Willamette Academy students share success stories at “Believe in Me” dinner

Margarita Gutierrez always knew she’d attend college. Willamette Academy gave her the tools to make that possible.

“I had no clue what I needed to do,” says Gutierrez, a senior American Ethnic Studies major at Willamette University. “The academy provided resources and knowledge to make my goals happen.”

To celebrate its achievements, Willamette Academy is hosting a “Believe in Me” benefit dinner March 16. The event, featuring a silent auction, musical entertainment and student presentations, begins with a social hour from 5-6 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at 181 High St. N.E. Tickets cost $25, with proceeds benefiting the academy.

Now in its 10th year, the non-profit program prides itself in helping underrepresented students realize their educational goals. To date, 99 percent of the academy’s participants have graduated from high school, and 94 percent have gone on to attend college.

“We have a proven success record,” director Michele Gray says. “Supporting Willamette Academy yields practical returns as these students become community leaders.”

The academy’s mission is to empower youths who have the potential and desire to pursue a college degree. Seventh graders apply to the program, which provides academic support in reading, writing, math, science and technology for the next five years.

The program’s success depends on the involvement of teachers, councilors and parents, who collaborate on behalf of students. Willamette Academy also helps participants during the college admissions process.

Gutierrez, who tutors students at the academy, says she’s eager to give back to a program that’s already given her so much. She is the first person in her family to graduate from high school and attend college, and she aspires to earn her master’s degree in education one day.

These accomplishments, she says, stem from the support she received at Willamette Academy.

“Willamette Academy students are eager and have tremendous potential to become the next leaders in Oregon. All they need are resources to make their goals a reality,” she says. “Willamette Academy provides these resources.”

For tickets to “Believe in Me,” visit or call (503) 370-6085.