Nine Oak Harbor High School seniors received scholarships at the 18th annual Champions of Diversity Program at Skagit Valley College.
These students were among 59 area high school seniors to receive funding to attend Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, The Evergreen State College, the University of Washington, Washington State University, Western Washington State University and Skagit Valley College.
“Students recognized through the COD program are actively involved in their school and community,” Carla Hurst, a career counselor at OHHS, said in an email. “They volunteer, participate in extracurricular activities and are student leaders.”
Paige Jackson received an award of $6,000 to attend Western Washington University, where she wants to study biochemistry. She hopes to someday research vaccinations.
Jackson founded a dance club at the high school and is also the senior class treasurer.
In her application for the award, she wrote about overcoming financial adversity and “being a person of color at the school and in a leadership position, and having people be able to look up to me and people that are of color thinking they can be in a leadership position.”
Jayden Houchin, the recipient of a $5,000 scholarship to Evergreen, founded the school’s multicultural club and is the associated student body president. Houchin wants to double major in political science and computer science and eventually be the superintendent of public instruction, “and, if that goes well, president.”
Houchin, who is Filipino-American, has lived nearly his whole life in Oak Harbor.
“A lot of assumptions are made about what I am and what I can do,” he said.
For Jackson, she was worried about being a stereotype. “Being a person of color and not having money, I used to live off of food stamps when I was younger,” she said. “I just didn’t want to be another statistic, I think that’s the biggest concern. You always want to make it out, always want to do better than where you’re at, be better than what you see.”
Both students agreed the scholarship was a good way to promote diversity and help individuals in difficult situations attend college.
Other OHHS recipients included Jada Rennes for $6,000 to attend Western, Desirae Payne for $5,000 to attend Evergreen, Ainsley Pollitt and Nicole Sanchez for $4,000 to attend the University of Washington College of Engineering, Miranda Abunimeh for $1,500 to attend the University of Washington, and Alyssa McCauley and Jhaylan Munger for $1,5000 to attend Skagit Valley College.
“I’m just really grateful for the opportunity,” Jackson said. “It’s nice to feel appreciated and to know that you matter.”