Vezina, student body president for Portland Community College's Cascade Campus in North Portland and leader of PCC's District Student Council, has been chosen as a 2016 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Gold Scholar by national two-year college honor society Phi Theta Kappa. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation recognizes 50 Gold, 50 Silver and 50 Bronze scholars nationally, and provides nearly $200,000 in scholarships annually. Each Gold Scholar receives a $1,500 scholarship and a special medallion.
"I was born into poverty, generational drug addiction and incarceration, and survived a childhood of abuse that led me to drug use, criminality, the criminal justice system and eventually homelessness," Vezina said. "I've been sober almost four years, three of them spent in higher education, which gave me the context to understand societal elements that led to my inadequacies."
After trying several times to kick his addiction on his own, he found support at Volunteers of America, a nonprofit that provides a range of services for low-income and marginalized people. Once clean and sober, Vezina co-founded the 4th Dimension Recovery Center (4D), a Northeast Portland-based "event-driven" center for young people in recovery, offering a range of drug-free activities.
After earning his GED through a Multnomah County program, the Northeast Portland resident found his way to PCC by way of a recovery scholarship offered through the Cascade Campus Women's Resource Center. Vezina started a student recovery club at the campus and joined student government. He was named president of Cascade's PTK chapter and Cascade's student government office this year before being elected by his peers as District Student Council leader.
"PCC has been revolutionary in my life," he said. "It's changed how I see the world and my place in it. Student government has become my bread and butter. Working with diverse populations has expanded my reality so much. The things I learn from my colleagues every day are helping me to be a better human being."