Temari Asazuki, 23, and Yuki Rutherford, 21, are closer than most sisters. Removed at a young age from their mother's care, they grew up in foster homes and became a support group all to themselves. According to Yuki, "We've been all each other has had, aside from friends, for a long time."
That sisterly support has proved remarkably successful. Temari and Yuki attend Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) and work at the front desk at the College Center, which is the hub of student activities and programs. They answer questions, provide information and directions to activities and follow up with people as needed.
Mary Burlingame, who oversees the front desk and works closely with the sisters, sings their praises. "They're really reliable employees who showed good leadership skills right from the beginning. They started out shy, but now they're both great employees who teach the new people," says Burlingame. "And they get out into the community, where they've become faces for the College. They've really blossomed."
The future looks bright for the sisters, who will graduate with Associate of Arts degrees from MHCC on June 16 and attend Concordia College next fall.
"I'm extremely excited about Concordia," Yuki says. "I want to focus on early childhood education, and then go to work anywhere in the country where there's a need for teachers who are really passionate about what they do."
Temari, who left an abusive early marriage, is aiming for a bachelor's degree in early childhood education and then a master's in special education. It's a very personal ambition for her, because she was a special ed student herself growing up.
"The doctors said I was retarded," she says simply. "I showed them they were wrong."
Both sisters have found their time at MHCC highly rewarding, as students and as fellow employees. They rely on each other’s abilities, and can confidently leave each other notes about unfinished tasks that need to be handled.
"Working at the College Center has been really fun," Yuki says. "I like all the connections you make with other students. I wouldn't trade my experience here for anything."
Her sister agrees. "This has been my favorite job ever. We have great bosses, and you get to help a lot of people."
Temari finds it especially satisfying to help people going through the same sorts of difficulties she has experienced herself. "I can steer them to the resources that I know about now, that were new to me when I first came here. The College Center is my favorite place on campus."
By Deborah Wessell