MHCC Student Wins Prestigious Scholarship

Posted: February 20, 2014  

Mt. Hood Community College's (MHCC) Sule Whitlock is one of 51 community college students in the U.S., Canada and American Somoa -- and the only one from Oregon -- to be named a 2014 New Century Scholar.

The New Century Scholars program is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Whitlock and her fellow scholars will each receive a $2,000 scholarship and be introduced at the AACC convention in Washington D.C. in April. More than 1,700 students were nominated from more than 900 community colleges. Judges considered grades, leadership, activities and how nominees extend their intellectual talents beyond the classroom.

Whitlock Has Accomplished Much at MHCC and in the Community
This energetic, all-or-nothing woman whose first name means "flame" in Turkish, has accumulated a 3.87 grade point average (GPA). She has accomplished this while serving in leadership positions in Rho Theta, MHCC's Phi Theta Kappa chapter, and is the organization's current president. She is also an active volunteer in her church and in the community and a single parent to a 14-year-old daughter.

Eric Juenemann, director of MHCC's TRIO Student Support Services, included the following in Whitlock's nomination packet. "Perhaps the best example of her academic achievements is the grades that Sule earned from her starting point in pre-college math all the way to the completion of two quarters of statistics -- four 'A' grades and two 'B' grades. She went from having a tremendous fear of math to facilitating workshops for other first generation college students as well as MHCC faculty and staff on the topic of overcoming fears about math."

Debbie Derr, MHCC president, describes Whitlock as a motivated, focused and hard-working student whose story inspires others to find their path to academic and career success. "I am so proud of Sule! Despite significant personal challenges, she entered college in her forties, and has never wavered from her educational plan. She took advantage of all the services we offer at MHCC to help students succeed and is now sharing her experiences with her peers. She will undoubtedly achieve her goal of building a career where she can help guide others to fulfilling lives."

Whitlock knows firsthand how scholarships can make a big difference in students' lives. She says that as "a widowed, single parent, every month is a struggle as I work hard to balance college, job and family. Like many students, I am reliant on support from scholarships to make my dreams come true." In addition to the New Century Scholarship, she has received support from the MHCC Foundation and has led workshops to teach other MHCC students how to find and apply for scholarships.

She is currently in her second year of the Mental Health/Human Services program at MHCC and plans to transfer to a local university for bachelor's and master's degrees following graduation this June. She has her sights set on a career in social work, with a dual specialization in helping hospice patients and their families, and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a disorder that can strike war veterans, domestic violence victims and others who experience some type of physical or emotional trauma.

Past Informs Future Plans
Sadly, Whitlock has personal experience with hospice during loved ones' terminal illnesses, and with PTSD, after being robbed at gunpoint.

She shares a few details about the latter experience: "It's amazing what life-changing things can happen in just a few seconds! In 1992, while working at a bank in Depoe Bay, Ore., a robber held a gun to my head and screamed at me to unlock the vault. Shaking uncontrollably, I tried desperately to insert the key while he commanded me to calm down. When I finally managed to open the door, he grabbed the money and fled. I sank to the floor, sobbing. Those 90 seconds will forever be etched into the fabric of my soul."

That traumatic experience transformed Whitlock's safe, rosy outlook on the world and left her with utter fear and anxiety. She didn't leave her home for a couple of years, nor open her mail nor drive her car. Later, with the help of mental health counselors, she was finally able to put a name to her condition -- PTSD -- and began to envision a happy future.

"I owe a debt of gratitude to the counselors who helped me to regain my life," says Whitlock. "In turn, I want to become a counselor or psychologist and help others who are suffering from life's challenges. A college education is the only way I can achieve these dreams."

Scholarships Keep the Flame Burning
As for her academic success and this latest scholarship, Whitlock says, "One does not become a scholar on her own.  I see this as a culmination of wonderful mentoring I have received throughout my life.  At Mt. Hood Community College, it all started for me in Transitions when I got to meet Drew Raine, former Rho Theta vice president of scholarship, and Dave Favreault, a math professor."

She also says, "Thank you to my advisers, instructors, fellow students and especially the donors of the scholarships who made my educational journey better than I ever dreamed! I appreciate being acknowledged for my hard work because it keeps me moving forward toward excellence and gives me more opportunities to serve others."

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 Last Modified: 2/28/2014 02:01:32 PM