In 8th grade, Erika Sanchez knew she wanted to be a nurse.
"I especially like caring for children. My mother was a nurse, and I know I want to be a nurse too. I know I will need to go to college to realize my dreams. Math and science are two subjects I need to excel in." -2005
Fast forward eight years and Erika is on track to graduate from OHSU School of Nursing in Klamath Falls in 2014.
"I will graduate as an RN in June 2014 from OHSU, and then I want to work in a rural community. One of the best things about college is that every day I’m learning something new." -2013
Her classmate, Spayne Martinez, also articulated her passion in middle school - to become a documentary filmmaker, telling the stories of her people, the Klamath tribe.
"I want to be a documentary filmmaker. I am very interested in telling the story of my community [the Klamath tribe] and the current issues challenging us, especially our story about water." -2005
Today she is working towards a degree in Photography at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco while running her own commercial photography business, snapping shots in Oregon, California and Hawaii.
"I'm currently taking classes online, but preferred taking classes on campus when I was living in San Francisco. While there, I volunteered for Clean Water Action." -2013
As part of their GEAR UP program, Chiloquin Junior/Senior High School partnered with Oregon Institute of Technology faculty to help students think beyond high school and to identify their support network. The project, dubbed "My Story - The Hero Within", helped students tell their story through essays and photos and was presented at a special awards ceremony at the end of the 8th grade. Now a long-standing tradition in Chiloquin, Erika and Spayne were part of the inaugural group in 2005 and were selected by their classmates to have a professional photo shoot related to their future career. This valuable program has been replicated at other GEAR UP schools across the state in order for students to understand their unique stories and strengths.
"The "My Story - The Hero Within" Project was designed to encourage our 8th graders to envision their best future, create a path to achieving it and articulating their dreams and plans to family and friends," says Becky Wilson, former GEAR UP coordinator at Chiloquin Junior/Senior High School. "Along the way, students acknowledged their self worth and the things and people in their lives that they love - I believe this helped make their dreams believable and achievable. Erika and Spayne are beautiful examples of the success of early encouragement to dream and plan."