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Daring to reach for dreams
Dressed in blue scrubs and wearing a surgical mask, Irene Guzman, a high school senior from Springfield, stood close and watched in amazement as a neurosurgeon operated on a patient's spine. She realized immediately what she wanted to do with her life.
Guzman knew her dream was within her grasp thanks to the people who inspired her at Oregon State University's 4-H International Camps. Her mentors and counselors from the camps encouraged her to enroll in a science internship and to go twice to the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute Conference in Chicago.
Also, they said, Ivy League schools want to enroll Hispanic students. Why not give it a try?
"I took it on more like a dare," Guzman said. "Why couldn't I do it when many other people have more struggles than I have?" The result: a full-ride scholarship to Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Guzman will major in neuroscience and Spanish.
"One of the most important things I learned at camp was to not give up," she said. "It's better to try and fail than not to try at all."
About 300 Latino high school, middle school and elementary students from across the state attend the five-day resident camps each year at the 4-H Education Center west of Salem. College students are role models at the camps, which offer hands-on workshops, sports, inspirational speakers and Mexican folkloric dance, poetry, music and history.
"It's an intense learning and fun experience that many young people might not have had otherwise," said Mario Magaña, an OSU associate professor, 4-H regional educator and director of the camps.
It also has prepared students to earn some of the most prestigious and competitive scholarships in the nation. "In the last six years of the program," Magaña said, "five of our high school camp counselors have received the Gates Millennium Scholarship offered by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation."
The camps draw mostly Latino students, but other young people are welcome as well. "There is an opportunity for us to use this program as a model," Magaña said, "or expand it and make it available for more underserved students from other ethnic groups such as Native Americans, African Americans, Asians and Caucasian youth from rural communities."
Author: Judy Scott