May 11, 2021, Klamath Falls, Ore. – A special event was held on May 7 to celebrate the academic success of nontraditional students involved in Oregon Institute of Technology’s Tech Opportunities Program (TOP). President of the university, Dr. Nagi Naganathan, and Dean of Students, Dr. Erin Foley, recognized 102 TOP students who made the President’s and Dean’s Honors list for either fall 2020 or winter 2021 terms.

Oregon Tech’s TOP powers the potential of first-generation students, low-income students, and students with disabilities who demonstrate academic need. The program annually serves 160 students. The dedicated staff provides services and support in the following areas:

  • Study skills, decision-making and academic coaching.
  • Academic, career and financial planning as well as supplemental tutoring.
  • Peer mentoring and networking with other students, staff and faculty.
  • College success classes, faculty-led sessions and workshops.
  • Assistance with applying for financial aid, scholarships and grants.
  • Community building, cultural events and a sense of belonging.

During the event, three students shared their stories.

After working at Columbia Forest Products for four years after high school, senior Moises Cobian registered for prerequisites at Klamath Community College, taking classes to prepare for enrollment at Oregon Tech, all while working full-time and raising a young daughter. “It’s tough feeling like you have to divide your time between your family and school,” he shared. “For TOP students, I have four tips to share: 1. Find all of the scholarships and grants you can. 2. Don’t stress so much over a perfect 4.0 GPA—just keep moving forward. 3. Get involved in clubs and volunteer work to meet new people and form contacts. 4. Do stuff that gets you out of your comfort zone.” Moises is graduating from Mechanical Engineering.

The first in her family to attend college, Lauren Sadrin remembers reaching out to extended family members for the support she was unable to find in her immediate family. On track to graduate from Mechanical Engineering, Lauren spoke to honorees at the event and attributed her success to her supporters for helping her find her way.

A first generation student, Jacquelyn Zendejas joined Oregon Tech in fall 2016. Having been in the TOP program since her first year, Jacquelyn remembers crying in her TOP advisor’s office when she struggled in the program she was in. After working with her TOP advisor, Jacquelyn found that her program wasn’t the right fit for her—and with help from TOP, she soon enrolled in Applied Psychology and is graduating in June. “There was always someone in TOP that I could talk to, and they always supported me in ways that I needed, always listening to me,” she shared.

The average age of Oregon Tech TOP students is 26, and nearly two thirds are low income and first-generation students. In addition to the challenging coursework, nontraditional students often have partners, full-time jobs and children to care for. At Oregon Tech, many nontraditional students find support and encouragement through TOP, which provides academic and personal support to help them navigate college. TOP is a federally funded Student Support Services-TRIO program that has been supporting Oregon Tech students since 2001.

Multiple students at the event completed the term with a 4.0 GPA.