College is never easy especially for those of us that have taken a longer road. Bella Borja is an amazing and personable woman who is graduating in this year’s class of 2016 as a first generation college student. Like many, she has worked her way through college often holding up to two full time jobs while attending school. Borja is a transfer student from Chemeketa Community College, but went to another community college in Michigan beforehand.
She moved from Michigan to Oregon without knowing that the credits would not transfer, forcing her to redo almost all of the first two years of college. Borja stayed strong though with the help of her many supports. At home her mother was one of her biggest cheerleaders, often just doing the little things like saving leftovers in the fridge so she would have something to eat after studying and working all day. It’s the little things that can really brighten your day and make it much easier to focus on what is coming up next.
Another bit of support for Borja was Dr. Mark Henkels who pushed Borja academically and always gave her honest feedback. Henkels was there from the start, meeting Borja before she had even firmly decided on WOU and became her advisor after she had decided. Borja said that Henkels always encouraged her to think outside the box. Being from the small island of Tinian, an island in the U.S. territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Borja came from a culture where pushing the bounds wasn’t a thing you did, but with Henkels by her side to challenge her academically and push her to reach new heights, she was able to find her true passion.
Henkels, although he played a huge part in her school experience, was not the only reason she chose Western. Borja says that she loves the atmosphere that Western has, it can even be called a community. She explained that even though she wasn’t able to attend events due to time constraints, she enjoyed that there was never a dull moment on campus. Borja also stated that it was comforting to be able to walk through campus and see people you know and stop to chat. There were also lots of places to sit and get away from it all such as the blue couch downstairs in Bellamy Hall. The small campus and class sizes really created the support that Borja needed, and she knew that other universities just couldn’t give her that.
Borja was recently offered a leadership position within the Human Resources department at her current workplace, Partnership in Community Living (PCL). She went on to say that PCL has been the best place that she has ever worked. They were always willing to work with her schedule as they employ a lot of WOU students, but more than that, she has felt nothing but support from everyone at PCL. Additionally, being a part of a movement that addresses social injustices and supports people is very important to Borja, and she says that if you can find balance between work and your personal life, it is so very worth it. PCL has also really assisted Borja in both her professional and personal growth and feels that the skills she’s learned can be taken and utilized anywhere. Her work has also allowed Borja to solidify her own passion for working in a career that helps people find the resources they need.
Borja will be Graduating this year with a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Policy and Administration with a concentration in Human Resources. Because of her outstanding performance at WOU she will be awarded Honors as well. She will leave behind a chapter of her life that will help her continue on into the next piece of her story. Congratulations to Bella Borja, Class of 2016!