Big futures are being forged at Chemeketa Community College in Woodburn.
Take Cinthya Pliego, for example. The 20-year old is entering her third year at the college and wants to be a pediatric nurse.
The Woodburn High School graduate is taking nursing program prerequisites at both the Salem and Woodburn campus and will later focus on tackling her associate degree before entering the program, she said.
She was accepted to attend a couple of Oregon colleges out of high school, but was unable to attend because she was not eligible for financial aid, Pliego said.
It has definitely opened doors, especially because I am not a citizen here, she said.
She started taking courses at Chemeketa after high school and took advantage of Chemeketas Fifth Year, or Early College Program.
In the program, a students high school diploma is withheld for one year while she takes college-level classes for free.
Another student, Jared Bynum, 22, has taken a longer path toward his associate degree.
Bynum just finished his first year at Chemeketa after working in the Woodburn Recreation and Parks Department and the federal Job Corps program.
His plan now is to pursue a career in marine energy, where he will learn the science of extracting clean energy from the ocean, he said.
I am working with advisors here, he said.
I could stretch out my associate degree by taking a lot more math, renewable energy and other classes like that and take them at a community college cost. Or I might end up transferring to another school.