By Elizabeth Margolis

Peter Za, senior at Cleveland High School, spent Tuesday afternoon as he usually does, studying with the other members of his homework club at the Kateri Park Apartments.

Study time turned to party time when he learned he is the most recent winner of a $25,000 Bridging the Dream Scholarship from Sallie Mae, one of the nation’s saving, planning, and paying for college companys.

On hand for the announcement were Za’s mother and sister; staff and volunteers from Catholic Charities of Oregon (which runs the homework club); Jennifer Rockwood, a long-time volunteer at the Cleveland High School College and Career Center; and representatives from Sallie Mae, who brought pizza for the club and surprised Za with the news and a very large check.

“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 the 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.”

Za, 18, is taking the most rigorous academic path available at Cleveland High School, where he maintains a 4.0 GPA. He is an international baccalaureate certificate candidate, a member of the varsity soccer team, a volunteer math tutor, and a drummer at his church’s worship services. He is fluent in several languages, and actively works with others in his community who are learning English.

“I am so incredibly grateful to Jenny for nominating me for this scholarship and to Sallie Mae for providing me the chance to continue my education,” said Za. “College is possible now, and I look forward to the new opportunities it will bring.”

Peter Za surprised by award

The scholarship recognizes inspiring high school juniors and seniors nationwide who excel in academics, athletics, community service, or school activities, but whose financial circumstances may not permit them to fulfill their college dreams.

For more information visit SallieMae.com/BridgingTheDream.