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A second chance was all she needed

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Parache with an armful of books

PCC student Jennifer Parache is proof that second chances do work.

"PCC is a wonderful gateway to academics," Parache said. "It gave me a second chance. I had a horrible experience in high school, but here I am, given another opportunity to develop from diamond in the rough to an actual gem."

Parache grew up in Alpine, 120 miles south of Portland, on a 16-acre ranch that had goats, sheep, dogs, cats and ponies. After her parents divorced, she was homeless off and on between the ages of seven and 13. She eventually attended Cleveland High School after moving to southeast Portland. She barely graduated.

Parache changed her fortunes after enrolling in the Army and later at PCC. Now, she is studying to be a nurse practitioner and sports a 4.0 grade-point average. She has been married for the past eight years and has a five-year-old boy.

The Alpha Eta Iota chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the two-year honors society, nominated Parache to run for an international vice president position that encompasses the west region of the United States and the South Pacific territories. She is currently vice president for the Cascade/Rocky Mountain region of Phi Theta Kappa and has served as an officer for Alpha Eta Iota for the past two years.

Even though she didn’t win the election she said she had a wonderful experience conducting her campaign at the Phi Theta Kappa International Convention in Seattle. She met with countless students and representatives from around the nation, advisors and Phi Theta Kappa headquarters’ staff. 

"Even though I came in a close third, it was still an amazing experience," she said. "The other folks that ran were all great people. I even became friends with the woman that won."

Parache appreciates the second chance that changed her life and, in turn, is providing second chances for others. At the convention Parache had an opportunity to talk about her and other PCC students’ trip to New Orleans. The group went to the Big Easy for five days in March during Spring Break to scout the area for a much longer trip in the summer when students will help residents rebuild.

"It was an amazing common ground collective," Parache said. "It takes a lot of words. As we walked into lower 49th Ward and saw the massive devastation it was like being kicked in the stomach. The destruction is still there and wasn’t cleaned up. We met people returning to their homes and rebuilding. It was so uplifting."

She also heads "Project Graduation: Feed a Body, Feed a Mind." The premise of the project is based upon findings that children living in poverty suffer nutrient deficiencies and developmental delays. Also, more than 60 percent of kids at or below poverty level don’t have age appropriate books.

"We collect food and children’s books and distribute them to local family shelters," she said. "In the weeks preceding graduation we put out barrels, including one at the site of graduation (Memorial Coliseum), and asked for donations at the door. Last year, we donated to Tigard Good Neighbor Center.

"It’s a personal touch for me," she added. "I was one of those children pretty much all through my childhood."

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »