Letter to the Editor:

It has been a year of unparalleled challenge for those in education. This COVID-19 life is beating down even the best of us! However, there is truly something wonderful about a community that comes together during hardship…and Gresham has done just that.

About 6 years ago, in my position as the College Coordinator at Sam Barlow High School, I began a scholarship fund to recognize students who exhibited a commendable work ethic. Our fund started off with just a few hundred dollars sourced by returning bottles and cans. Students were selected based on their diligence and determination. These were not necessarily the students who received the copious accolades of a 4.0 GPA or the stellar Varsity athletes.  These were the kids who tried and tried again. Sometimes they were successful and sometimes they met substantial obstacles. My reason for creating the scholarship was to encourage them to keep trying and to better their futures in the process.

A few years ago, The Bottle Drop asked to film a video about our efforts and the process we go through to award kids funds and, ultimately, change their futures. That video brought us much recognition and community engagement. Each year our monetary goal has expanded. Last year, we joined forces with Barlow’s Environmental Science classes to make the scholarship, additionally, about sustainability, environmental awareness, philanthropy and teamwork. It had become a tremendous partnership for all the students and staff involved. And then COVID-19 hit.

Our school-based collection of bottles and cans suddenly ceased as our students began their distance learning.  Amazingly, however, the community has come together and kept this scholarship afloat, even in these trying times. In the fall of 2020, we set what we thought to be an unrealistic goal of $3500 to match the previous year’s distribution. We had been overjoyed to give 7 students $500 each last June, and we had hoped to be able to get close to that all-time high again, this year. Somehow, our community members learned we needed help and have generously dropped off hundreds of bags of bottles and cans to benefit the Bruin Pride scholarship. In disbelief, we revised our goal upward in November 2020 to $4000. By January, we met that goal, and we are now revising our goal, again, to try to reach $5000 by spring 2021. Who knows if we will reach it? But, setting that goal has been inspiring. It’s been a lesson on the meaning of working hard and then working harder, still.

My purpose for writing this letter is to thank the many Gresham community residents who have reached out by email, social media and word-of-mouth to offer their support of our students and their Bruin Pride Scholarship. These diligent kids are certainly treading unfamiliar territory, and yet, are doing their very best to persevere.  We are grateful for the caring members of our city and appreciate the many kindnesses shown to the Bruins of Sam Barlow High School.  Thank you.


Bruin Pride,

Patty Neuenschwander

SBHS College Coordinator