Fidel Garcia Morales, Carlos Cruz, Emely Medina and Lidia Valdez received Act Six scholarships that will cover their full need to attend Oregon-based Christian colleges.
The Act Six Scholarship selects approximately 25 of the most promising urban leaders in the Salem-Portland area for full-tuition, full-need scholarships to three local Christian colleges. Four of this year’s recipients are from McNary High School.
McNary seniors Carlos Cruz, Emely Medina, Lidia Valdez and Fidel Garcia Morales received full-ride scholarships to attend college this fall.
“They come from amazing families, but some difficult backgrounds, so to see these kids have this opportunity, I can’t even describe how exciting it is to know that they don’t have to worry about school cost. They can really pour their full potential into their future and make a difference in their local community,” said Rochelle Farris, a guidance counselor at McNary.
The goal of the Act Six program is to equip emerging urban and community leaders to engage the college campus and their communities at home through a simple but powerful four-part strategy:
• Recruit and Select
• Train and Prepare
• Send and Fund
• Support and Inspire
For Morales, being a leader starts at his house.
Morales was raised by a single mother and is the oldest of four siblings. After he’s done with school, he picks up all of his younger siblings from their schools and then, often times, will make dinner for them and take care of them before they go to bed.
“I’m the oldest so I have to set the example,” Morales said.
During the selection process — which involves an application review, an interactive session and a campus visit — Morales felt he was able to stand out as a strong candidate.
“What made me different was that I had what it took to be a leader. I truly care for others and I think that’s what made me stand out,” Morales said.
Morales will be attending Warner Pacific University and plans to study nursing.
“This scholarship means a lot to me. It’s another opportunity to further my education and make a positive impact on the campus and in the community,” Morales said.
For many Act Six recipients, their scholarship is more meaningful that just a way to pay for school. For Valdez, it’s about developing her skills and abilities to make the world a better place.
“I believe in equity of voice and I think that everyone deserves to be heard. My purpose for this scholarship is to develop my leadership skills to help others when they can’t be heard,” Valdez said.
Valdez is on the yearbook committee at McNary and volunteers her time working with children at her local church.
Valdez’s love for kids made her want to pursue a degree in elementary education with a minor in counseling.
“I really like helping young kids out because they’re the future generation,” Valdez said.
Valdez fell in love with Corban when she went on her campus visit and is thrilled to be going to a Christian university.
“I feel like this scholarship was a window of opportunity for me to further my education. Being a private Christian institution, I feel like it will be the perfect school for me,” Valdez said. “I’m just really thankful because sometimes you don’t have the resources to go to college, but this just extended the hand of help for me.”
Act Six Scholarship winners often times end up being first-generation college students, which is the case for Cruz, who will also be attending Corban.
“To know that I don’t have to worry about money, especially for me and my parents’ sake, is just a huge sigh of relief,” Cruz said.
Since his sophomore year, Cruz has worked more than 30 hours a week at the McDonald’s on Lancaster Street in Salem. He also volunteers with AVID and with kids at local elementary schools.
Whether he’s at work or at school, Cruz takes pride in being selfless, which he credits to his Christian faith.
“When I see a person struggling to find change or if they forget their wallet, I’ll just cover it. At the end of the day, it’s not about saving the world, it’s about just trying to make someone’s day better,” Cruz said. “Faith is very important in my life. I don’t think I would have made it here without my faith.”
While he’s leaning towards going into pre-dentistry, Cruz isn’t 100 percent sure of what he wants to study. He’s just excited for the opportunity to go to college.
“I’m really not passionate about anything yet, but I know I just want to further my education. Education is a big way to have influence,” Cruz said.
Medina, on the other hand, is incredibly passionate about law enforcement and has a clear vision of how she wants to impact her community.
“As a Latina, I really want to change the Latino community’s perspective on law enforcement. They feel like they need to defend themselves against law enforcement rather than see them as someone that is there to help them,” Medina said.
When Medina was notified that she would have the opportunity to study forensic psychology and receive firearms training at Corban University on a full scholarship, she immediately thought of her family.
“I love that I can make my parents and grandparents proud after everything they have done for me. It meant that I could walk home and tell my parents that they wouldn’t have to worry about paying a penny for me to go to school. That was the greatest gift I’ve ever had in my life,” Medina said.
Although she went through some rough patches earlier on in her high school life, her faith is what helped her through some dark days.
“I had a lot a difficulty with mental health and self-harm, but when I decided to let God back into my life, it was like everything started to fall into place,” Medina said.
The Act Six Scholarship has the ability to change people’s lives, and Farris believes that these four students will use what they have been given to change the lives of others.
“This particular scholarship is really special for a lot of reasons. What’s exciting about it is seeing kids that I know to be leaders and are already involved in their school community, to take that from McNary to another campus,” Farris said.