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SSS Previous Students of the Month

Month: SEPTEMBER 2013

My name is Saba Saleem and I have been on this planet for 22 years, roughly. I was born in Faisalabad, Pakistan and moved to Portland with my family when I was eight. I attended Madison High School, where a friend introduced me to Jason Young and Upward Bound, which became my pathway to Portland State University and, essentially, Student Support Services. As the third oldest in family of six kids, I am the first in my family to pursue a four-year degree and be a term shy of graduating.


TRiO/ Student Support Services has helped me in more ways than I could possibly imagine. Before I even started as a student at PSU, SSS helped me prepare in all possible ways I could through Summer Bridge. I have crossed many hurdles through my years of being a college student that I never would have known how to cross without SSS. They have helped me not only academically but also professionally. Through SSS I have gotten to graduation, made a home away from home and even had the opportunity to travel to Spain, with the help of the Keith Sherin Global Leaders Program. I know college is the best years of your life but mine have not exactly been easy. But the amazing staff at SSS has helped me become a strong leader, a great student and an even better person. Without the help of my mentors, I would not be this close to graduation. 





Hello, my name is Michael Adams. I am a transfer student from Portland Community College.  I am a Community Health major with intentions of going to graduate school.  I grew up near the Nashville Tennessee area and have lived most of my adult life on the west coast. School has been quite a journey for me. I never thought I would make it this far in my education. Because of the wonderful programs like SSS, I will exceed my educational aspirations. I will be graduating in summer 2014 and plan to apply to the Public Affairs and Policy Doctoral program at PSU. 


Hello. My name is Nkolika Egbukichi (Nk for short!). You may remember me from previous year's Peer Outreach Mentors. I was born and raised in Portland, OR and I am starting on my 5th year as a college student. This is my third year here at PSU as well as my third year in SSS. I am majoring in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. As a first-generation college student, I enjoy meeting, working with, and learning about people who are in the SSS program. I’m looking forward to graduation this spring and I hope to be able to have a career in the health field someday. Feel free to contact me at


Hello, my name is Heidi Feight. The Piedmont neighborhood in North Portland is where I spent many of my formative years. I was born into a unique life situation, with 2 parents who suffer from severe mental illness. Much like many of my neighbors & peers, I grew up poor with an unstable home situation. I have admired and looked up to my teachers & peers for support, and eventually made it here to PSU with much struggle, given the many circumstances I was in. I am thankful for programs like TRiO-SSS for helping students with a disadvantaged background navigate college life. I am completing my last year at PSU with a degree in Sociology and Psychology. I plan to complete a graduate program related to Social Work and/or Sociology. If any students are interested in sociology, psychology or social work I would encourage you to talk to me, as well as advice pertaining to overcoming obstacles and handling stress, PSU, Portland and opportunities around town! 

Hello, my name is Kathleen Petty and I am very excited to get to meet each of you as I step into my new role as a SSS Peer Outreach Mentor. I am a 4th year accounting major pursuing my CPA license. Having grown up as a foster child for a majority of my life, pursuing a college degree seemed next to impossible. I realized the importance of education as a way of surmounting poverty and the lifestyle I grew up in. After attending a community college, I transferred to Portland State last year, and I found the transition to be extremely challenging. Being a first-generation college student, financially affording college, work-life balance, and maintaining competitive grades are just a few struggles that I have had to overcome. I look forward to sharing the experiences and resources I have gained to support you and your time at PSU, and make it as rewarding as possible.


Month: NOVEMBER 2013

My name is Mayra Hernandez. I am Mexican-American who was born in San Diego yet raised in Los Angeles. I moved to Portland when I was 15 years old and graduated high school at SEIS at Roosevelt High School in Portland. I am the first in my family to attend a four-year university. Thanks to my family and my high school teachers who saw my potential and who helped me in every way in my process of entering college, I am now a senior at Portland State University. It seems very surreal that I will be graduating college in the Spring of 2014.  Definitely having the support of my friends, family, in addition to the Student Support Services program to which three amazing women: Rosalyn Taylor, Linda Liu & Charissa Ringo, whom I deeply admire and are my role models because of their strength, compassion, humility, caring and guidance, I will soon be a college graduate. Also in my 4 year college journey, I have to thank another amazing woman, Perla Pinedo, who I admire and who was one of the first who helped and guided me in my first year of college. When going to college became a reality, I had no idea how to navigate PSU and giving up would have been the easier thing to do. In the end, as the first generation college student in my family, I have had many obstacles yet the triumphs were able to outcome my challenges, all thanks to the people who guided me, along with my perseverance to achieve my dream; a dream that is just starting.    

Month: DECEMBER 2013
Hello, my name is Alice Guest. I am a senior and an accounting major here at Portland State.  I am a first generation college student and will be the first in my family to graduate from college with a Bachelor’s degree. My mother emigrated here from France when she was only eight years old and my father came to the U.S. from England when he was sixteen. My parents divorced when I was about four and unfortunately, my father passed away a few years later after years of struggling with alcoholism. Growing up in a single parent household, my family lived in poverty and struggled to make ends meet. Paying for college on my own, maintaining competitive grades, and balancing school while starting my professional career were just a few of the struggles that SSS helped me overcome. I never saw myself going to college and I definitely didn’t think that it was an option when I was in high school. Without the support of SSS, I wouldn’t be where I am today. All of the odds were stacked against me, and through their support I was able to overcome many barriers and obstacles that I faced. With the help of SSS, I am preparing to graduate this spring and was able to land a full time job offer before graduation. Words simply can’t express how grateful I am to be blessed with such an amazing opportunity and I have SSS, and my wonderful advisors there, to thank for it.

Month: JANUARY 2014
Hello, my name is 
Tamera WilkinsMy journey coming to PSU has been one of tragedy and transformation. I was raised in a home where poverty, alcoholism and violence set the standard of living. As a child, I quit school in seventh grade and did not return for over twenty years. .

I am a single parent and a nontraditional student .When I started college in 2007 I had no idea how the system worked. I went to community college for a couple years and then made the leap of transferring to the University. At the community college level, I had no guidance and really had no idea where to find resources. Due to that fact, I spent three years in a degree that had no transferability.

When I transferred to PSU, I found that I was so overwhelmed by the size of this campus and the classrooms that I did not believe I could make it alone. I was awarded the Diversity Enrichment Scholarship, which led me to the TRiO - Student Support Services. Without these services, I am certain my first year would not have been completed successfully. My Diversity and SSS advisors were my saving grace.

I received the guidance that I needed and  positive role models who were always there to encourage me. The SSS advisors are here to guide, support and advocate for us on every level. I have utilized SSS computers, workshops, handouts, email blasts and people to their fullest extent. Without them, I do not know if I would have made it this far.

This year I am a graduating senior majoring in health studies with a 3.98 GPA. I have done undergraduate research with the TRiO- McNair Scholars program and have plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health.

This year I was honored by Phi Kappa Phi and am pleased to be a member.  I have already taken a job in my field of study because of the service orientation I learned about here at PSU. In the years I have been in this school, my entire life has changed. . There is a banner on one of the walkways over Broadway that says “let knowledge serve the city”. That has become my motto and sums up my experience here at PSU.  

Month: FEBRUARY 2014

Hello, my name is Dominic Paz and I am a senior this year.  I am also a father of 2 young boys.  After my first son turned two, I returned to higher education with the motivation to begin a new family cycle of attending college for my children.  I enrolled at Portland Community College in the Early Childhood Education program and discovered my passion for working with children and their families.  With the support of my mentors, I transferred to PSU after I earned my Associate's Degree.  

This was a difficult transition for me, but TRIO-SSS helped to support me in this transition.  I was able to receive assistance writing my college papers and academic counseling. TRIO-SSS was a place where I was always greeted kindly and was able to get all my academic questions answered.  I could also just chill out, relax, and meet with other students.


Since I have been a part of TRIO I have benefited from the variety of workshops that they have provided.  The information in the workshops has included everything from scholarship applications/availability to self-care and time management techniques. As a senior I have negotiated many challenges attending college; everything from financial aid paperwork to finding a good place to study and the TRIO-SSS staff has been by my side the whole time.  I will be graduating at the end of spring term with a BA  in Social Science. 


Month: MARCH 2014

Hi, I'm Chido Dhliwayo and this year will mark my fourth year in Portland. I'm originally from Zimbabwe and like many students new to the college experience it took a while for me to adjust. I definitely was one of those students that struggled to find her identity on campus. TRiO - Student Support Services changed it all. I found a place that supported me, gave me access to resources that were crucial to my academic success and significantly contributed to my well-being. 


I'm majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Advertising Management. I deeply value education and strongly believe that it is the single and most powerful tool an individual can use to overcome and succeed. 

This year I had the opportunity of attending the Emerging Leaders Global Summit organized by Womensphere and hosted by Columbia University in New York. A couple of my favorite speakers included Angela Guy, the SVP of Diversity at L'Oreal USA and Saran Kaba Jones, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and Founder of Face Africa. As a delegate, I had the opportunity to meet phenomenal women and further expand my professional network. 

The SSS workshops I attended prior to the summit definitely prepared me for the experience as it required me to present myself in an appropriate manner and utilize my professional networking skills. I'm grateful beyond words for the advice and guidance I receive from my advisor, Andrea Griggs, as she ensures that I'm on track during the term. It's truly reassuring to know that there is help and resources that can make my life much easier as a college student. I'm cherishing the moments as I pursue my education and I'm looking forward to graduating!

Month: APRIL 2014

When I was a freshman here at Portland State I did not know who to turn for help to register for my classes. Not knowing how to register for classes would create a lot of stress. I would ask other students for assistance to help register for my classes. In the beginning I began by taking courses that sounded interesting to me. I would register for classes I was unsure I needed. I would find myself in the same situation every term. It wasn’t until my junior year that I found TRiO-Student Support Services (SSS)to assist me with my college experience.  

In order to be successful I needed extra help such as; registering for classes, learning how to read my DARS and learning how to register for the right classes according to the requirements of my major. When I wasn’t in this program I would always be at risk to not being able to register for any classes because classes would always fill up and I didn’t know how to add myself on the waitlist. 

I see SSS as an opportunity where I will receive help and gain the confidence that I need in order to complete my school career. I know that the  will help me stay on track by following up with me and my goals. With the Student Support Services program I have been able to access emergency loans for the textbooks that I need each term—money I otherwise would not have.

Visiting with my advisor regularly has allowed me to stay attuned with my responsibilities. My advisor has gotten to know me personally and academically. This has been great opportunity for me to stay informed of other opportunities available to me. In addition to having a great mentor I am able to participate in activities and workshops that teach strategies, connect me with other people and assist me in finding resources and opportunities available on campus and in my community.


Ever since I have become involved in this program I am much more concentrated in my school work.  I have little to no stress and feel that I can finally focus on my school work. I see SSS as a resource where I will only keep improving personally and academically.


Month: May 2014

My name is Polina Guzenko. I am currently a sophomore at PSU and have been part of TRiO-Student Support Services (SSS) for about a year. I was also hired as one of their student workers last Fall 2013. I was born in Ukraine and immigrated to the United States in 1999. After high school, I started my college journey at PSU. During freshman year as I struggled to navigate my way around campus, I didn't know which classes to take, how to find scholarships, or where to find a community on campus. I felt like I didn't belong and dreaded coming to school. Around spring term, a TRiO-SSS Peer Outreach Mentor visited my freshman inquiry class and made an announcement about the TRiO-SSS program. As she was describing it, I knew that I had discovered something special. They would be able to offer everything that I required in order to be a successful student and not dread coming to campus anymore. I filled out an application and was elated when I got accepted into the program.


The wonderful and informative advisors, numerous workshops and social events finally made me feel like I belonged at PSU. I used and continue to use the benefits they offer; Priority Registration, workshops, social events, advising sessions, and textbook buying services. The atmosphere in the office is inviting and safe, for which I am most thankful. I am very grateful that I found TRIO-SSS; the friendly staff is supportive of my goals in order for me to graduate with a Business Administration of Human Resources and Management degree in the near future.


Month: June 2014


Hi, my name is Karla Andrade. I am a 22 year young Latina, currently a senior studying communications and philosophy. I started my journey into higher education right after graduating high school in 2010 and attended PSU for my first year of college. As my second year was approaching, a lot of significant financial barriers appeared which forced me to make the difficult decision of moving back home in Klamath Falls, Oregon. This decision helped me to save money and I ended up enrolling at a local community college to continue my education. It wasn't until January 2013 that I had the opportunity to come back to PSU to finish my bachelor's degree. My ultimate goals are to become a reporter for a Spanish communications company and serve as an example to the Latino community. 



It was through a friend that I learned about the helpful TRiO-SSS program to which I applied and was accepted. TRiO-SSS has helped me organize my goals and figure out what resources there are to help me succeed in college. What I find most helpful is the one-on-one academic advising I receive from the advisers. This program has helped me learn about new opportunities to develop professional skills which have given me confidence for the job market. 
I am very excited to share that I am one of 22 young women who were selected to participate in a national program in Washington, DC this June. I will be the only Oregonian attending the program.



Month: July 2014

Hi, my name is Arturo Hernandez and I am senior at PSU. The path that brought me this far in my education to PSU has been very challenging.   I always wanted to continue my education. I completed my GED and I applied to Portland Community College.  It took a long time to complete an Associate’s degree as a drugs and alcohol counselor. I had to start taking ESL classes and get accustomed to school again after many years.  After finishing my Associate’s degree as a drug and alcohol counselor, I was accepted to the School of Social Work at Portland State University


 At Portland State, have guidance and support from the amazing college advisers. TRIO – Student Support Services is been a crucial part in to my intellectual journey through college.  TRIO – SSS is like home, for a non-traditional, first generation student like me.  There is a variety of services such as computers, workshops, and many other services, but most important, the marvelous SSS advisors, who not only give guidance and support, but also listen to my complaints, disappointments and frustrations.  They are always there to give my directions and give me courage to continue my journey. This fall term I start my internship and I am planning to graduate as a generalist social worker in the spring of 2015.


Month: August & September 2014

My name is Asma Aba. I came to the United States from Somalia in 1997 and I have been living here ever since. I am a first generation college student at Portland State University.

Before the start of my freshman year I was in the TRiO – SSS Summer Bridge Program. Through that program I gained some insight about TRiO – SSS and the services it provides. For my first year at PSU I was accepted into the Access program which is a remarkable scholarship program. However, this program supports students financially and academically for their first year only. My sophomore year I faced a few challenges with registering for classes and became confused about what to major in.  Then my friends encouraged me to apply to the TRiO - SSS program after informing me of how much it helped them. Contemplating over the benefits of the program and with the challenges from the previous year, I was determined to be a TRiO – SSS student.



Through TRiO-SSS there are so many opportunities to get involved and build a stronger community. Some experiences I enjoyed were leading workshops, attending events, among other opportunities. I have made many friends through the TRiO - SSS community and I obtained even more benefits from the TRiO - SSS services than I initially was seeking out. Whenever I would feel stuck regarding academics, my TRiO - SSS advisor always directs me to the best options for dealing with my situations. Also, my advisor always amazes me with options available to me that I would have otherwise not known were possible. Thanks to my TRiO-SSS advisor for asking me about my decisions, now I feel more confident about pursuing my BA in Psychology with a minor in Arabic. In addition to the immense academic support from my advisor, the other TRiO – SSS staff assisted me in receiving financial support. One of the financial opportunities I acquired and find pleasure in is working at the front desk. I am grateful for all of the staff members and students of TRiO – SSS.  They are very friendly. I enjoy their company and I feel honored to be a part of the TRiO – SSS community.

 Month: October 2014

My name is Yvette Perez-Chavez and I am a senior majoring in sociology at Portland State. When I began my first semester at PSU, everything was new. I was a transfer student from California and had never lived in a big city. It was a complete culture shock. Although I was in a new environment, there was one thing I was very familiar with, and that was the TRiO-Student Support Services program.

I had been in TRIO-SSS my last two years at Modesto Junior College before transferring, and  it was the guidance and support I received from my counselors there that led me to PSU. The first thing I did upon registering for classes was apply to the TRiO program. Fortunately I was accepted early on in the semester because I had no idea how to manage student loans, little knowledge of PSU’s graduation requirements, and needed advice regarding my choice in major and future career options. With the help from my amazing advisor Andrea, I was able to set up a financial aid package that worked with my budget, I changed my major confident in the decision I made, and set up an educational plan that ensured I would graduate on the timeline I was following.

Not only has TRIO-SSS provided me with the support and resources I needed to navigate two different college systems successfully, but it has introduced me with opportunities to further my knowledge in my fields of interest, and has connected me with resources to help me pay for me education. With help from Rosalyn, our Coordinator of Instruction, I was able to win two scholarship opportunities at PSU. This year I will be working as a Peer Mentor for the University Studies program, and will be conducting my own research project as a TRiO - McNair Scholar.  

Being a first-generation college student, I never imagined these opportunities for myself. Both of my parents are immigrants from Mexico, and neither one of them went past elementary school. Out of five siblings, I am the youngest and first to be on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.  I consider myself extremely lucky to have stumbled upon the TRiO-SSS program early on in my college career and I am grateful to have received the encouragement and support from previous and current TRiO staff members that has led me this far. 

 Month: November & December 2014

Hello, my name is Khoi Tran and I am a senior. I was born in the country side of Vietnam. To help with my education, my parents had to sacrifice a lot. My mother took my sister and me to the city when I turned second grade. My father could only visit us once in a while due to his work at the farm. In 2008, I had my changing point when I put the first step into the United States of America. That was when I realized the meaning of freedom, opportunity, and community.


Living in diversity society and being an immigrant, I want to go to a school where I have familiar environment. Portland State University is where I decide to stop by for my educational goal. I have been a student at PSU for more than 4 years. I am finishing my second major in Business – Supply and Logistics Management after my first major in Chemistry. I have been having great experience with classes and professors. I cannot hide my excitement for my future classes and graduation.

Along that road to success, Student Support Services (SSS) have been by my side and keep me stay on that road. SSS provided me opportunity to participate in Summer Bridge Program, where I learned almost everything about PSU. In addition, my academic advisor always checks on my progress in school and helps me planning to achieve my goals. At SSS, I can always find my opportunities, a friendly community and become a success student.