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Past and present students discuss benefits of the Ford Family Scholarships

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Ngoc Nguyen is in rare company. But she is aiming to change that.

She is one of seven 2019 Ford Family Scholarship recipients who have graduated from Portland Community College, which annually is one of the top recipient schools. Since 1994, PCC has had 169 recipients earn a total of $1.7 million in Ford Family scholarship dollars.

The foundation, which was built from the Ford family’s timber company in southern Oregon, offers grants for non-traditional community college students looking to transfer to earn an associate, bachelor’s or even a graduate degree. It is one of Oregon’s largest scholarships and funds 90 percent of unmet need.

It is one of the best scholarships that community college students can earn and supporters like Nguyen hope even more PCC students apply to it this application season. In addition to financial support, the foundation provides leadership development training (retreats each summer for some scholarships), free academic and personal counseling, and professional networking support. 

Student Braa Aldebi works on a problem with her classmates.
Ford Family Foundation Scholarship
    • The Ford Family Foundation offers scholarship opportunities for community college students — the Ford Scholar, Ford Restart, and Ford Opportunity. It provides grants for non-traditional students looking to transfer to earn either an associate or bachelor’s degree at a four-year college, and even graduate work. It funds 90 percent of unmet need as students work toward completion for single parents, students 25 or older, and transfer students.
    • The early bird deadline is 5 p.m., Feb. 15 & final deadline is 5 p.m., March 1.

    Find Out More! »

“The Ford staff gave me tremendous support,” said Nguyen, who is in her first term studying international and comparative policy at Reed College. “I’m a first-generation student so I had no idea what college was like here in the United States. Ford has a good support system, which helped me learn more about myself. They gave me a clearer picture of who I wanted to be.”

Future Diplomat

Nguyen is a good example of the type of change the scholarship has provided students at PCC. The 24-year-old is the first in her family to go to college. Her parents worked full-time to support her as she studied and explored a career in international relations at Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City.

They immigrated to Portland three years ago and settled in Southeast Portland to create a better educational opportunity for their daughter. Nguyen chose to attend PCC because of the affordability, smaller class sizes, and the ingrained student support network at the Career Services, Women’s Resource and Writing centers.

“It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Nguyen smiled. “Coming to PCC really helped me focus on what I wanted to do. I met a lot of faculty that gave me guidance and support. The resource centers were huge for me, too. It’s a community that supports you and can help take you to where you want to go.”

When she’s done with school, Nguyen wants to go into foreign service as a diplomat or ambassador for her native Vietnam. The support from PCC and the Ford Family Scholarship made her dream possible.

“I actually didn’t think I could get the Ford Family Scholarship,” admitted Nguyen, who works as an office assistant for Oregon Health & Science University’s Office of Student Affairs. “I knew for sure I wouldn’t be able to afford a Reed College education, and I applied for many scholarships but didn’t get any until Ford awarded me one. It was a good learning experience.”

Making a Difference

Jen Poinar, who works as the Southeast Campus Career Services coordinator, received the high school version of the Ford Family scholarship while at Newport High School. The money helped her graduate from University of Oregon with no debt.

Ngoc Nguyen on Southeast Campus quad.

The Ford Family Scholarships made Reed College a reality for Nguyen.

“As a first-generation college student at the time, I knew very little about scholarships,” she said. “I was more than ecstatic to learn I received one.”

Poinar was able to earn more than $100,000 in scholarships in her college career (most of which came from the Ford family). She was able to attend both of her first-choice colleges (undergraduate and graduate) and didn’t have to worry about going into debt. The money allowed her to attend Middlebury Institute of International Studies to obtain her master’s degree in International Management, and study abroad in France and New Zealand.

To give back, Poinar volunteers with the Ford Family Foundation as a reviewer where she helps to select finalists for the Ford Scholar, Ford Restart and Ford Opportunity scholarships. She also promotes the opportunity for these scholarships on PCC campuses through scholarship labs and workshops.

“For me personally, this scholarship was life changing,” Poinar said. “I was someone who never thought they were ‘scholarship material.’ Many students are surprised that there is such a large scholarship available to them. A scholarship of this nature can help a student think more long term about their academic and career goals.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Public Relations Manager at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic, Wo... more »

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x by Tony Greiner 2 years ago

Very nice, and I see that Ms. Ngoc is a library user…never underestimate the library.

x by Blake Hausman 2 years ago

Congrats, Ngoc! It is a pleasure to read this story about you and your success! Best wishes to you in the future — Blake H

x by ryan.flynn 2 years ago

That was nice of the ford Family. Thanks for doing this in the memory of Kenneth W. Ford. I hope your hard working ideals are now mimicked by those picking up your scholarship opportunities. Education crosses politics and lifts people up creating new leaders that are hopefully mindful of those that helped them.

x by Ryan Flynn 2 years ago

Good job being debt free at U of O. How can students cut cost at PCC without asking for help elsewhere. CLEP tests (college level examination program) at university testing centers would be a good way. Why should students take classes in what they already know? Why not introduce them to higher education classes and degrees instead?