It’s been nearly three weeks since Mt. Hood student Brenna Schmidt started working for the office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon. The job is the result of both hard work, and hard times.
An MHCC student since the spring of 2015, Schmidt is pursuing a career in public relations.
She currently is a public relations officer for Rho Theta, Mt. Hood’s honor student group, with plans to complete her transfer degree and pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications, with a minor in advertising, at Portland State University.
After that, she wants “to represent a politician or nonprofit organization that shares my ideologies” to push for “positive global change,” she said.
Why the job with Merkley? Schmidt said she wanted to work for the progressive senator because he “shares my vision in bettering the world in which we live,” she said. She hopes to “use my education, strengths and passion” to help create and promote “positive stories… in order to prevail in a positive change.
“I’m going to show my children that anyone can reach their dreams; all it takes is hard work and determination,” she said.
Schmidt has learned firsthand the value of hard work. The daughter of two alcoholic parents, she “turned to the streets and did whatever I had to, to survive,” she said. “With so much mental damage (and) no role model or coping techniques, I dropped out of school and became an addict myself by the time I was 16. I continued in my addiction for the next eight years.
“During this time I gave birth to the best things that ever happened to me, my two children. I didn’t want them to go through what I went through as a child, so I knew I had to change my life,” she said.
Schmidt went into treatment, joined peer counsel and then started her own Narcotics Anonymous meeting called “Getting Out of Our Own Way.” Her motivation was to break a destructive “generational cycle” for her own children and other children in the community, she said.
After three years of successful sobriety, Schmidt decided it was time to get an education. Despite having never passed a class in high school, and feeling daunted because she “only had a GED,” she was delighted to find that “every time, if I put in the work not only would I pass my classes, I would get a 4.0 GPA!” she said.
Mt. Hood as an institution has been a huge force for change in her life.
“I didn’t even have goals before attending here. I was once broken and had no guidance or support,” Schmidt said. “Thanks to MHCC I am a strong, independent woman with values and morals, and most importantly, I am a great mother.”
“I am one of the most driven women you will ever meet. This is because I know I can accomplish anything; all I have to do is work for it and I am willing to work for what I believe in and what I want out of life.”
That translates to being busy “almost every minute of every day,” she said, including taking her children to OMSI, the park or the zoo, in between being a full-time student, helping Rho Theta and her internship with Merkley’s office.