just helping. Here's to the next five years."