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Two PCC students selected for national Latina program

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Two Portland Community College students have been chosen to participate in the National Hispana Leadership Institute’s Summer Youth program in Washington, D.C., this month. They are two of only 22 college students in the nation to be picked.

This will be the first time either Stephanie Gonzalez of Aloha or Daisy Martinez of Cornelius have been to Washington, D.C., and both are excited for the weeklong training at Catholic University. The program fosters the development of college-age Latina students through leadership training, and technical and practical experience, during a one-week comprehensive curriculum program in the nation’s capital. Session topics include résumé writing and interviewing skills, effective communication and presentation skills, public policy issues affecting the Latino community, and other professional and leadership development topics.

“I want to soak everything up,” Gonzalez said. “I can’t wait to meet these powerful women who are going to be there and learn what I can contribute.”

Gonzalez came to PCC in 2005 through the Early College program, a partnership between PCC Rock Creek and Beaverton School District. Working two jobs and going to school full time, she performs community service at Westside Community Church in Aloha and at the Friendly House in Northwest Portland. Last December, she took part with a group of volunteers who delivered food to low-income families during the area’s snowstorm.

Gonzalez credits her parents with her strong work ethic. Her father, a survivor of the war in El Salvador, owns a cleaning company and her Guatemalan-born mother works for Volunteers of America. Her mother came to the U.S. with a sixth-grade education, but later took classes in drug and alcohol counseling.

“My mother is the epitome of hard work,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez’s family also made sure every opportunity was available for her, including her sister Sarah, who made her aware of the Early College program at Aloha High School (Sarah recently became the first in their family to earn a college degree). It was her mother though, who saw an announcement about NHLI and sent it to Stephanie.

“I really lucked out,” said Gonzalez. “I worked very hard on the application. The essays were the best they could be.”

Daisy Martinez began her college education at Oregon State University through the College Assistance for Migrants Program – a program based at PCC’s Rock Creek Campus – but she transferred to Portland State University to be closer to home and to save money. Since CAMP students often become mentors after finishing the one-year program, Martinez took classes at Rock Creek on alternating quarters to save more money on tuition. Her father, a former migrant worker from Monterey, Mexico, owns a cleaning company, and her mother works for Oregon Berry Harvesting in Hillsboro.

Martinez hopes to bring back ideas for CAMP and work with Alonso on projects for next year. And while she is there, she is hoping for a White House tour. At PCC, Martinez met Rock Creek’s CAMP Director Teresa Alonso, who gave needed guidance and inspiration to her.

“She is a highly motivated person with great aspirations,” Alonso said. “I want people on a national level to see her brilliance.”

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 »