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The next COCC Foundation scholarship application cycle opens Feb. 1.

Being the first at anything is daunting. To be the very first in one’s family to attend college often involves more than sheer perseverance and adapting to a new landscape — it can require facing obstacles of a financial nature.

For Hector, a first-generation college student now in his second year in the networking and cybersecurity program at Central Oregon Community College (COCC), his bright future has been illuminated by his own efforts and ambitions. But his goals have been much easier to achieve thanks to a full scholarship funded by community contributions to the COCC Foundation.

“I’ve found my purpose at COCC,” shared the Redmond resident, “but I couldn’t do any of this without this scholarship.” Having built his first computer at age 14, and encouraged by his mother to try something tech-related at COCC, Hector, a dean’s list student, is now on his way to completing a cybersecurity certificate. He already has plans for his next step, including earning a four-year degree. “I want to stop cyber threats,” he added. “I’ll be helping businesses find their vulnerabilities by trying to break their online security as an ethical hacker, spotting weakness and becoming their insurance against real attacks. I want to protect and serve.”

Hector’s story is unique, but he’s part of a bigger story, too. One in three students at COCC is unable to meet educational expenses with existing resources, including family contributions, student earnings and the aid of grants. And, like Hector, first-generation college students are often determined to give back to their community upon graduation: Recent data from the educational research firm EAB shows that 61% of first-generation students have indicated that intention in a survey, compared with 43% of their continuing-generation counterparts.

Brenda, a student from Prineville, is training in COCC’s nursing assistant program. “I graduated from Crook County High School in 2020, and in my senior year I knew I wanted to go into the medical field,” said the first-generation student. “My goal is to become a registered nurse.” Currently completing prerequisites, Brenda will apply to the nursing program in 2022. “I want to thank the Foundation for selecting me to receive this scholarship.”

Mark and Gigi Copeland, former residents of Prineville, are longtime contributors to the COCC Foundation. “The community has an opportunity to help see that people who want to go to school, get to go to school,” said Mark, a retired attorney. “By giving to the Foundation, it helps that happen.”

Copeland connects with scholarships on a personal level. His own higher education path received full scholarship backing all the way through law school. Contributions to education, he emphasizes, benefit all. “Both society and the individual are better off.”

Monica is a student in COCC’s health information management program, learning skills in data systems, such as billing and coding, and getting ready to make an impact in her community. “My goal is to work in hospitals and assist my community in the best possible way,” said the Madras resident. For this first-generation college student, her calling in the health care field comes with a unique perspective. “As someone who has experienced poverty and was raised to avoid medical treatment due to cost, I understand the fear many of our community members have,” she shared. That empathy and insight will greatly inform her work as she connects with patients. “My Foundation scholarship has opened the door to opportunities I may not have had otherwise,” she added. “And it’s shaped a positive future for my family as well.”

For the 2020-21 academic year, 364 COCC students received scholarships based on merit, totaling some $1.72 million in educational aid. Backed by this personal endorsement, scholarship recipients earned a collective 3.34 average GPA, surpassing the 3.06 GPA of their peers, and took 1.71 more credits per term.

The next COCC Foundation scholarship application cycle opens on Feb. 1. Find out how to apply for a scholarship or learn more about how to contribute to the COCC Foundation at cocc.edu/foundation or by calling 541-383-7225.

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