(Left to Right: Sophiya Chuprova, Maxim Zagaynov and Karla Martinez Pantoja).

Act Six — a leadership and scholarship program that connects local faith-based community affiliates with faith and social justice-based colleges to equip emerging urban and community leaders to engage the college campus and their communities — selects multiple promising urban leaders in the Salem-Portland area for full-tuition, full-need scholarships to three local Christian colleges each year.

Out of the 14 full-ride scholarships awarded in 2021, three of the recipients are from McNary High School.

McNary seniors Sophiya Chuprova, Maxim Zagaynov and Karla Martinez Pantoja each received an Act Six scholarship and will begin their college studies this fall. Chuprova and Zagaynov will be attending Corban University and Martinez Pantoja will be going to George Fox University. 

“The Act Six scholarship award is life changing. These students will not have to worry about how to pay for college. This award is a full-need scholarship that covers not only tuition, but also room, board, books and personal expenses while in college. Students can focus on their education while engaging in opportunities to be leaders on campus and in their communities,” said Rochelle Farris, the College and Career Center advisor at McNary. 

Act Six scholars must be committed to anti-racism and compelled to work for justice and equity. They also must be passionate about learning, eager to foster intercultural relationships, willing to step out of their comfort zones, committed to serving those around them and ready to make a difference on campus and at home.

One of Martinez Pantoja's main passions is social justice and community development, which is why she will be pursuing a degree in social work at George Fox as a first-generation student.

“With my education in social work, I will obtain the skills and knowledge to work with others and communicate with our families. I hope that with my knowledge, I will unite and strengthen our communities to work together and create a change in our country. My goal is to make a difference by impacting the lives of those who surround me,” Martinez Pantoja said. 

Martinez Pantoja's Christian faith plays a huge role in her life — she attends church service twice per week and is a part of a worship dance team — which is why she is thrilled to have the opportunity to attend a Christian college.

“When I gave my life to the Lord it changed who I was. It gave me a new perspective of life. Because of God, I am still here, grateful for what the Lord has planned for me,” Martinez Pantoja said. “I am profoundly excited to be a part of a community where I will grow as a student and person. I am excited to work with other students who strive for leadership and change in our communities.”

Zagaynov, on the other hand, is still undecided on what he wants to major in, but he does know that wherever his major takes him, he is looking forward to using this opportunity to benefit himself and his community.

“As a recipient of this scholarship, I feel blessed. It's a huge opportunity for me to exceed my level of education with the stress of loans off my back. I am so thankful and I can't wait to grow in the community. I can't wait to reach the pinnacle of my success in life through this educational opportunity. I want to return all the support to my community, friends, and family,” Zagaynov said.

During the selection process — which included a video submission and a virtual campus visit — Zagaynov felt he was able to stand out as a strong candidate due to his diligence in completing each phase. 

“I was very determined, persistent, responsible and dedicated to complete every phase of this scholarship (application). I made sure to attend and complete every phase on time,” Zagaynov said. “I revised and edited a lot. There was a phase where I had to record a video of myself answering a print question. I retook the video lots of times because I wanted to make sure my video was good.”

Chuprova also was intentional with her application answers, but also believes that her passion for leadership is what helped her separate herself from some of the other applicants. 

“I believe my passion to be a leader and be a part of positive change helped me stand out in the process of attaining this scholarship. I truly described from my heart what leadership is to me. It is not actions or words alone, but quality of character. I push myself to work everyday on how to better myself, as well as encourage others through my own personal process,” Chuprova said. 

Chuprova plans on majoring in biology at Corban and, like her fellow scholarship recipients, is driven to make a difference in the world through her faith. 

“Being a Christian means you are doing the best of your ability to be more Christ-like. To me, being Christ-like means to acknowledge what all the fruits of the spirit are and to be actively growing in them. Through the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, my personal character is grown as a leader,” Chuprova said. “A leader leads out of love and treats others with respect. That alone is a point of view in life that I take very seriously.”

Farris believes that all three students will make the most out of this opportunity, both in school and in their personal and professional lives. 

“These students are truly leaders in the community, in their churches and even inside their homes. All three of these students are hard workers, they are individuals who are excited about college and want to use their college education to make a difference on campus, in our local community and the communities they will live in the future. I can’t wait to see where they go,” Farris said.

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]