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A scholarship program at Portland Community College expanded this year to include students who graduated from Hillsboro and Beaverton high schools.

The PCC Future Connect program is geared toward students who have been identified as being the first in their families to attend college or who are from low-income families. It is being offered for the first time to Washington County students because of donations from the cities of Hillsboro and Beaverton.

“Students who didn’t even think they were going to college are now enrolled and doing well,” said Josh Laurie, program manager for Future Connect.

PCC works with high school advisers to identify students who are eligible for the program and provides support in overcoming enrollment obstacles.

“We meet with students way before they start school (college) and help them navigate the system,” Laurie said.

Hillsboro and Beaverton each donated $100,000 to the program. The grants are matched through fundraising by PCC, the PCC Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust. A similar partnership with the city of Portland has been in place for Multnomah County students since 2011.

Future Connect awarded 100 scholarships to Washington County students, 50 each for Hillsboro and Beaverton. The scholarships range from $600 to $3,400, depending on need, Laurie said.

“The majority of students are looking for an Oregon transfer degree,” Laurie said. “They want to go to a four-year institution.”

Future Connect provides two years of individualized academic advising, career-guidance classes and access to tutoring and personalized coaching. Students in solid academic standing are retained at a rate three times higher than similar students who don’t receive the specialized services that Future Connect offers, Laurie said.

“The reality is life gets in the way and school isn’t always a priority,” he said.

Century High School graduate and Future Connect scholar Sara Agoot found the program to be the perfect solution to her career goals.

“I have a vision of where I’m going, but I’m not sure what field I will pursue,” Agoot says, noting she likes chemistry and wants to earn a transfer degree at PCC that would lead to a four-year degree and a career in laboratory work.

Agoot would be the first person in her family to graduate from college. She moved to Hillsboro earlier this year from Wailua, Hawaii, on the island of Kaua’i and finished her senior year at Century.

“I always valued my education,” Agoot said. “I grew up in a tough childhood. I loved being at school because being at home was hard for me. I always live by the moral that you never dwell on the things that are negative in your life. Your future is what makes you. If you really want something, you have to work for it.”

Agoot came to live with her aunt in an effort to create a better environment for herself. She pursued a Future Connect scholarship after hearing about the program from a Century counselor.

“It’s made me stronger,” said Agoot. “I’ve already changed so much as a person and it hasn’t even been one term.”

Agoot’s enthusiasm has not gone unnoticed. PCC asked her to speak on behalf of the Future Connect program at a recent event at the Rock Creek campus. Laurie said part of the commitment by students in the program is to participate in their community through work, internships and mentorship roles.

“That is the value-added part,” Laurie said. “It is a pay-it-forward mentality.”

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