By: Kirk Nord, Director of Government Affairs in Oregon/SW Washington
How often do you get to hand someone a $10,000 check – money that might help change a life? On June 4, I had the opportunity to present a $10,000 Comcast Founders Scholarship to Erika Figueroa Rico, a graduating senior at McKay High School in Salem Oregon.
I was so honored to be able to recognize Erika’s hard work, dedication, and achievement in the face of almost insurmountable odds. Erika had to overcome many obstacles, including stints in homeless shelters, cars, and occasionally on the streets. Erika went to THIRTEEN different schools throughout her academic career and experienced some of the cruelest and most uncomfortable circumstances life can dole out. While she had it rough, she has always chosen to maintain a positive outlook and to seek the best life can offer. She never let her personal or social circumstances affect her academic achievements and she always tried to focus on the next challenge at school rather than the next challenge posed by her family’s living situation. Amazingly, while maintaining a 4.125 (weighted) GPA and taking AP classes, Erika was active in various community projects and gave of her time freely. She spent time volunteering at homeless shelters, teen service programs, The Salem Keizer Education Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion & Polk Counties, and the Salem Hospital.
In addition to the Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program, Erika was also awarded scholarships from other sources that will cover the entire cost of her four-year degree at Willamette University in Salem, where she will enter this fall as a sophomore (not freshman!).
As I think about Erika and all that she has achieved despite her circumstances, I see a person who had every reason to quit, every reason to blame her surroundings for the obstacles in front of her, or to give up. Instead, Erika chose to remain focused on what could be possible, dared to dream, and to maintain hope even at the darkest and most trying times in her young life. I have children — and I know others whose children have been given every opportunity to succeed, live in comfortable homes and enjoy the best life has to offer who have not accomplished one-tenth of what Erika been able to accomplish.