Her mother and three young brothers had just helped her move into an Oregon Institute of Technology dorm in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
But now Xiclali Solano, 19, was alone and overwhelmed. The first person she thought to reach out to was Azalea Martinez, the Woodburn area community liaison for OHSU’s On Track OHSU! program who helped her get there.
“I remember that call,” said Martinez as tears started to well in her own eyes. “She was crying and I started to cry because she was so far away and I couldn’t be there.”
Like Solano, Martinez grew up in Woodburn – a town of 24,000 people about 30 miles south of Portland – and was the first in her family to attend college.
“I’m really glad I get to work with students like her,” Martinez said as she looked over at Solano, who sat smiling at a Woodburn coffee shop a semester into her pursuit of a bachelors’ degree in medical imaging technology.
“I see myself in a lot of the kids and I’m really grateful I can help,” Martinez added.
Solano credits Martinez and the On Track OHSU! program for putting her on the path to Oregon Tech.
“I wouldn’t be in college if it wasn’t for On Track,” Solano said of the program, which OHSU started in 2013 to encourage underrepresented middle and high school students to consider a career in health and science. The program works with about 2,300 students in Woodburn, Portland and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
On Track first sparked Solano’s interest during her junior year at Woodburn High School’s Wellness Business and Sports School. The program took her and other Woodburn High School students on a field trip to OHSU in Portland, where she saw a cardiac ultrasound demonstrated for the first time.
“I had never heard of that before,” Solano said. The ultrasound technician “was really passionate about [her job]. … That helped me realize I really wanted that and I could do that.”
The following year, Martinez organized a job shadow for Solano, who followed a cardiac ultrasound technician for a day and saw a patient undergo a series of tests to examine his heart health. When Solano decided she wanted to attend Oregon Tech’s medical imaging technology program, Martinez was there to help her fill out the application and student aid forms.
Five months later, Solano is enjoying every bit of college life. She says her mom, Veronica Solano Rojas, who immigrated from Mexico 20 years ago and now works at a Woodburn-area nursery, is proud of her. And her brothers are interested in hearing about her new life in Klamath Falls.
But Solano also knows she’ll return to Woodburn and her family after graduating, with an undergraduate diploma in hand.
“I love it here; I can’t picture myself living anywhere else,” Solano said. “I hope to find a medical imaging job here.”
To learn more about On Track OHSU! partnerships, contact Director Katie Lenahan at email@example.com.