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Rhonda Rosenberg, Director of Communications
King County Housing Authority
Spiritwood Manor resident wins $10,000 PNRC-NAHRO college scholarship
Helen Kapitonenko juggles a demanding academic schedule, takes care of her siblings while her mother works and volunteers with equally remarkable results.
Kapitonenko, 18, lives with her family at Spiritwood Manor, a 130-unit subsidized apartment complex owned and managed by the King County Housing Authority,
On April 29, she was awarded the Jesse Epstein scholarship given annually by the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials (PNRC-NAHRO). The $10,000 scholarship will provide her with $2,500 for each of four years at the college or university of her choice. King County Housing Authority sponsored Kapitonenko’s application and will contribute an additional $250 grant toward her education.
“Helen’s accomplishments speak to her intelligence, compassion, drive, and hard work,” said Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority. “With this scholarship, she’s firmly on the path to attaining the American Dream – allowing her to create a better future for herself and her family, contributing to the region’s economy.”
The oldest of four children born to Ukrainian immigrants, Kapitonenko has faced many challenges, including a period when she and her family were homeless. Despite a sporadically insecure home life –she attended three different schools during fifth grade − the Sammamish High School senior has a 3.97 GPA while taking Advanced Placement and honors classes in statistics, world history, trigonometry and pre-calculus. She has been a member of the National Honor Society for three years, was named “Most Inspirational Female Youth Leader” by Youth Link in 2010, and was twice named student of the month at Sammamish High School. In addition, she volunteers at Jubilee REACH, a nonprofit agency that provides a range of outreach services to children and families in the greater Lake Hills community of Bellevue, and where she was chosen by her peers to be president of the Jubilee art club. In 2011, Kapitonenko was named the Jubilee art studio summer internship program’s “Most Outstanding” intern. All this while preparing dinner for her three younger siblings and helping them with their homework each evening.
“Education is important to me because it is the best investment to succeed in life. I want to get a good job and help my family get out of poverty,” said Kapitonenko. “Hard work has been my constant companion. This scholarship will allow me to take advantage of many new opportunities and experiences without worrying as much about the financial burden of going to college. I have learned to advocate for myself, and now I want to help advocate for others.”
Kapitonenko wants to study communications and business administration. She plans to work in the nonprofit sector because of her desire to give back to the community and because “I just really like helping people.” She has been accepted at four area colleges including Seattle University, but is still undecided about where she will enroll.
The Pacific Northwest Council of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials created its scholarship program for residents of its members’ public and affordable housing programs in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington in 1993. Since then, 72 scholarships worth $231,000 have been awarded. The Jesse Epstein Scholarship, which is only awarded to one graduating senior each year, is named after the late public housing activist and founder of the Seattle Housing Authority.