Read the original article in The Oregonian here.
Jessica Urbina (right) and Daisy Tobon Romero (left) strode down a hallway in Vose Elementary, clutching 3-foot by 2-foot size scholarship checks.
"I remember the hallways looked so big," Urbina said.
Both of them remembered getting lost in the circular school.
But that was years ago. The two left Vose Elementary in 2006 and headed for Whitford Middle School. Both will graduate from Beaverton High School on June 10 and plan to attend Portland State University. They'll get a boost from those giant cardboard checks, which spell out $1,000 each. (The real ones will arrive later).
Tobon Romero and Urbina were this year's Vose Elementary scholarship winners, the funding for which is provided by current students and staff to former Vose students who are heading to college.
With gift baskets, candy sales and restaurant fundraisers, the students and staff worked with the Vose community to raise $5,000 this year. They expected more applicants but admitted they're not as good at marketing the scholarship as they are at fundraising. They're keeping the additional funds to ensure they have enough for future scholarships.
Urbina and Tobon Romero both started at Vose, knowing very little English, but they credited their teachers with never giving up on them and holding them to high standards.
"Teachers at Vose never put you down," Urbina said. "They pushed you and they saw the potential you had,"
It was more difficult for native Spanish speakers back then because Vose was not a dual immersion school. Everything was taught in English. Now, children whose native language is English or Spanish are taught in both languages.
"Just because your (English language learners) doesn't mean you won't be successful," Tobon Romero, told an audience of children during an assembly at Vose.
But both teenagers warned the students that it wasn't easy getting good grades and preparing for college.
Urbina said she didn't have a computer at home and had to write her papers on a library computer, she walked to school, was on her own for homework and babysat her little brother until her parents got home at 8 p.m. She would often stay up until midnight to finish her homework.
"You can accomplish anything that you put your mind to," she told the young students.
One thing changed for them in high school. They got smart phones and typed their essays with their thumbs, placing the papers in Google Docs where they could access them and print them at school.
Tobon Romero and Urbina are best friends. They were acquaintances at Vose Elementary, but ended up playing flutes in the Whitford Middle School band and developed a friendship.
At Portland State, Urbina is considering a medical degree with plans to become a pediatric physical therapist. She went through the Health Careers program at Beaverton High and was inspired to help children after spending time with a pediatric physical therapist at Providence St. Vincents Medical Center.
Tobon Romero is considering a marketing degree with an eye on international business. "I want work experience outside the U.S.," she said.