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DANE'S STORY

Hometown: Medford, Oregon
Year: Sophomore
Major: General Science
Career goal: To become a doctor or physician's assistant

Dane's mom picked him up at school one day and took him to lunch to deliver the bad news: They were losing their house. His mom's job as a loan officer for a mortgage broker had all but disappeared when the nation's housing bubble burst, leaving her bankrupt and the family homeless. Dane, his mom and sister each lived separately with friends for eight months in his senior year of high school. But the experience only strengthened Dane's determination to go to college and do well. "It motivated me," he said. "I didn't want to live like that."

KAYLA'S STORY

Hometown: Castle Rock, Washington
Year: Freshman
Major: Bio-chemistry (pre-med)
Career goal: To be a cosmetic surgeon

Kayla decided to come to Portland State because of its strong connection to Oregon Health & Science University, where she wants to attend medical school. Her graduating class in high school had less than 140 students, and she was attracted to the allure of attending a big urban university. But her dad, who has raised her since she was three, recently had his hours cut in half at a Longview logging yard and couldn't help her pay for it. Without scholarship help, she probably would have attended a community college. "My scholarship is definitely what enabled me to come here," she said.

MONICA'S STORY

Hometown: Hillsboro, Oregon
Year: Sophomore
Major: Biology
Career goal: To work in the health care field

Monica's scholarships have made it possible for her to attend Portland State without working full-time to pay tuition. Her mother, a preschool teacher, and her father, who works at a drycleaner, have lost income since the recession hit and can't help her financially. She lives at home to save money and help them out. "This way I can really, really focus," she said. "It doesn't come down to a decision of school or work. I feel so fortunate not to have to be in that kind of situation."

JORGE'S STORY

Hometown: Woodburn, Oregon
Year: Sophomore
Major: Business Marketing
Career goal: To start a sports apparel company

Two weeks after Jorge graduated from high school, his father, a janitor, had a stroke and was permanently disabled. Jorge told his father he would give up college to get a job and help support the family. His father wouldn't let him. That fall, Jorge enrolled in Portland State as planned, paying his own way and becoming the first in his family to go to college. This year, he got a full-tuition scholarship and his first 4.0. "It's one less thing to worry about," he said. "I can just focus on school."

CAROLYN'S STORY

Hometown: Gresham, Oregon
Year: Junior
Major: Criminal Justice
Career goal: To work as an advocate for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence

Carolyn dropped out of high school at age 15, started using drugs and alcohol and was living in a van when she finally sought treatment five years ago. After she had been clean for nine months, she enrolled in a transitions program at Mount Hood Community College. Last fall she transferred to Portland State and surprised herself at how well she did academically. Her scholarships motivate her to work hard, she said. The donors "believed that I could do it, and it helped me believe in myself."

ALEX'S STORY

Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Year: Senior
Major: Business Marketing
Career goal: To work in technology marketing and get an MBA

Alex knew from an early age that he would have to find a way to pay for college by himself. His family came to Portland from Vietnam when he was four. His father died when Alex was 12. And his mother works as a kitchen assistant in a restaurant. But he was determined to go to college no matter what. With scholarship support, he enrolled in the honors business program, spent a semester in London and was able to pursue an unpaid marketing internship. "I'm trying to get the most out of my education," he said.