Recent Milwaukie High School graduates Rocio Sanchez-Cortez and Aimee Copenhaver are looking forward to college this month, thanks to the Mustang-Born Alumni Scholarship Foundation.
The two young women each won a $2,500 college scholarship from the foundation for their commitment to local community service and extracurricular activities. Financial need and their academic and career goals also contributed to their being chosen for the scholarships.
"We just want to help students in the community advance themselves," said Craig Mitchelldyer, foundation board member and MHS alumnus.
The board also gave special attention to students who attended Milwaukie schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, he said.
Sanchez-Cortez is 20 years old and has a 4-year-old daughter. She was involved with the North Clackamas School District's program for teen parents — Parenting, Academics, Careers and Employment, also known as PACE.
Sanchez-Cortez will attend Portland Community College to study dental hygiene.
Winning the Mustang scholarship meant an opportunity [to go to] college and to get a career that she will enjoy for the rest of her life; one that she will look forward to every morning, she said.
Sanchez-Cortez also wanted to show her siblings that anything in life is possible if you work hard enough for it.
"When my family found out I had won the Mustang scholarship, they were so proud and excited for me," she said.
Sanchez-Cortez will be taking only one class this fall because she currently has no child care assistance. Once that is overcome, she will take two classes per term.
Sanchez-Cortez said she has planned to study dental hygiene ever since she job-shadowed a dentist and dental hygienist.
"I loved the environment, the interactions with the patients and the flexibility of the work schedule," she said.
"Winning the scholarship is one of the moments in my life that I will not forget. It's such an opportunity and honor to win the scholarship and represent Milwaukie High and PACE and all teen moms," she said.
"I want to show to each and every student that no matter your struggles in life, or having a child, it is not something that should set you back. You should keep moving forward with honor and pride and always strive for success in your life."
Copenhaver is 18 and will study elementary education at Portland State University.
She said being chosen one of the winners of the Mustang-Born Scholarship means a lot to her and her family because she will be paying for college on her own, and the scholarship will help her get closer to her goal.
"I would love to be a teacher, helping students academically and influencing them in life," Copenhaver said.
"I could not have been more lucky with the teachers that I have had throughout my education. The influence they had on me makes me want to be able to give that feeling to others, whatever their passion may be."
Copenhaver added that as she looks back at being a student at Milwaukie High School, she will "always remember the school spirit and togetherness that you could feel throughout the school year, and the heart that the students and teachers had for each other."
Visit mustangbornfund.com for more information about the Mustang-Born Alumni Scholarship Foundation.