Senior Scholarship Recipients Share Keys to Receiving Financial Awards

 Alissa Cohen shares her college and career goals and how her passions drove her forward.
Alissa Cohen shares her college and career goals and how her passions drove her forward.
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Elaina Oommen


Elaina Oommen will be attending The University of Oregon to major in biology, and as a recipient of the Stamps scholarship, her tuition, housing, and food will be paid for all four years of her undergraduate study.

The Stamps organization partners with various universities across the United States and provides students with scholarships to pursue higher education. At the University of Oregon, twenty Stamps scholarships are awarded each year, and only ten go to seniors from the state of Oregon.

Earning the Stamps scholarship was no easy process, and Oommen recounts her experience in detail. The application began with four essay questions, then semi-finalists were interviewed at the University of Oregon, and lastly, finalists were interviewed by representatives from the Stamps organization. 

The interviewers wished to know more about Oommen’s motivations and how she envisioned continuing community service at the university. Overall, the Stamps organization is very centered around what people contribute to others. Oommen emphasizes, “One of the main Stamps selection criteria is community involvement and leadership experience.”

Only a few of Oommen’s involvements include the Assistant Student Body, the Gresham Youth Advisory Council, a student representative for the health planning committee, and vice president of the National Honors Society.

Regardless of what university one wants to apply to, Oommen strongly believes that community and school involvement is the best way to become eligible for scholarships and helps you become more able to promote yourself to universities. Furthermore, Oommen notes from personal experience that earning scholarships can help you finalize your college decisions more easily than expected. “I was already leaning towards U of O but this made it an instant decision because it is a free degree,” she states. 


Dima Ismael


In the next chapter, senior Dima Ismael plans to major in sociology and minor in business, which she will then utilize as she furthers her education in law school. Ismael has yet to decide where she will attend, but her indecisiveness was certainly not because of a lack of options.

Ismael shares that a few scholarships she has been awarded are the Presidential Scholarship at Oregon State University, the Presidential Scholarship at the University of Oregon, and two Speech and Debate scholarships eligible at either Lewis and Clark or Simpson College. Additionally, she eagerly waits for the results of numerous others she has applied for.

The many opportunities Ismael has been presented with do not come out of nowhere but after hours of volunteer work. In fact, volunteering is exactly what she recommends to anyone looking to be a top candidate for scholarships. “Definitely do a lot of activities and have volunteer hours…and then have that experience and apply it to scholarships,” Ismael elaborates.

Locally, Ismael volunteers for the Gresham Youth Advisory Council, St. Andrews Senior Living Home, and elementary schools. Ismael also offers up her time to causes outside of the United States as a part of an Iraqi youth exchange program that works to raise awareness of mental health in Iraq and she also teaches English to Iraqi youth.

As one last comment, Ismael states, “So many people worry about how many hours they have, or their positions, or leadership roles and all that. But honestly…it’s not about the flashy titles or everything you’ve done. It’s about your experiences and applying what you have learned.” 

Alissa Cohen


Whether deciding where to go to college, a future career, or just how to spend your spare time, senior Alissa Cohen recommends finding something you are passionate about and pursuing it wherever it may take you.

Cohen’s involvements include Barlow theater, recently Glenda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz, and band as an oboist. Cohen obtains many talents while living with hyperacusis; a hearing disability that reduces one’s tolerance to sound. However, this did not prevent her acting or musical ambitions and even expanded her educational field.

In addition to English, Cohen is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). “I have always been really bad at concerts and things like that. So, from there I decided to learn ASL and knew I wanted to work with these people,” she shares. As her interest in ASL grew, so did Cohen’s experiences in the DeafBlind community, as she now regularly volunteers her time at a deafblind assisted living facility.

Although receiving large scholarships from other schools, including a full-ride to Lewis and Clark, Cohen is going to attend Pacific University to major in bioinformatics. From Pacific University she received the Pacesetter Honors Scholarship, a full academic scholarship, and a theater scholarship that awarded an additional $7,000 as long as she minored in theater.

Cohen is confident in her decision, noting, “Pacific University–the culture–it fits me better.” Furthermore, as long as she maintains a 3.2 GPA, Cohen is guaranteed admission into Pacific University’s graduate school which she will need to fulfill her dreams of becoming a cochlear implant-oriented Audiologist.


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