Class of 2019 - Portland

Thanks to an exciting partnership with the Renaissance Foundation, our Beat the Odds scholarship increased from $10,000 over four years to $16,000, and the number of scholars grew from four to 16!

Meet the 2019 Portland Beat the Odds Scholars

Tosha Kitungano, Roosevelt High School

Originally born in a refugee camp, Tosha spent her childhood knowing nothing but poverty. When she came to the United States, she was blown away by the opportunities available to her here, and the freedoms she can enjoy as a woman, which were not available to her in her home country. Tosha plans to study business at the University of Oregon with the help of her Beat the Odds scholarship.

Alejandro Perez Garcia, Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy

Alejandro’s childhood was defined by financial instability and parents who worked extremely hard for the little that they had. He did not take his academics seriously until high school, when his brother gave him both a confidence boost and a warning: ‘you have a lot of potential, so unless you want to work as hard as mom and dad when you grow up, you should get serious about school.' That’s exactly what he did, and as a result, he now plans to attend Oregon State University with the help of his Beat the Odds scholarship.

Elena Juarez, Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy

Elena was born into a family that is heavily involved in criminal activity. Her father and most of her brothers are incarcerated. Elena faced abuse from one of her brothers before he went to prison, but found her way to a much better place once he was gone. She was home schooled for most of her childhood because she has PTSD, but she discovered a welcoming environment at Woodburn High School. She is very active in her academics, and decided to focus her senior project on finding resources for other students who also experience PTSD.

Joshua Medina, Illinois Valley High School

Josh had a tumultuous early childhood before being adopted into a new home. Following a family tragedy, he sank into a deep depression. It was the support he found at school, and with his counselor, Mr. Merrill, that helped Josh refocus and get on track to graduate. He plans to attend Pacific University with the help of his Beat the Odds scholarship.

Jessica Perez, Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy

Jessica is here as an unaccompanied minor. Her mother chose a new boyfriend over Jessica’s step father, and ultimately, chose life with that boyfriend over life with her own daughter. Jessica has learned to process the trauma she faced through art, and became very close with her art teacher at Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy as a result. 

Justice English, Roosevelt High School

Justice overcame incredible turmoil in her childhood, including homelessness, a culture of low expectations within the community, and racism at previous schools. She found a supportive family at Roosevelt High School, and particularly, with one of her teachers named Mz. Renee. Mz. Renee helped connect Justice with the Black Student Union and Black Girl Magic, and she soon became deeply involved with both. Justice plans to attend the University of Oregon with the help of her Beat the Odds scholarship.

Nadzeya Pahodzina, Parkrose High School

Originally from Belarus, Nadzeya found herself the primary caretaker for her siblings when her father left, leaving her mother to work multiple jobs to support the family. Nadzeya was always a good student, but she pursued her academics to set a good example for her younger siblings. It wasn’t until she joined AVID that she realized she needed to pursue her education for herself too, and that she was worthy of the investment.

Karina Alcantara, Benson High School

Karina faced years of abuse from her little brother’s father. One day her freshman year, Karina mustered the courage to call 911 on an old, discarded cell phone. Finally free from the torment, Karina’s grades improved and she became very involved in school, Latino Network, and Oregon Student Voice.

Kimmi Dawson, Sam Barlow High School

Kimmi overcame a chaotic childhood as she, her mother, and her sister struggled to get away from her abusive father. Kimmi wound up living with her softball coach, and having that space allowed her to focus on her education. She says that if she didn’t attend Sam Barlow High School, she wouldn’t be graduating. The close relationships she has forged with one of her teachers, her counselor, and the school community have allowed her to get to where she is today.

Blair DeLetts, Parkrose High School

Blair’s academics suffered when her father became ill with cirrhosis of the liver. The stress from mounting medical bills and his declining health lead her mom to have mental issues and created tensions at home. As Blair’s grades dipped under the pressure, her AVID class served as a turning point. Her seat in the class was threatened by her falling performance, and the threat alone of losing the opportunity caused Blair to turn things around. Her AVID teacher became like a second family to her, and helped keep Blair on-track to graduate. She’s now in line to be the first generation in her family to earn a college degree.

Khan Tung, Reynolds High School

Khan is Zomi – an oppressed minority group from Burma. Khan and his family escaped their village and came to the United States when he was a young teenager. He learned English once he got here, and became very close with his ELD teacher, Ms. Ali. He is now deeply involved with College Possible, which is helping him navigate the college admissions process.

Johana Amani, Roosevelt High School

Johana is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. A tumultuous and abusive family situation led Johana’s mother to bring her and her sisters to Kenya, where they stayed for a few years while they awaited clearance to come to the United States. Johana found a welcoming community at Roosevelt High School, and forged a close relationship with a teacher there named Mz. Renee. Thanks to the support she found, Johana is now planning to attend the University of Oregon with the help of her Beat the Odds scholarship.

Keyshawn Jackson, Pendleton High School

Keyshawn served as the primary speaker for his cohort of 13 scholars at our Beat the Odds ceremony. His childhood was marked by instability from both parents being in and out of prison. While his mother is emotionally very supportive of Keyshawn, his school family became a major source of stability to help him through hard times. As a result, he now plans to attend Oregon State University with the help of his Beat the Odds scholarship.


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