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Mandy Montano
Congratulations to Mandy Montano, winner of the first ever Cascadia Alumni Award!

Mandy Montano came from an extremely low-income household. Neither of her parents completed high school. Her mom, who didn't even complete junior high, encouraged Mandy and her sister to pursue higher education to break the cycle of poverty, but her mom lacked the experience or knowledge to help them. In addition, Mandy was labeled dyslexic in grade school, creating even more obstacles to success. Despite her mother's encouragement, her school and life experiences seemed to push Mandy to set her expectations low.

At age 13, Mandy started working to help out at home, and eventually left school and moved out on her own. After getting a GED, she tried to work her way up in the medical and biotech field, but was stalled by her lack of education. She had tried college a couple of times along the way, but struggled each time, until she finally found her way to Cascadia where for the first time, her instructors helped her to overcome her fears and feel empowered and confident. She began to realize that she was capable of more than she ever imagined.

In 2008 she graduated from Cascadia, in 2009 she completed her bachelor's from the University of Washington, and in August 2011 Mandy received her master's of communication at the UW. Today she runs the regulatory records and documents department for the Puget Sound Blood Center and is still considering an MBA or law degree next.

Despite these terrific accomplishments, they're only half the story. During her first year at Cascadia, Mandy's husband was diagnosed with Lymphoma, which she called "tough, earth-shattering" news. While in grad school, not only did she have her first son, but her mother was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Mandy called those years while she was pursuing her education "the hardest years of [her] life," but she was determined that both her husband and her mother would see her graduate.

As Mandy shared, "They both needed to be there. They have watched me work so hard for so long and supported me, we needed a win... Cascadia was the first graduation I was able to invite my mom to and she cried. The proudest moment, since Cascadia, is to hear my mom say that her girls are her greatest achievement."

Huge congratulations to Mandy for her success and for proving that with determination and the right support, our students can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We are so proud of you, Mandy!

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