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A full ride, and then some


Gresham High valedictorian Eric Johnsen earns more than $61,000 for college

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Eric Johnsen

By Eric Johnsen’s calculations, he has earned $1,356 per hour for his freshman year of college.

Johnsen, who graduates Thursday, June 13, as one of the valedictorians of Gresham High School, has received more than $61,000 in scholarships for the next four years at the University of Oregon. He estimates spending 45 hours in total on his applications.

“Many teens look at today only and don’t think about the future, but he’s very thoughtful,” said Kendra Maddox, college and career center coordinator for Gresham High. “He is always thinking forward and very careful in what he chooses to do in order to succeed.”

Maddox said the Gresham High class of 2013 has been awarded $5.6 million in college scholarships, a record number in her eight years.

Johnsen has more than a full-ride scholarship for his freshman year at the University of Oregon, where he will study biochemistry and carry on the family tradition of being a Duck.

His largest award is the $9,577 Scholarship for Oregon Scientists. He is also a recipient of the Dale Kruger Scholarship for $2,000 a year.

“I was really ecstatic I would be able to attend college without as much of a financial burden as I may have had,” Johnsen, 18, said. “As a middle income family, we knew we wouldn’t fit into the FAFSA benefits or Pell Grants, but because we weren’t a higher income family, we knew we’d be facing loans.”

Impressed by a Centennial student two years ago who managed to win a Daughters of the American Revolution scholarship as a male, Johnsen found his driving inspiration to go for any scholarship.

Between last September and the end of his senior year, Johnsen visited his career center regularly; scoured federal, college and high school websites for scholarship postings; and honed his essay writing and proofreading skills.

As his senior year wound down, Johnsen had applied for 45 scholarships, 10 of which were through the Oregon Student Access Commission.

“I tried to beat the deadlines by a lot,” Johnsen said. “Some weren’t due until December, but I proofread and mailed them off by October.”

For essay material, he drew from his experience injuring his foot in cross country last fall. Johnsen had a stress fracture and ran the district meet with a broken foot, going straight into a boot after his race.

“I was able to write how proud I was and how gratifying it was to lead my team from the sidelines (Johnsen was team captain and voted MVP).”

Along with cross country, Johnsen participated in track and field in high school and will return to Camp Collins this summer as a counselor.

“I like to be a people person and help others out,” Johnsen said. “I’m hoping to contribute to the medical community.”

Johnsen has dreams of working in research biology. He is also considering eventually applying for medical school.

“He’s like the full package — a 4.0, top SAT scores,” Maddox said. “He’s a genuinely nice, fun kid. He’s going to bring a lot to the table.”