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The first in their families to attend college, these determined COCC scholarship students are thankful for acts of community kindness

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY MARK RUSSELL JOHNSON
 - People can support a first-generation student with an end-of-year donation.

Being the first at anything is daunting. To be the very first in one's family to attend college often involves more than sheer perseverance and adapting to a new landscape — it can require facing obstacles of a financial nature. For Hector, a first-generation college student now in his second year in the networking and cybersecurity program at Central Oregon Community College (COCC), his bright future has been illuminated by his own efforts and ambitions. But it's been made easier to achieve thanks to a full scholarship funded by community contributions to the COCC Foundation.

"I've found my purpose at COCC," he shared, "but I couldn't do any of this without this scholarship."

Having built his first computer at age 14 — and encouraged by his mother to try something tech-related at COCC — Hector, a dean's list student, is now on his way to completing a cybersecurity certificate. He already has plans for his next step, including earning a four-year degree.

"I want to stop cyber threats," he added. "I'll be helping businesses find their vulnerabilities by trying to break their online security as an ethical hacker, spotting weakness and becoming their insurance against real attacks. I want to protect and serve." Hector's story is unique and individual. But he's part of a bigger story, too. One in three students at COCC is unable to meet educational expenses with existing resources, including family contributions, student earnings and the aid of grants. And, like Hector, first-generation college students are often determined to give back to their community upon graduation. Recent data from the educational research firm EAB shows that 61% of first-generation students have indicated just that, compared with 43% of their continuing-generation counterparts. Brenda, a student from Prineville, is also a first-generation college student. She's training in COCC's nursing assistant program.

"I graduated from Crook County High School in 2020, and in my senior year I knew I wanted to go into the medical field," she said. "My goal is to become a registered nurse."

Brenda is currently completing prerequisites and will apply to the nursing program in 2022. "I want to thank the Foundation for selecting me to receive this scholarship." It's helping shape a positive future for both Brenda and her community. Supporting positive futures is important to Mark and Gigi Copeland, former residents of Prineville and longtime contributors to COCC Foundation scholarships.

"The community has an opportunity to help see that people who want to go to school, get to go to school," said Mark, a retired attorney. "By giving to the Foundation, it helps that happen." Copeland connects with scholarships on a personal level. His own higher educational path received full scholarship backing all the way through law school. The support made to a single student's education, he emphasizes, benefits all. "Both society and the individual are better off."

For first-generation students at COCC, and for other deserving Foundation scholarship recipients, backing from the community is vital. Full scholarships are $4,500 and are awarded based on financial need and academic perseverance. Contributions to the nonprofit COCC Foundation are tax-deductible. Be part of the incredible scholarship stories at COCC and donate online today by going to cocc.edu/give or by calling 541-383-7225.


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