UMATILLA — Umatilla High School senior Emmanuel Salas has been dreaming of life in the city for years. This summer, that dream will become reality as he heads to Portland to take part in a statewide work program.
Through the Summer Work Internship for Transition program, Salas will live in a dorm on the campus of Portland State University for about two months, working for pay and learning how to budget and live solo. But his ambitions don’t stop in the Pacific Northwest.
“New York has been a big inspiration for me since fifth grade,” he said. “I don’t want to stay here. I want to move to a city and I want to do something creative.”
Salas hasn’t received his work assignment for the program yet, but hopes to be employed at a floral shop or a makeup store. After the program, he plans on attending cosmetology school in the Tri-Cities while living with his family in Umatilla or to perhaps begin working for a makeup or eyelash brand.
He was inspired to go in this direction by his mother, a hairstylist. As a child, he would regularly wake up “way too early” to watch her cut hair.
Salas is a little nervous about living independently in the Rose City.
“Having to live on my own, that’s going to be difficult,” he said. “I’ll experience how to budget and use public transportation.”
Although, he may be more prepared than he realizes. Salas said his favorite class during his time at Umatilla High has been personal finances.
“It’s boring,” he acknowledged. “But it’s going to help me in the future.”
Salas is the only student from Umatilla County, so far, selected to be one of the 20 Summer Work participants. The program is open to students who are a part of the statewide Vocational Rehabilitation Program. He applied in early January.
“At first I didn’t think I would get it,” he said. “And I didn’t think it was that serious of an opportunity.”
But he said that changed as he began filling out the application, which his teacher encouraged him to do.
“This is a really exciting opportunity for (Salas) to further his skills in the ongoing process to succeed in the working world and continue to become independent,” stated Julie Hunt, Special Education Director of Umatilla School District, in a recent news release.
During the summer of 2018, Salas participated in the school district’s Summer Work-based Experience Learning Lesson program for students with documented disabilities.
His participation led him to a job at Walmart, where he has worked for more than a year.
He has one piece of advice for students looking to gain more independence and follow their own ambitions: “I feel like you need to think outside of the box,” he said.