Service leads to scholarships

Story Highlights

  • Washougal senior Mitchell Leon did not volunteer in order to gain anything for himself, yet it turns out his service has led to scholarships and national recognition.

WASHOUGAL — A thousand here, a couple thousand there. Throw in a few hundred, too.

Paul Valencia
Paul Valencia

The pot continues to grow.

In the case of Washougal senior Mitchell Leon, it adds up to more than $70,000.

Leon, a strong student and community leader, is showing he has a strong scholarship game, too.

The plan is to study business at Creighton University in Nebraska. Up until recently, Leon never figured he would be studying there.

“I really didn’t see myself going to a private college because of the price involved. But my teachers pushed me,” Leon explained. “I started looking at scholarships, and then I started applying for everything I could find.”

Mitchell Leon, the senior class president of Washougal High School, is all about volunteerism. His service to his community has earned him several scholarships and national recognition. Photo by Paul Valencia
Mitchell Leon, the senior class president of Washougal High School, is all about volunteerism. His service to his community has earned him several scholarships and national recognition. Photo by Paul Valencia

Already with several merit scholarships based on his academic record, Leon also has earned 10 other scholarships. As of this week, he is up to $71,600. Oh, and he is waiting to hear back from more than 20 other scholarships – local, regional, and national.

Mitchell Leon
Mitchell Leon

Those deciding on the scholarships must see what the American Spirit Awards at the National World War II Museum saw in him, too.

Leon was Washington’s winner for the Billy Michal Student Leadership Award. Leon and winners from each state and the District of Columbia were honored last week at the museum in New Orleans.

Billy Michal was 6 years old living in Louisiana during World War II when he helped his school win a state-wide scrap-metal collection contest, proving anyone could help in the war effort. The award, according to the museum, is given to a student in each state who “demonstrates the American Spirit in his or her community.”

Mitchell Leon, a senior from Washougal High School, shakes hands with retired Sgt. Major Mike “Iron Mike” Mervosh at the American Spirit Awards in New Orleans. Mervosh, an Iwo Jima survivor, served in Korea and Vietnam, as well. Photo courtesy of the Leon family
Mitchell Leon, a senior from Washougal High School, shakes hands with retired Sgt. Major Mike “Iron Mike” Mervosh at the American Spirit Awards in New Orleans. Mervosh, an Iwo Jima survivor, served in Korea and Vietnam, as well. Photo courtesy of the Leon family

Among the heroes Leon met in New Orleans was retired Sgt. Major Mike “Iron Mike” Mervosh, a Marine who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Mervosh fought at the battle of Iwo Jima.

“He is just a super motivated, driven kid,” said Washougal AP government teacher Jim Reed, who nominated Leon for the leadership award.

Reed also said Leon has a competitive edge, which keeps Leon looking for more and more projects.

Leon was the public relations officer for the Washington Aerospace Scholars, a position that led him to present his group’s findings to the CEO of Boeing. He also was a state finalist for the “Voice of Democracy” audio-essay contest.

Mitchell Leon (right) and his father Mike (left) got to meet former congressman and Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta at the American Spirit Awards at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of the Leon family
Mitchell Leon (right) and his father Mike (left) got to meet former congressman and Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta at the American Spirit Awards at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of the Leon family

Many of Leon’s essays for the scholarships highlight his service.

“I help out not for myself or accolades or awards. I help out because I am a man of character,” Leon said. “I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”

He lettered at Washougal in volunteering, serving at least 150 recordable hours. He also spent time in Ecuador last summer helping to build a daycare facility.

“We worked with people who don’t speak my language, but we were able to break the language barrier,” Leon recalled.

Graduation 2017 Small

In fact, he won first place in a national poster contest put on by The Christophers, which earned him more scholarship money. Leon’s poster was a picture of some of the children he helped in Ecuador, with a quote from Mother Teresa.

As senior class president, Leon is scheduled to speak at Washougal’s graduation ceremony Saturday night. Yes, community service is his theme, as well as a salute to all of his classmates for making volunteerism a priority.

“The Class of 2017 has created a better reputation for Washougal High School,” he said.

Leon also is helping the Classes of 2018, 19 and 20.

He has learned quite a bit on his journey to find the next scholarship. He started most of his work in the winter. He says now he wishes he had started sooner. At one point, he was applying for one a day.

He shared all of his new knowledge with other Washougal students. It was a clinic, of sorts, for scholarship hunters. How to apply. When to apply. Where to go to find financial aid.

“It was very intimidating,” Leon said of taking the first step. “So many scholarships. It was tough to hone in, to find the ones I actually had a chance at.”

It appears Mitchell Leon gave himself plenty of opportunities.

For scholarships.

For a bright future.

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About The Author

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Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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