Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Emily Mentzer
June 10, 2014
MONMOUTH — Anthony Medina didn’t feel like a minority until he started classes at Western Oregon University.
His hometown of Gervais, near Woodburn, has a 70 percent Latino population.
“So that’s what I grew up with,” he said. “That’s what I thought was normal. I honestly never felt like a minority.”
All of his friends grew up in similar situations — children of migrant farm workers, having parents get deported back to Mexico — so he didn’t really think there was anything special about him being the first in his family to achieve higher than a sixth-grade education.
Feeling more like a minority helped fuel a passion and desire to advocate for more accessible and affordable higher education.
Medina, 22, will graduate on Saturday with $35,000 in student debt. By the time he graduates from Stanford University’s graduate program next year, he’ll carry $80,000 to $100,000 in debt, and that’s with the highest scholarship Stanford provides to students — $10,000.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Student debt is the new (housing) bubble. Student debt recently surpassed credit card debt in the nation. It’s something that we need to address, that legislation isn’t addressing.”
But you can’t put a price on education, Medina said.
He councils youths at Central High School, encouraging them to take the dive into college in spite of the suffocating debt.
The alternative, Medina says, is to work for a while, make a couple thousand dollars, and then what?
“You’ll go out and buy a car for $10,000 or $15,000,” Medina tells high school kids. “You’re not going to pay for it in cash; you’re going to take out a loan. Would you rather have a $10,000 car or would you rather have an education that’s going to help you out in the future, and have them think about it in those terms.”
He always figured he’d go to college, but almost didn’t make it.
Medina enjoyed playing basketball and football in high school, and maintained a 4.0 grade-point average his junior and senior years at Gervais High School.
“The only thing I knew about college was sports,” Medina said. “So I thought, maybe (college) is just like sports. Maybe colleges out there kind of know my background and my track record and my grades. Maybe they know everything about me.”
Halfway through his senior year in high school, he still hadn’t applied to college.
“Acceptance letters never came,” Medina said. That’s when an advisor suggested he start actually applying to universities.
He came to Western because he loved the student involvement and opportunities in student leadership.
Medina has maintained a 3.75 GPA — with one C-minus in physics, which he said was much more difficult at the college level than at the high school advanced placement level.
He spent a semester — winter and spring terms for WOU — at Marquette University’s les Aspin Center for Government in Washington, D.C., and participated in a congressional internship his junior year at Western, living two blocks from the U.S. Capitol building and working for Rep. Peter DeFazio. He has been named WOU’s Delmer Dewey Award recipient for outstanding senior male.
Medina credits his supportive grandparents, 2-year-old daughter — his “recharge” — and his fiancée for his success in education.
Tricks of the Trade
Some tips from Anthony Medina regarding attending Western Oregon University:
Best place to study: Library room 222, the largest study room available.
Best coffee: Just forget about any coffee on campus and head across the street to Dutch Bros. Medina is a huge supporter of the coffee company, adding that the first thing he did when he got accepted to Stanford was Google the nearest Dutch Bros. location.
Tip for studying: Give yourself seven minutes. If you don’t want to do something, just give it seven minutes, at which time you’ll either keep at it or decide you really don’t need to. Medina is a believer in getting more sleep, no all-nighters for him. Also, use campus resources, such as the writing center.