Commencement Focus: Giangiobbe’s journey of resilience earns a timely academic achievement

Story by James Hill. Photos by Ric Getter and Gigi Giangiobbe.

Portland Community College student and soon-to-be college graduate Gigi Giangiobbe is all about being dedicated and a hard worker.

These traits recently paid off as she was named a Bronze Scholar on Coca-Cola’s 2024 Academic Team. Selected based on her performance in the All-USA Academic Team competition, sponsored by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Giangiobbe received a $1,000 scholarship and beat out more than 2,200 applicants. 

She joins Jai Johnson as PCC scholarship awardees. Johnson was chosen as the 2024 New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar and was awarded a $1,500 scholarship sponsored by the Coca-Cola Foundation and support by PTK.

Gigi Giangiobbe at awards ceremony

Gigi Giangiobbe.

“Receiving this recognition feels great,” said Giangiobbe, who is earning an associate degree in Creative Writing this spring. “I have worked incredibly hard the last two plus years, and there were definitely a couple terms where I briefly thought to myself ‘Can I do this? I don’t think I can do this.’ But I quickly brushed those feelings of self-doubt aside and assured myself that I could accomplish any difficult thing I set out to do.”

Originally from Oakland, Calif., Giangiobbe found her home in the lush green spaces of Southeast Portland, where she has resided for the past few years. Her academic journey at PCC began when she was three months shy of her 31st birthday, a time marked by big changes and lingering self-doubt. Reflecting on her tumultuous 20s, she acknowledged the challenges she faced but emphasizes how finding stability reignited her drive and ambition.

“I struggled financially and in many other ways throughout my 20s, and I had completely written off college,” she said. “I didn’t have the money, the time, the drive, and I didn’t believe in myself at all – I had genuinely forgotten I was a smart person capable of hard things. I found some stability and that made it easier to breathe and set goals and have dreams. I took these new goals and dreams and ran with them, always moving forward, and the only time I look back is to remember where I’ve come from and to smile at the girl I used to be.”

Despite initially pursuing a degree in Environmental Science, her passion for writing, reading, and editing eventually led her to switch her major to English and Creative Writing. She will receive her degree as part of the class of 2024. PCC’s commencement ceremony takes place at 7 p.m., Friday, June 14 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum where thousands of newly minted graduates like Giangiobbe will celebrate their degrees and certificates with family and friends.

Looking ahead, she aspires to become an editor, a published author, and perhaps even a teacher. She attributes much of her success to the supportive community at PCC, from dedicated instructors to invaluable resources like counseling services and academic support centers. Giangiobbe found solace and encouragement in the Women’s and Queer Resource centers, where she could seek guidance, access resources, and connect with peers who shared her experiences and aspirations.

“Having these communities, these instructors, and these resources helped me every day,” she said. “Honestly, I always had someone I could go to when I had questions, and I always had access to tea, snacks, and books – three of my favorite things. I have an incredible foundation outside of PCC, but these additional pillars within PCC have made all the difference. I don’t know if I could have done as well as I did without the support of my instructors and peers.”

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