Four PCC students win scholarships to study in Spain

January 25, 2013

The competitive national scholarship program aims to increase diversity in study abroad programs. PCC is top community college in total scholars awarded

PORTLAND, Ore. (Jan. 18, 2013) – Four Portland Community College students have earned a combined $17,000 in Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program grants for study abroad trips this spring. No other community college in the country had more scholars.

In the spring, Mikaila Berni of Sherwood, Shanayia Munoz of North Plains, Christopher Shauinger of Southeast Portland and Yana Velasquez of North Portland will study in Barcelona, Spain through the college’s Study Abroad Program. The Gilman program is a competitive national scholarship that aims to increase diversity in study abroad programs, giving priority to community college students, nontraditional students or students that contribute ethnic diversity. Velasquez and Shauinger earned the maximum award of $5,000 while the remaining earned between $3,500 each.

The number of PCC students receiving Gilman scholarships stands at five for the 2012-13 academic year as K’leigh Mattias of North Portland earned an award for PCC’s Italy program last fall.

“Only a few community colleges in the U.S. had Gilman Winners and PCC was the top award winner among all the community colleges who had winners for the scholarship,” said Nicole Tobin, the college’s Study Abroad Program coordinator. “These students worked incredibly hard to create strong essays for the scholarship, which highlighted why international experience, Spanish skills and studies abroad might strengthen their college studies and make them more competitive in job markets in their future fields. I’m just proud to have PCC be part of a growing movement of incorporating study abroad into community college curriculum.”

Studying to be a guidance counselor, Shauinger is like most of the winners. He’s new to Spanish, taking language classes for roughly the past 18 months. Without the Gilman scholarship, he said he would never have had the money to participate in the study abroad opportunity.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Shauinger, who plans to video conference with a fourth grade class during his trip to answer questions and relate his Barcelona experience. “I was just ecstatic.”

Students enrolled at PCC have the opportunity to participate in a variety of options through the college’s Study Abroad Program. PCC offers general education study abroad trips to England, Italy and Spain, language immersion programs to Mexico and Spain, and short-term summer trips to Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru. But the tuition and costs are in the thousands of dollars, which can limit access for some students. As a result, Tobin actively recruits interested students that are in financial need to apply to the scholarship program.

First-year Spanish student Velasquez wants to be a registered dietician when she’s finished with college and plans to work with diverse communities, which spurred her to want to join the Study Abroad Program. But due to her financial situation she didn’t have the money for the Barcelona program, which costs a little more than $6,000 per person. With the Gilman scholarship, now she does.

“I was shocked when I got it,” Velasquez said of the Gilman. “The fact that I got the full amount was amazing to me. I’m going there with the goal to learn and to better my skills. I’m going to try really hard to make the most of it. It’s kind of like a dream come true for me to be able to incorporate something productive and be able to enjoy Barcelona at the same time.”

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