Kateri Park Student Wins $25,000 National Scholarship

Posted by | Executive Director Deacon Rick Birkel, Ph.D.

Peter Za, a resident of Catholic Charities of Oregon’ Kateri Park Apartments and senior at Portland’s Cleveland High School, has been through quite a lot in his short life. Displaced by civil war in Myanmar, Peter spent much of his childhood in a Thai refugee camp. After coming to the United States, his father passed away. Despite these challenges, Peter persisted.

His efforts caught the attention of many, including his college and career counselor, Jennifer Rockwood, who nominated him for the nationally prestigious Bridging the Dream Scholarship given by Sallie Mae. “As I’ve worked with Peter, I see a young man who is committed to getting an education, and I cannot think of a student more deserving of this scholarship,” said Rockwood, who nominated Za for the scholarship. “In the eight years I’ve spent at Cleveland’s College and Career Center, I have never worked with a student who was as motivated, hard-working, and passionate about caring for his family and community.” Out of more than 700 nominees, five students, including Peter, were awarded $25,000 toward college expenses.

He maintains a 4.0 GPA while participating in soccer, drumming, tutoring, and volunteer activities. He’s fluent in three languages and is learning three others. When members of his refugee community need an interpreter or help learning English, they turn to Peter. His love of family and community is extraordinary.

A long-time participant in Catholic Charities of Oregon’ Homework Club at Kateri Park, Peter also received Catholic Charities of Oregon’ Pay it Forward Scholarship in early 2017. Established by a Reed College student who volunteered at Kateri Park, the Pay it Forward Scholarship provides select students with laptop computers and other resources to help them prepare for college.

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