HERMISTON - Abelardo Molina picked up his computer Tuesday, a new, state-of- the-art Dell system with a flat screen monitor and a litany of software bells and digital whistles.

It took him almost 19 years of struggling against the odds and hitting the books to get into a premier university, enrolled in a prestigious program. But with a little help from some friends back home it only took a week to get his first computer.

The 2003 Hermiston High graduate started his freshman year at Purdue University this fall on a fully paid academic scholarship. He had years of student government behind him, impeccable grades and a lifelong desire to be an airplane pilot.

"As long as I can remember I've been fascinated with planes," Molina said during a telephone interview from West Laffayette, Ind., where the 18-year-old majors in aviation technology. "I always dreamed of one day being in the cockpit and flying."

The one thing he didn't have was a computer to type out his papers and e-mail them to professors.

His friend, mentor and Armand Larvie Middle School guidance counselor, Andy Bowers, began soliciting donations to buy Molina a computer. Last Tuesday he sent letters to area banks asking for donations, explaining the hurdles Molina has overcome to reach the heights of academic excellence.

His father died during his seventh-grade year and his mother, Francisca, works long hours to support Molina and her other children. It didn't stop him from lettering in soccer and wrestling, serving as student body president his freshman year, working with the Hispanic Youth Leadership Group and graduating with a 3.97 grade point average.

"He's never let anything get in his way," Bowers said, who personally drove Molina to Indiana in August. "He's one of those kids that is always trying to do the right thing."

The next day Bowers received a call from Wendy Osgood, CEO of Schools Plus Community Credit Union. She told him she would like to buy the computer outright for Molina.

"Here's a kid who worked really hard, and against all odds made it to college on an academic scholarship," Osgood said.

The next day, last Thursday, Bowers and Osgood sat down to order the computer.

Bowers' original idea was to spend $700 on the computer, but Osgood didn't stop there, selecting upgrades on hardware and the monitor, plus a printer. The total cost was just shy of $1,000.

"If I was buying one for myself I wouldn't have bought the bare minimum," Osgood said. "That didn't seem appropriate."

The act of generosity blew Bowers away, he said.

"I was almost crying, she kept adding stuff," Bowers said. "She really went above and beyond."

A week after Bowers sent the letters out, the computer arrived.

Molina said he was sure it would make homework easier not having to worry about long lines at the computer labs on campus.

"It's unbelievable," he said.

Having grown up in Eastern Oregon, Molina admitted to a touch of homesickness, but said he is having the time of his life. Recently his flight instructor sent him on his first solo flight in a single engine Piper Warrior.

"I miss the mountains, and the river, but actually I'm loving it," he said.

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