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Almeda Fire victim one of 35 local recipients of Amy’s Kitchen scholarships

Phoenix High School graduate Adriel Gamez is heading to Oregon State University with the help of a scholarship from Amy’s Kitchen. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

As someone who knows what it’s like to deal with sports injuries, Phoenix High School graduate Adriel Gamez has a reason to keep on running, not only for exercise with the track team he coaches, but in the game of life.

Gamez is one of 35 local recipients of scholarships from Amy’s Kitchen, given to children of employees to help them pay for the cost of higher education.

Overall, the company gave $150,000 in scholarships in 2022 to 100 students in Southern Oregon, Pocatello, Idaho, and Petaluma, San Jose and Santa Rosa, California — places where Amy’s Kitchen holds offices and cooks its meals.

Gamez will start school at Oregon State University in Corvallis next month, majoring in kinesiology.

“I’m really thinking about trying to make that smooth transition because I’ve had a lot of changes in my life,” said Gamez, who was temporarily displaced due to the Almeda Fire in 2020. “This year’s a little different. … It’s definitely going to be a little scary, but I’m really excited to grow more independent. I’m definitely ready to take on this challenge.”

Classes at OSU begin Sept. 21. Gamez’s $1,500 scholarship from Amy’s Kitchen will pay for the cost of essential items, from textbooks to pens.

“It’s really taken a load off of me, so I’m very grateful,” said Gamez, who is the recipient of other scholarships.

His mother, Catalina Gamez, is a so-called light lifter for Amy’s Kitchen, putting toppings and other elements on food along the plant’s assembly line. She has worked for the organic food company for 11 years.

Catalina said the scholarship program is “a big help for us.”

“I’m a single parent, so for me to be able to pay for his education, I don’t think I would be able to cover it,” Catalina said. “So, it means a lot to me and a lot to him because he really wants to go to college.”

Gamez said he became interested in kinesiology because he had a lot of sports injuries, leading to lots of recovery time with the help of an athletic trainer.

“A couple of stretches and quick exercises really made my running better than I could have imagined in a really short time,” Gamez said. “I didn’t have pain in places where I used to have it. I could just enjoy my life a lot more.”

His studies could lead him to medical or business school to give him the skills he needs to start his own practice, he said.

“Our physical therapy (industry) is pretty strong down here,” Gamez said.

At Phoenix High School, Gamez was known as a skilled member of the speech and debate team all four years, according to his mentor, Celine Farrimond, teacher of business and marketing.

“I really remember Adriel’s tenacity and his excitement about everything that was going on around him — even as a freshman,” Farrimond said. “He really persevered and cared about his education, no matter what the circumstances were.”

Gamez even qualified for state championships, but couldn’t compete due to a bout of COVID-19.

“Adriel really attacked any issue or question that we were dealing with, with an open mind,” Farrimond said. “A lot of the time, you’re assigned a side to an argument, and you have to do what you can with what you have at that point. That’s really emblematic of Adriel’s personality; he can do a lot with what he’s given.”

Post high school, Farrimond wishes nothing but the best for her former student.

“It’s a huge accomplishment in his life, for sure, and it wasn’t without some roadblocks in the way, and he overcame everything that was thrown at him,” Farrimond said. “He always maintained that kindness and compassion for others, and I know he’s going to continue to do that at Oregon State University.”

Gamez’s mother echoed Farrimond’s comments. “I can’t say anything bad about him,” she said, though she admits she’ll be a little sad when he leaves for Corvallis.

“I’m here for him to support him on whatever he wants to do,” Catalina said. “I know he’s going to do great. He is my kid. He always focused on what he wants to do, so I think he is going to be able to do it.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.

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