On Their Way
First PathwayOregon class graduates
For Myesha Abdulrahman, the odds of being the first in her family to attend college were slim. Her memories of growing up in northeast Portland include days without enough food. Going without power or water because the bills were overdue. And homeless stints, staying with friends, with family, or in shelters.
Abdulrahman defied the odds. She was an honor student and junior class president at Jefferson High School. She worked hard, got involved, and volunteered. But paying for college still seemed like a faraway dream.
"My mom was a single mom and she struggled with three kids," recalls Abdulrahman. "Nothing was easy for us. It didn't seem as if college would be an opportunity for me because we couldn't pay the bills. We couldn't eat. So how was it that we were going to pay thousands of dollars to go to college?"
Four years ago, Abdulrahman was accepted, along with 414 other Oregonians, to the UO as a PathwayOregon student. The program promised her four years of tuition and fees, making up for the costs that other scholarships and grants didn't cover.
PathwayOregon also provides tutoring, counseling, workshops, and advice—academic and personal support that makes a big difference for first generation college students. Some students receive housing support as well. This June, the first class of PathwayOregon students earned their diplomas.
"Sometimes it's mind blowing," says Abdulrahman, a psychology major. "It feels amazing. A college degree to me is a sense of accomplishment and success. And knowledge to back me up for the rest of my life. I feel like I have grown a lot."
Thanks to donor support, the first four years of PathwayOregon have been a resounding success. Students are staying in school, and (though the official numbers aren't in yet) their graduation rates will likely exceed comparison groups.
"In the state of Oregon, approximately one-quarter of lower-income students who begin a bachelor's degree complete the requirements within four years," says PathwayOregon coordinator Carla Bowers. "We anticipate beating this rate substantially."
In the fall, Abdulrahman will start working toward a master of public administration degree with a specialization in human resource management at Portland State University. Her goal? A career in human resources. Considering all she's overcome, the odds are in her favor.
"For both me and my family, college is my stepping stone to being successful and getting out of those trends of poverty," says Abdulrahman. "I struggled as a child. And I wouldn't want anyone to go through that. I wouldn't want my children to go through that. It's setting the expectations and the standards for the younger generations to come. To know that a college education is possible. That we can do it."
Watch video ››