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Inspiring Stories from the Recipients of the Inaugural Yaden Family Endowed Scholarship
Author: PSU Alumni Association
Posted: April 17, 2013

PSU Alums David and Janice Yaden created the Yaden Family endowed scholarship to benefit hardworking students in the College of Urban and Public Affairs, who may not otherwise have the funds to attend college.

Read their Alumni Profile here.

Students Bridget Bassett and Mladen Kolundzija were the first recipients of this generous scholarship, and were honored along with other scholarship recipients at an awards ceremony on April 16 2013.

Below, these inspiring students who have both risen beyond troubled paths speak to how this scholarship will help them achieve their academic goals.             

Bridget Bassett was born and raised in Portland. She and her brother are the first in their family to attend college. Her mother graduated high school and her father did not finish. A PCC transfer student, Bridget chose Portland State University because she loved that PSU was so focused on service to the community.


“Attending college signifies my commitment to my future I have worked so hard to get back.  I have a 3.9 PSU GPA because I love school.  I see it as a privilege and honor to be a part of.  I enjoy learning, love my classes and can’t wait to begin my career.  I hope to be as compassionate and dedicated as some of the people I have met working in my field already.   

My truth is that I am a recovering drug addict.  I have experienced homelessness, addiction, desperation and circumstances most people will never face.  In this time, my most desperate times, I was shown insurmountable compassion by community health organizations such as Outside in.  These early experiences with a community health organization planted a seed that grew not only into my passion, but also my career. 

My degree is in health studies with a concentration in community health education. My life experience, as well as my volunteer work has motivated me to work in community health.  I have been a volunteer at the Cascade AIDS Project since 2008.  Seeing the positive impact this organization has had in our community and in people’s lives inspired me to pursue work in this field. 

After I finish my Bachelor's degree I hope to go on to obtain a Masters in Public Health at PSU; after which I plan to work in communicable disease prevention for a non-profit or at the county level.

Working and going to school has been incredibly difficult.  I am a server on the weekends and attend college during the week.  I have a large amount of student loan debt and at this rate graduate school may not be a possibility financially.  This scholarship enables me to continue my education and move forward with plans to apply to graduate school.  The financial relief is tremendous."

Born in Sarajevo in 1985, Mladen Kolundzija and his family moved to Belgrade when he was 7 due to the civil war. Living mainly in a refugee camp just outside of the city for ten years, he and his family were finally able to move to the U.S on a refugee asylum visa in 2002. A health science major, Mladen is studying to become a Physical Therapist.


 

“The scholarship will help me tremendously. Almost completely vanishing the costs of attending and allowing me some extra income will help not only financially, but academically and psychologically. Having a bit more money in my family’s budget will help me relax, even take a day off or two when a hard exam or finals come along. I remember  one late night coming from work and still having to do some studying ,even though the only thing I could do is lay down and go to sleep, staring at the problem and thinking “Who cares, why bother?”  …Somebody does. I just received a scholarship few weeks prior. Somebody does see the hard work and believes in my success. That notion can help you through those tough moments. I am eternally grateful for that.  

The main goal of my career as a Physical Therapist is to help as many people as I can. Another reason why I chose being a Physical Therapist is the wide range of population needing and benefiting from the treatments. Growing up as a big soccer fan my dream was to work for a club in Europe, but during my volunteering at the OHSU, my life experiences and previous training in high school I have realized that I might have a certain type of mental toughness that is needed for working with severely injured patients.

My mother has been an inspiration for me. [A college graduate] she was a teacher for a while before working in a publishing company. Bringing up my brother and me through war-time conditions and sacrificing herself relentlessly probably instilled some hard-work ethic in me. One of the tough things to see during war is highly educated and respected people having to dig dumpsters and scramble for food. These scenes were discouraging to me when I was in middle school. I thought it didn’t really matter if I went to school and which one I did. Criminals seemed to be better off than anybody. However, my mother’s support and encouragement got me started back in high school and arriving to the U.S. at the end of it meant even more opportunity for me.

The move to the U.S., though, brought other challenges. My mother’s poor health required my brother to take up any job available since the money we had with us when we moved didn’t last longer than a week and government assistance only allowed us to scrape by. I was still in high school when we moved and I tried to help out by picking up a couple of shifts. This turned out into an almost full-time job as I was finishing high school. After high school I decided to attend a yearlong massage therapy program and at least get some college or training since I was under impression that without good SAT score I will not be able to attend actual college. The massage therapy business ended up being tough for me to get in. It required a certain time period of building up the clientele and “losing money to earn money” which I could not afford since by than I was the only one working in my family. My brother had to quit as the first sign of his disability started appearing. Consequently, I took more shifts and responsibilities at work to be able to provide more for the family. Slowly, over the next five years, the thinking of attending college was fading away until my friend told me about PCC, transferring to PSU…I knew it would be tough working almost full-time and attending classes, but I felt I had to do it. My mother worked hard to enable us decent living conditions while we were growing up. I know my brother would’ve too if he could. My goal is to do the same, but doing what I would like to do. I guess, by finishing college I will be able to deal with the hardships of life, but slightly on my own terms.”