Silvia Muro-Escalante, a 2014 Arlington High School graduate, was badly injured in a car accident during her freshman year at Washington State University.

Opportunity Scholarship keeps her dream alive

Silvia Muro-Escalante was on her way. She graduated from Arlington High School in 2014 with the dream of a nursing career. Awarded a Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, she became the first in her family to attend a university.

She started her studies at Washington State University, but misfortune put up a roadblock. Before Thanksgiving of her freshman year, she was seriously injured in a car accident.

“I was going home to Arlington from Pullman for Thanksgiving. The weather was really bad,” the 19-year-old said Monday. “I had friends in the car with me. There was a turn, but we didn’t turn — we just went off the road.”

Her Toyota Corolla rolled four times. Her three passengers weren’t seriously hurt.

According to Spokane’s Spokesman-Review newspaper, Muro-Escalante was driving west on State Route 26, near Colfax, when the car left the highway. The Washington State Patrol cited speed too fast for conditions in the Nov. 20, 2014, crash.

The rural area lacked cell service. Muro-Escalante said her friends had to stop someone on the road for help, which took more than an hour to arrive. “They thought I was dead,” she said.

Muro-Escalante was flown by helicopter to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Idaho, where she spent a week. Her parents, Ramon and Basilia Muro, of Arlington, rushed to Lewiston to be at her side. She had a broken collarbone, a fractured elbow, and a head injury. For a time, her memory was impaired.

Back home with family, she went to Cascade Valley Hospital and Clinics for physical and occupational therapy. Her broken body was healing, but her college situation was a mess.

She hadn’t finished first-semester classes, and was worried about losing numerous scholarships. Without them, she couldn’t afford WSU.

“Most of my scholarships said they understood the circumstances, but they couldn’t help me if I didn’t provide them with grades,” Muro-Escalante said.

Officials with the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, a public-private partnership, and the Nellie Martin Carman Scholarship were the exceptions. “They understood and gave me money for my second semester,” Muro-Escalante said.

Not only is she back at WSU for her sophomore year, Muro-Escalante returned to Pullman for the second semester of her freshman year. And she accomplished an academic feat. She finished all her incomplete classes from her first semester of college while carrying a full load for the second semester of her freshman year.

On Tuesday evening, Muro-Escalante was the student speaker at a Washington State Opportunity Scholarship dinner in Seattle. The guests represented the area’s health care community. Megan Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, said the dinner was one of four events aimed at bolstering scholarship donations and engagement with the technology, engineering, aerospace and health care industries.

The Washington State Opportunity Scholarship was launched in 2011 with major support from the Boeing Co. and Microsoft and matching money from the state. It helps students from low- and middle-income families complete bachelor’s degrees in high-demand fields that drive the state’s economy.

Scholarship recipients receive up to $22,500, along with help from professionals. The scholarship starts with $2,500 per year, with the annual sum rising for college juniors and seniors.

Since its start, 5,400 Washington students have been awarded a Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, and 2,300 are being helped this year. Nearly 60 percent of recipients are, like Muro-Escalante, the first in their families to attend college.

The state matches the donations. Nelson said last year brought two extraordinary gifts. In April, Woodinville investor Gary Rubens and the Rubens Family Foundation announced a $20 million donation to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship. Later last year, the scholarship received $11 million from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie.

The money helps, but there’s nothing easy about Muro-Escalante’s road to career success. While in college, she works full-time as a certified nursing assistant at a care facility in Pullman. She has wanted to be a nurse since childhood, when a cousin battled cancer.

“My family was always at the hospital. I could see how much nurses help,” she said. “And I know because of my accident I’m going to be a better nurse.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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