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For Immediate Release
August 20, 2002
Contact Information:
Kevin Weeks 503-947-7428  (direct dial)

Oregon OSHA announces Workers' Memorial Scholarship winner

Natasha Whitaker

Natasha Whitaker was amazed when she entered kindergarten to find out that not everyone's father was in a wheelchair. But the experience taught the Monmouth resident that life's challenges can be met by starting with a strong foundation and focusing on your dreams. Whitaker was awarded the 2002 Workers' Memorial Scholarship by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) in a presentation ceremony on August 19.

Whitaker is a 2002 graduate of Central High School in Independence with a 4.0 GPA. While in school, Whitaker participated in 4-H and was Chapter Secretary for FFA at Central High School. She is also a member of the National Honor Society and participated in Central's varsity girls soccer, varsity girls basketball and varsity tennis teams. She also tends to twenty sheep and eighteen beehives on the family's Monmouth farm. Whitaker says she developed a positive attitude about safety while working at Oregon State University's Dairy Center last summer.

"Knowing what my father went through has made me more cautious at work," says Whitaker, "and I felt safer working in the dairy knowing that safety precautions are in place." Whitaker will be studying animal science with an emphasis on animal genetics when she begins her freshman year at Oregon State University in Corvallis this fall. She hopes to pursue a career in chemistry or animal sciences following college.

A wheelchair has been a part of daily life for Natasha's father after he survived a near-fatal logging injury in 1974. "My parents are my heroes," says Whitaker. "(The day of her father's accident) the doctors told my mother that he wouldn't live through the night. She stayed by his side through everything while being six months pregnant with me. My parents have always faced life looking for the possibilities, and have overcome difficulties that are impossible for me to fathom."

Whitaker's family made a number of changes to help the family adapt. "Everything in our house is wheelchair accessible," says Whitaker. "It took a lot of remodeling work, but my dad can get around to where he needs to be."
Oregon OSHA presents annual scholarships to assist in the post-secondary education of spouses or children of permanently disabled or fatally injured workers. The Workers' Memorial Scholarship was established by the 1991 Legislature at the request of the Oregon AFL-CIO with support from Associated Oregon Industries. Whitaker received a nearly $4,800 award for tuition.