â€œIt wouldâ€™ve been silly to go anywhere else,â€ she said. The Oregon Opportunity Grant and the combination of other scholarships she was awarded made all the difference.
Gaona also attributes her success to the ASPIRE program, which aims to help high school seniors obtain a higher education.
â€œMy ASPIRE mentor advised me through the whole college application process, which was all new to me because my family had never done that before,â€ she said. â€œI donâ€™t think I would be here without my mentor.â€
Gaona has to budget not only for herself but also for her brother, Marcos, a high school senior. She has been his legal guardian since she was 18. â€œWe take care of each other,â€ she said.
Gaona, who is now doing her student teaching, hopes after graduation to teach fifth grade. Previously she worked at Cook Elementary School in McMinnville, helping advanced first-graders with reading and research projects. In her free time, she participates in intramural football and volleyball.
Linfieldâ€™s professors have made the greatest impact on her college experience, Gaona said.
â€œWhen I talk to my friends at larger institutions, they have never even talked to their professors, and thatâ€™s kind of strange to me because I always make it a priority to meet with my professors outside of class,â€ she said.
The community aspect of campus also has helped her succeed, she said.
â€œNot just your advisor will advise you, but everyone is willing to help,â€ she said. â€œThat has really helped me reach my academic goals.â€