A high-achieving student who epitomizes service and resilience is the first winner of the Avel Louise Gordly Scholarship for Oregon Black Women. Kiasia Baggenstos is a sophomore journalism major at the University of Oregon. An award ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at The Soul Restoration Center, 14 N Killingsworth St., Sunday, June 4.
Kiasia Baggenstos was selected this month by a committee who reviewed applicants from all over the state of Oregon. In this competitive pool, Ms. Baggenstos rose to the top for her outstanding commitment to positive change as well as for her top academic performance.
“The committee was struck by Kiasias’s determination to use her journalism degree to provide a voice for the voiceless,” commented committee chair Carmen Thompson.
“She really embodies all the values that Avel Gordly’s life has stood for: excellence, service and spirit.”
Baggenstos stood out at Parkrose High School, where she graduated in 2022. She was an A student and a leader, notably with Project Lemonade. Project Lemonade focuses on the mental health of youth and families who face racism and prejudice. This work was critical during the activism against the death of George Floyd throughout the covid crisis. Baggenstos was also a student at Self Enhancement, Inc., a local service organization dedicated to helping underserved youth reach their full potential.
The Avel Louise Gordly Scholarship for Oregon Black Women provides financial support to an African American women graduate of an Oregon high school. Funds can be used at any institution of higher education in the state, including community college. The scholarship also supports attendance at any of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States. The first award will be in the amount of $2,000 and is renewable. The Oregon Community Foundation is the fiduciary for the scholarship. This year’s presenting sponsor is Aetna, a CVS Health Company. Major gifts also came from Nike and The Standard.
Avel Louise Gordly was born in Portland and graduated from Girls Polytechnic High School and then Portland State University. She held important positions in the Oregon Department of Corrections, the Urban League of Portland and the American Friends Service Committee. She was an officer with the Black United Front in the 1980s, which pushed for Oregon’s divestment from Apartheid. In 1991, Gordly was appointed to the legislature to fill a vacancy and in 1996 became the first Black woman elected to the Oregon State Senate. She represented Northeast Portland for 18 years and has been widely recognized with honors and awards for her public service. The Gordly Center for Healing at Oregon Health and Sciences University was established to provide culturally competent mental health care to diverse patients in recognition of Gordly’s work on this issue. After retiring in 2009, Gordly published a memoir Remembering the Power of Words: The Life of an Oregon Activist, Legislator and Community Leader with OSU press. Gordly also received an honorary doctorate from Portland State University in 2017.