By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Rotary scholarships give students chances to pursue dreams

A scholarship from McMinnville’s Sunrise Rotary Club is helping Andrea Johnson pursue college studies — and her dream.

She’s one of five students who won $1,600 from the club for the 2018-19 school year.

Most, like Johnson, a mother of two who has worked as a medical assistant and an insurance agent, are somewhat more experienced than traditional college students. They’re juggling homes, families and work as they study.

They were chosen from among 25 to 30 Chemeketa Community College students who applied this year, said Dudley Frost, chairman of Sunrise’s scholarship program. A committee did a blind review of the applications and chose the top five.

“It sure is fun to get the students,” Frost said.

Some recipients were able to visit the club Wednesday. A couple had work conflicts; one, Osmo Larmi, was away fighting a wildland fire with other volunteers from the Amity Fire Department.

Another club member, Joe Stewart, told the students who visited, “We’re very pleased how hard you work and what you’ll do for the community” after graduating.

Sunrise president John Martinez also complimented the students, noting Rotarians are consistently supportive of education. “Everybody should learn their whole life,” he said.

Each recipient wrote a glowing letter thanking Sunrise Rotary for the opportunity and telling club members more about themselves. 

“Donors like you make it possible for people like me to continue their education and make a difference in the world,” Johnson wrote.

She started classes at Chemeketa last fall with the goal of becoming a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree.

She tried reducing her hours, then quit her full-time job in order to study. She now works part time as a waitress in addition to attending school and caring for her son, a high school junior, and daughter, a fourth-grader.

She said she chose nursing because she wants to help people. As a medical assistant, she said, she enjoyed working with patients, especially comforting them when they were frightened. 

She has finished her pre-requisites for nursing and is applying to nursing programs. While waiting to be accepted, she’s taking other classes needed to finish her bachelor’s degree.

The other student who visited Rotarians, Isabella Mendoza, is studying for a career as a juvenile parole officer. That’s been her goal for many years.

“I want to change lives of troubled youth and lower the incarceration rate,” she said, noting the U.S. has the highest rate in the world.

By working with troubled young people, she hopes to help them find the right path. Just locking them up is not the solution, she said. 

“Many of them don’t have picture-perfect lives. They’ve been in the wrong place at the wrong time, or just been young and dumb,” she said.

Mendoza graduated from McMinnville High School, where she took criminal justice pathway classes. She had an opportunity to shadow professionals in a variety of related fields, including parole officers.

After finishing Chemeketa, she plans to transfer to a four-year college. She may take a year off first to volunteer with youth organizations and gain more hands-on experience, she said.

The other three recipients are:

n Larmi, who also received a Sunrise scholarship last year, has finished his associate degree at Chemeketa and plans to transfer to a four-year school eventually. He also is continuing to study in the college’s paramedic program.

He is an engineer and EMT with the Amity Fire Department, and also a laboratory technician on Chemeketa’s Yamhill Valley Campus in McMinnville.

Larmi, who has a son at Dayton Junior High School, also owns his own business, Mo’s Mobile Welding and Repair LLC.

n Brandie Miller is working on a degree in health information management. She started Chemeketa classes in her mid-20s and will graduate next spring, the first in her family to earn a college degree.

The Rotary scholarship “means that I am much closer to achieving my goals ... I can focus more on my studies than having to worry about where I am going to get the extra money for school.”

n Christopher Johnston plans to transfer to Western Oregon University to study psychology after finishing Chemeketa. The Willamina man, who has muscular dystrophy, said he is grateful for the scholarship.

“It is so great to know that I will be able to worry less about money and focus more on my upcoming marriage, as well as other life endeavors and challenges,” he said.


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