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Foundation scholarship, weld shop create right environment for Hawkins’ success

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Mariya welds metal

Mariya Hawkins is on the verge of becoming a welder. After a long journey and many challenges, she is on the brink of completing Portland Community College’s Welding Program – and earning the generous paychecks that come with being a trained, professional welder.

And the thing that has helped her stay on track, make ends meet, and focus on her studies? Scholarships from the PCC Foundation

“PCC is amazing and so accepting of any and all,” Hawkins said. “There’s such a welcoming environment. I enjoy teachers that I’ve met, and I’ve made good connections. Going to PCC was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

PCC prides itself on being the place where so many Portlanders have gone over the years to take their first steps along their higher education journey. And whether their goal has been an associate degree, a professional certification, or something more, PCC has helped them get there. But, just like Hawkins, many students need a helping hand. That’s where the PCC Foundation comes in. 

Every year, the PCC Foundation awards hundreds of scholarships to students who might otherwise not be able to afford to go to college. This year’s application deadline is Tuesday, Feb. 1.

Mariya Hawkins in weld shop.
PCC Foundation Scholarship Deadline: Feb. 1
  • Like Mariya Hawkins, many PCC students can get scholarship assistance. The PCC Foundation scholarship application is open now until Tuesday, Feb. 1 and all students are encouraged to apply.
  • Last year, the foundation awarded $2.2 million dollars to 1,550 students. It hopes to award even more this year to meet growing need.
  • For additional help with the application process, join a virtual scholarship workshop. Or for questions, email scholarships@pcc.edu.

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Mariya got her first taste of welding and metalworking during high school in St. Helens. She took a shine to it immediately, and began to learn her way around welding, sheet metal work and lathe work. After high school, she wanted to take her studies further and looked around for a likely spot. Her eye fell on a school in Fairbanks, Alaska, but after some further research – and learning of the many great welding jobs landed by PCC students – she elected to stay closer to home. She enrolled in the Welding Program based at the Rock Creek Campus and, on the advice of welding advisor Annette Murphy and department chair Matt Scott, applied for a PCC Foundation scholarship.

She started her studies in 2019, and is now in the home stretch of earning her associate degree in welding. She expects to graduate this spring and then find work in the pipefitting and fabrication segment of the welding world. Her training at the new weld shop at Rock Creek was detailed in a story last summer. The state-of-the-art facility’s renovation was paid for by the 2017 voter-approved bond measure.

Her foundation scholarships – she’s received two – have helped her to get a new set of tools, pay for her tuition and fees, and ease the financial burden of being a young person in college. For someone like Hawkins, who grew up in foster care, the scholarships literally made the difference between success and failure for her.

“The PCC Foundation has helped me be able to explore more and more of my field and be able to get tools I need not only for classes but for when I’m done with classes and I’m on the job,” Hawkins said.

But the foundation scholarships have not only helped her to address the fiscal realities of attending college. They have also empowered her to improve her skills at a craft that she truly loves, and to be among the growing cohort of women making their way as professional welders – something she’s particularly enthusiastic about.

“I love working with my hands and seeing what I’ve created,” Hawkins added. “I would absolutely encourage other women to pursue a career in welding. Welding, in my opinion, is for everyone, and if you enjoy it go in head-first into it and continue to enjoy it.”

Hawkins lights her torch