On May 5th Volunteers of America Oregon hosted its 10th Annual Al Forthan Memorial Scholarship Awards Ceremony. This year the scholarship awarded $60,000 to 29 Oregon students who have come from families impacted by addiction. The ceremony honored each of the scholarship recipients and the tremendous courage they have shown in sharing their stories about how addiction has impacted the lives of their families.
“A lot of times I don’t want to share my story because I want to avoid the pity and the pain that follows from remembering,” shared scholarship recipient Yahir Gonzalez. “Applying to the scholarship has been immensely liberating. I have found a community that encourages one to find solutions to generational patterns of addiction. A community that believes in me.”
“My parents’ addiction has caused me a great deal of pain. It has led to personal insecurities and harmful situations throughout my life. However, it has also made me stronger than anyone could imagine a teenager being. Everyday choosing to stay strong is a struggle,” explained Rena Howard, scholarship recipient. “I am motivated to show others that regardless of the situation you are born into, you have the power over who you become.”
We were also honored to have Nicholas Kristof as our Keynote speaker. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, are co-authors of New York Times Bestseller, Tightrope. Tightrope touches on the impact addiction has had on those Kristof grew up with in Yamhill County. Oregon. During the awards ceremony, Kristof shared his insights on addiction in the U.S. and the need to enact policy to impact change.
“Addiction is a hard subject to talk about. I tend to think that as a country the issues that we are worst at tackling, as a public policy matter, are those issues that are hard to talk about.” Kristof continued, “if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t wrestle these taboos then we simply can’t make progress against them.”
Each year VOA Oregon looks forward to this awards ceremony and celebrating the young people who have shared their story of courage and resiliency.