PathwayOregon 'set me on the right track'

When it came time for Alejandro Mendoza-Graves to pick a college, there really was no choice at all.

“I always wanted to go to the UO,” he said. “I’ve always been a Duck fan.”
Mendoza-Graves is now a senior at the University of Oregon, set to graduate in June with a degree in public relations. A graduate of Aloha High School near Portland, Mendoza-Graves said he viewed a college education “as a gateway to more opportunities.”

“I felt like I wanted to do things in life,” he said.

Mendoza-Graves is a member of the first class of graduates from the PathwayOregon program that began four years ago to help academically prepared Oregonians to attend the university with decreased reliance on student loans.

The program covers the difference between other sources of financial aid and the total cost of tuition and fees for 12 terms within a five-year period. To qualify, students must be Oregonians who meet income criteria established by the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Mendoza-Graves said he remembered getting the acceptance letter from the Pathway program.

“I said, ‘This is not possible.’ I thought, ‘Why me?’” he said. “It was a huge feeling of relief. It was a huge burden off my chest.”

In addition to getting help with college costs, program participants receive comprehensive academic and personal support to ensure timely graduation from the UO. Mendoza-Graves said the support he got from Carla Bowers in the PathwayOregon office was “huge.”

Mendoza-Graves wasn’t sure what he wanted to study when he got the UO, but Bowers helped him find his way. Bowers helped him figure out his schedule, get his general education requirements out of the way, and to decide what he wanted to study.

“Carla set me on the right track,” he said.

He started out studying business before switching to public relations. Mendoza-Graves is a huge sports fan, and aspires one day to work for the Portland Trail Blazers.

And his accomplishment is a big deal for his family, he said.

“My entire family is proud of me,” he said. “My cousins want to go to the UO because of me.”