1990 Milwaukie High School grads find American dream despite tough odds
Published: Saturday, July 31, 2010, 12:00 PM
But at least some of those who showed up for the class's 20th reunion in Portland last weekend proved that persistence and hard work still deliver a home, family and middle-class life, even when the odds seemed stacked against them.
In 1995, Milwaukie High graduate Mercedes Cochran Cook, already married with two children, seemed mired too deep in obligations to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. Classmate Stacey Baker seemed to have squandered her college degree on a receptionist job for a shoe company, and Jonathan Heiden was scrambling from job to job as he tried to support his wife and daughter.
Today, Cochran Cook is a professional actress, Baker has traveled around the world outfitting athletes for the Olympics, and Heiden has a stable job driving a garbage truck, earning enough to support his family and buy a home.
"I figured out how to make a living doing what I love in Oregon," says Cochran Cook. "I'm pretty proud of that."
A team of Oregonian reporters in 1995 set out to track down graduates of Milwaukie High's class of 1990 to see how well a typical Oregon high school prepared young people for their next stage in life, whether work or college. The team chose Milwaukie because it was, in almost every way,