Dream Big! A Tualatin Rotary Club Challenge

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Four Rotary Scholars class of 2023. Angel, Arrifin, Teejay and Jasmin.

There is a catchphrase that is very popular. Dream Big. 

It encompasses the hope that all anyone wishes can come to fruition. If only it were that easy. Big dreams need work. Big dreams require dedication. Big dreams demand constant care.

Almost a decade ago, The Tualatin Rotary Club decided to dream big. As a longtime monetary donor to local scholars, the club wondered if it could do more. Rotary President Jeff Smith, a former Tualatin High School principal, floated an idea. What if a single honorary scholarship could transform into a life-changing opportunity? 

What would happen if the club offered a renewable $4,500.00 scholarship for four years of college? What if the recipient of this scholarship was a first-generation student? What if, in addition to financial assistance, the scholar also received a mentor to help navigate all that college required? “What if” is the first step in a big dream! The next part is hard work.

A relationship with Tualatin High School had to be set in place. Scholarship application forms and communication with prospective students had to be developed. The club decided to select the scholars in their junior year of high school and provide mentorship throughout their senior year and all the way through college. 

Present and former Rotary Scholarship Mentors. Shannon Austin, Julie Fugate, Diane Bonica, Jeff Smith, Michelle Schnabel, and Lisa Thorpe.

Adult mentors had to commit to a five-year relationship with each student. The possibility of a college education had to be communicated to students who had no family history of a college graduate. In 2013, the first scholar was selected. The big dream took form.

How do you mentor a college student? How much work does it take? How often will you meet? What guidance is the best? These and many more questions had no definitive answer. Big dreams are often new challenges, and Rotary found that each student had different needs and different situations.   In most instances, it was the scholar that led the way. 

When you are the first in your family to attend college, you are driven to succeed! As of June 2022, there are five graduated Rotary Scholars and five others in school. They are thriving in their careers and advanced educational pursuits.  

Big Dreams require care. The Rotary Club must raise funds to support the scholarships. With four students in school each year, the financial commitment is $20,000.00. The fundraiser is the 5K Regatta Run. It is a community event on October 16th in conjunction with the city’s Pumpkin Regatta. 

In addition to the first-generation funds, the race also provides scholarships in memory of Corporal Matt Lembke. 

 All are encouraged to participate. “Step by step” scholars are supported! The website regattarun.com is up and ready for registrations.

BUT the dream got bigger! Every year over 20 Tualatin High School students apply for the one scholarship. TuHS Staff consider all applications and narrow the field down to four students. Rotary members then interview the candidates and select the winner. It has been a challenging decision. The finalists are all incredibly talented and motivated! Rotary dreamt of a year when all finalists could be given the scholarship. 2022 was that year! Through generous anonymous donations, all four TuHS students will be going to college. 

Their dreams include heart surgeon, fashion designer, business executive and teacher with a flair for writing. 

Their dreams are now Rotary’s dreams!

Changing the trajectory of a student’s life is powerful. 

A college degree benefits the scholars, their families and our community. Every winner of the Rotary scholarship wishes to give back to this city. They are a bright spot in our future. If you would like to learn more about scholarships or Rotary, visit the website www.tualatinrotary.org.