Opportunity Scholars: Meet Washington’s future STEM, health care, and trade leaders
Over the past 12 years, Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) has supported more than 15,000 Scholars. Opportunity Scholars come from every corner of Washington state and have gone on to become scientists, nurses, engineers, and more. Learn more about our incredible Scholars below!
Some Opportunity Scholars are parents.
“Receiving my education will help me reach my ultimate goal of becoming a Registered Nurse. I am a single mom of a five-year-old little boy, and it is hard to make ends meet. My education will provide us with a lifestyle that will fit our budget. [Receiving the scholarship] meant I was able to take a leave of absence from work to focus solely on my goal. I can take full-time classes without being burnt out or having distractions, and I can live within my means.”
Two-thirds of Opportunity Scholars are first-generation college students.
“My goal was a simple one. I wanted to be the first person in my family to graduate college. There were times when I wanted to quit. In fact, I did drop out for a year, two quarters after I went to college. I rejoined because two and a half years didn’t seem that long, and I had a dream to achieve. I found my drive again. When I came back, I remembered that people believed in me. I can’t say any of it was easy. It was difficult and at times I wanted to give up. Toward the end, I even thought I wasn’t meant to finish. However, I persevered and graduated last year. [Receiving the scholarship] meant that someone believed in me so much that they were willing to financially invest in me. That, to me, is a risk, but the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship chose to bet on me. The hurdles I had to jump were high and sometimes, the thing that kept me going was that a board of people chose to invest in my future.”
“As a first-generation student, managing college can be difficult. A mentor has allowed me to stay on track with college and everything that comes after. I am able to discuss any concerns or questions about college with a highly experienced mentor. I feel secure knowing that I am on the right steps to graduating college.”
Some Opportunity Scholars enter our program directly from high school…
“I would always spend time on the computer as a child, and I knew that I would want a career that involved working with computers. During high school, I learned about the study of computer science. Before entering Central Washington University, I lived in a small town in Washington. There were no classes for computer science offered in my school jurisdiction. Going into higher education allowed me to finally be able to take classes in a field I was highly interested in and gain knowledge that I can use to find a job in IT. Receiving the scholarship felt like a big weight was taken off of my shoulders. I felt relief that as a low-income, first-generation Chica, raised by a single mother. I am grateful that I was able to receive so much support, which has enabled me to finally provide for my mother after everything she has had to go through as a single mother in a foreign country. This support from WSOS also empowered me to work harder in school to ensure I always was performing my best, as STEM classes can be difficult to take.”
While some Opportunity Scholars reskill later in life.
“[Receiving the scholarship] has meant fulfilling my dreams and goals that I have put aside for decades. It means being successful and having a more fulfilling life; because now, I get to not only create dog treats as part of my dog bakery business in Port Orchard but also to create my own websites and designs, whether it be for my own business or for a client or future employer. Receiving this scholarship has opened many doors for me in my mid-life; thereby giving me so many more opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. I am the first person in my family to attend college, and I am very proud of myself.”
Some Opportunity Scholars were born and raised in rural Washington…
“The mental health benefits of relieving financial stress on someone who is already suffering from anxiety and financial austerity are immeasurable! With the scholarship, I have been able to procure certain necessary pieces of technical equipment I need in order to produce professional-grade work, as well as regularly manage the costs of high-speed internet and web hosting services. When I started school last fall, I had to borrow certain equipment that I needed for my classes. Being able to upgrade and own my equipment has had a huge impact on the quality of my work and self-confidence.”
While some Opportunity Scholars immigrated to the US and Washington state.
“My name is Mapenzi, and I was born in the war-torn country of Congo. When I was 15, I was re-settled in the US. Since coming to this country, it has been my goal to study hard and use my education to eventually give back and improve the lives of refugees. Since I want to significantly impact the lives of people living in refugee camps, I have declared my major in global health at the University of Washington. This scholarship means a lot to me. As a foster care youth and refugee, I have limited resources. This scholarship allows me to pursue my goals and focus on education without the added financial stress I might face. This scholarship gives me hope and allows me to see myself as someone who can lead by example and bring hope to others in my community; if I can do it, they can also do it. As a black, first-generation college student, I have had great experiences with WSOS. One of the most important parts of the scholarship is mentoring. My mentor checks in with me every month, and I find it very helpful to have someone who can guide me on the right path by sharing ideas and resources. The other way this scholarship has been impactful in my life is by creating a community that I’m part of and that will support me when I’m having a hard time with either school or personal needs. It is a true privilege to receive the scholarship and, along with it, gain close friends and mentors and have them along with me on this challenging college journey.”
But all Opportunity Scholars are talented and eager to build a high-demand career in Washington state.
“For me, WSOS meant relief from the high cost of college and knowing there are many who support students getting an education. The scholarship encouraged and motivated me to continue pursuing STEM. Lastly, the scholarship, along with other scholarships and grants, the small class sizes and the close community led to a great experience at Whitman. I am very thankful for this scholarship and other resources that made it possible.”
“Receiving the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship meant that there were no limits to what I could dream, work, and achieve. With this incredible financial aid, my goals became bigger than life. I did not limit myself then and plan to continue with that open mindset of always moving forward, no matter the obstacles that may arise. When financing my higher education seemed like an obstacle to my life goals, the WSOS came in to help me overcome it and help me sprint faster than ever to my bachelor’s degree in human-centered design & engineering. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Muchas gracias!”
More than 8,000 Scholars have achieved their bachelor’s degree with WSOS’s support.
“WSOS was a platform for me. As a low-income student, I have always worried about how I would achieve higher education. Getting admitted into university was the first step for me. To this day, my parents don’t fully comprehend what it is I do for my career or what my degree title means because the language barrier extends beyond academics — there are complete industries and working knowledge of how and why things work that have never existed in their lifetime. And for this reason, I knew that anything I wanted outside of my given circumstances would need to come from my own merit. The scholarship helped raise me above the financial barrier that clouded my view of what my future could be and provided me with a steppingstone into higher education.”
More than 500 Career & Technical Scholars have successfully graduated with a degree or certification.
Our newest program, the Graduate Scholarship program, has supported almost 30 advanced nurse practitioner students who want to work in medically underserved areas.
“I believe in giving back to underserved communities, and it has become a part of my plan as a nurse. Mental health practitioners are in short supply, which means that even fewer people receive mental health treatment in an underserved population. The additional dollars have been very helpful. It’s allowed me to cut back my working hours and still have money to support my family and pay for my school expenses. As I step into my practitioner role, I will do my best to give back to this community. I am a firm believer in paying help forward. Working with the substance use disorder population, I have found that most patients are not getting the support they need to live a fulfilled life. I’m working to fulfill patients’ psychiatric needs and address their substance use when necessary.”
Some alumni are already working in Washington state & achieving their dreams.
“I work in the logistics industry as a software engineer. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Seattle University, which prepared me for a career in software engineering. The scholarship was incredibly meaningful to me in two important ways. The first of which symbolized this important investment in my future. To provide me, a first-gen student and child of Polish immigrants, thousands of dollars to sponsor my education was one of the greatest blessings one can receive. It reduced the financial burden on my family and me and allowed me to pursue my education without finances being a big hurdle. The second aspect is that this scholarship enabled me to pursue a competitive degree. This provided me with opportunities to obtain a job that I enjoy and compensates me well. This also put me in a position to support those around me, such as my family. I hope, with time, I can give back to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship to provide more support to other students from a similar background to my own!”
WSOS is there to support Opportunity Scholars as they overcome barriers, persist, and build the life of their dreams.
“Through WSOS, I was able to develop leadership and mentorship skills which I’ve carried with me into my professional roles. I had a great experience from the start to the end. From being a recipient of the scholarship to becoming a Scholar Lead [mentor] and helping students who were once in my shoes, the WSOS experience is something I’ll remember forever. Receiving the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship meant that I was able to fully commit myself to my academic and professional journey. It helped lift the financial burden I and many other college students face.”
“I would say that the professional training/professional guidance offered through the WSOS portal helped me the most as it provided a step-by-step guide on how to network, apply for jobs, and even talk with a professional already in the field of my choice about how to apply these resources already provided by the scholarship. Now that I have my foot in the door, I am looking to help other students through mentoring and professional guidance.”