Students earn prestigious Ford and Gates Millennium scholarships

May 31, 2013 Comments Off

Students earn prestigious Ford and Gates Millennium scholarships

Prom is over, sports seasons have concluded, Pacifica Projects have been presented – the springtime sprint to the end of the school year means Seaside High School is just days away from its annual graduation activities and ceremony.

This year, 98 students will graduate from the school on June 10, with 60 percent going on to some kind of post-secondary education immediately after graduation.

For two of those graduates – Theresa Paul and Adrian Velazquez — prestigious scholarships will make paying for and experiencing the full opportunity of college much easier.

Paul’s family moved to the community when she was a child – her junior year they moved to Cannon Beach.

“Coming into high school, I wasn’t really on track to graduate,” Paul said. With the help of her teachers she developed a passion for mathematics.

“I thought for a while I wanted to become a math teacher or a health teacher,” Paul said.

That passion and support led her through high school, and earlier this spring, with strong encouragement from her parents, Paul applied for and was awarded a scholarship by The Ford Family Foundation.

The Roseburg-based foundation annually awards 120 outstanding students throughout Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif., need-based scholarships. According to the foundation, the scholarship was created “to assist students who otherwise would find it impossible, or at least very difficult, to obtain a college degree without financial assistance.”

“The Ford scholarship is a really great opportunity to make something of my life,” Paul said.

This fall, Paul plans to attend Lewis & Clark College in Portland.

She said she is not sure what major she plans to pursue, but right now she wants to do something that helps people, the environment or both. She credits her teachers at Seaside High School with helping her develop her passions.

“My plan the first year is to go undecided,” Paul said. “I hope to go in first year undecided and experience the environment and learn new things. Hopefully my sophomore year I’ll find a passion for something I want to do.”

Velazquez joined a prestigious group earlier this month after being named a Gates Millennium Scholar.

“For me it was really a huge relief because I’m the first person in my family ever to go to college, and my parents didn’t know how they were going to pay,” Velazquez said. “(Now) I’ve got four years to do whatever I want and not worry about any money. It was a huge relief to my family.”

The scholarship program, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, selects 1,000 students across the country for a “good-through graduation” scholarship. The scholarship also supports personal and professional development through leadership training.

As part of the application process, Velazquez had to write eight 600-word essays. He said it took him three months to finish the essays. One of those essays asked him to write about an event that changed his life.

When he was 11, Velazquez said, he was walking down the street and said hello to a passing stranger. The man angrily hurled a racial slur at the young boy. He went home and told his parents, who became very upset.

“It was the first time I’d ever had racist comments come my way,” Velazquez said. “Since then I’ve tried to keep racism out of my life. From then, I’ve tried to be a happy person.”

Velazquez also plans to attend Lewis & Clark College in the fall. He wants to study international relations and music.

After auditioning in Portland, he will also be playing in the college’s orchestra next year.

A series of events will lead up to and celebrate the graduation ceremonies.

Students will be recognized at a nonreligious or denominational Baccalaureate ceremony at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 9 at North Coast Family Fellowship. Graduation ceremonies will be held at 8 p.m., Monday, June 10 at the Seaside Convention Civic and Convention Center. Both events are open to the public.

Students will celebrate graduation at an all-night, chemical-free party hosted by the parents of the class of 2013 and the Seaside Rotary.

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