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The Almeda Fire victim is one of 35 local Amy’s Kitchen scholarship recipients

Phoenix High School senior Adrielle Gamez is headed 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 senior Adrielle Gamez has a reason to keep running not only for exercise with the track team she practices for, but also in the game of life.

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

In all, the company awarded $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 has 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 been through a lot of changes in my life,” said Gamez, who was temporarily displaced by the Almeda fire in 2020. “This year is a little different. … It’s definitely going to be a little scary, but I’m really excited to become more independent. I am definitely ready to accept this challenge.”

Classes at OSU begin on September 21st. Gamez’s $1,500 scholarship from Amy’s Kitchen will pay for essential items, from textbooks to pens.

“It really bored me, so I’m very grateful,” said Gamez, who is also the recipient of other scholarships.

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

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

“I’m a single parent, so to be able to pay for his education, I don’t think I could 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 many sports injuries that resulted in a lot of recovery time with the help of an athletic trainer.

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

His training 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 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, a business and marketing teacher.

“I really remember Adriel’s tenacity and his excitement about everything going on around him — even as a freshman,” Farimond said. “He really persevered and cared about his education regardless of the circumstances.”

Gamez even qualified for the state championships, but was unable to compete due to a bout of COVID-19.

“Adriel really attacked every problem or question we dealt with with an open mind,” Farimond said. “A lot of the time you’re assigned a side in an argument and you have to do what you can with what you have at that point. This is truly emblematic of Adriel’s personality; he can do a lot with what he’s given.

After high school, Farimond wishes only the best for his former student.

“It’s certainly a huge achievement in his life and it wasn’t without some obstacles along the way and he overcame everything that was thrown at him,” Farimond said. “He has always maintained that kindness and compassion for others, and I know he will continue to do so 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 in whatever he does,” Catalina said. “I know he’s going to do great. He is my child. He’s always focused on what he wants to do, so I think he’ll be able to do it.

Contact reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.

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