Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Meredith Houk is taking the long, but rewarding road to her academic goals

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Meredith Houk at Cascade.

Houk is paving her own way in her quest for a college degree.

It seems Meredith Houk is always on the road. Whether she’s riding a fixed-up motorcycle or moving about the country searching for her next career opportunity, Houk is comfortable following her own way in life.

Houk grew up in the Midwest, graduating high school in Missouri before traveling and landing in Oregon to find better employment. In 2020, amid a pandemic, she moved to North Portland from San Diego to enroll at Portland Community College. The move was prompted after she had enrolled in National University’s underwater diving program to explore a career using hyperbaric chambers. However, the training didn’t fit her true desire, which was to find employment in healthcare — inspired by the frontline workers combating the spread of the coronavirus.

“The effects on businesses due to COVID-19 have been devastating and I didn’t want to wait any longer to get back in class,” Houk explained. “I knew I needed a career that could make it through even a pandemic. PCC has felt like home here ever since.”

The 26-year-old enrolled at PCC last fall and is working toward an associate of transfer degree. She plans to take full advantage of PCC’s dual enrollment agreement with Portland State University, where Houk plans to finish her four-year degree. Eventually, she would like to find a nursing program or another kind of healthcare program to finish her training.

University Transfer 101

Undecided about how long you’ll be in school? What to choose as a major? Which degree to pick? Ask your future school:

  • An advisor at your future school will know which classes will transfer, what major to choose, and what paperwork to fill out. Many schools visit PCC throughout the year so you can ask questions in person – see events and school visits.
  • Academic Track — This self-guided tutorial explains the difference between PCC’s degrees and how to choose one that will take you where you want to go.
  • Academic Advising — PCC’s advisors help match your academic goals with programs and degrees.

“When I finish my education I hope to have a career that can positively affect my community and better the world in some way,” she said. “I want to be an active part of something that is bigger than myself, something that will live on after me.” 

At PCC, incoming students like Houk can take many of the freshman and sophomore courses they’ll find at universities everywhere, including art, social, physical and life sciences, music, literature, writing and much more. In total, more than 5,000 students transfer PCC credits to a four-year college or university every year, and achieve a higher grade-point average than students who begin at a four-year institution.

Since enrolling at PCC, Houk has received much support in the form of advising and free tutoring in addition to the guidance her instructors have offered. 

“They are always right there to guide you to resources available for your success at PCC and genuinely wish the best for you,” Houk explained.

It’s been a long, hard road for Houk to travel. The Missouri native said she came from a well-educated family and her father worked as a prominent veterinarian who emphasized education. But tragedy upended their lives and fractured the family. As a result, her parents eventually split, leaving her father as the primary caregiver for the children. Houk and other siblings were sent to other families to live.

“Going from home to home, the value of education emphasized varied but it was often hard to think about school with so much going on,” Houk recalled. “It just wasn’t possible (to stay together). Me and my sister were sent to live with other families together and my dad provided the expenses.”

As a result, Houk grew up in many different homes in different cities and yearned for structure. Every school year began with a new family and in a new place, teaching her to be self-reliant.

“This is a hurdle in life that has taught me the most,” smiled Houk, who is a professional dog trainer and volunteers at animal shelters. “You won’t always have someone backing your dreams but if you can learn to propel yourself forward on your own, you can do anything you set your mind to. Never give up on yourself.”

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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There are 4 comment for this article. If you see something that doesn't belong, please click the x and report it.

x by Morgan Chase 8 months ago

Way to go, Meredith!

x by Rose 8 months ago

As a fellow Missourian going to PCC for a nursing degree I applaud you! Keep up the awesome work.

x by Stefano 8 months ago

Great transfer program at PCC! Good Luck!

x by Sarah 7 months ago

I took most of my nursing prerequisites at PCC and am currently in the ABSN program at Concordia. PCC definitely gave me the strong foundation I needed for this challenging program!

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