WHS grad wins national honor
Last updated 8/14/2022 at 6:37pm | View PDF
Anthony Ornelaz grew up in Wasco and has many fond memories of his childhood. Despite being poor, he was able to transcend past that and achieve many great things.
He attended John L. Prueitt Elementary School, Karl Clemens Elementary School, Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Wasco High School.
Recently Ornelaz received the Pat Tillman Foundation Scholars Award. The award is named in honor of the former professional football player who left his career to enlist in the army and later died in the line of duty.
He beat out over 1,000 applicants from across the nation. The recognition was based on military and community service and intellectual pursuit.
"I received a substantial amount of money to cover my future and current educational endeavors," said Ornelaz.
He said he was excited about the award.
"I get to carry on the legacy of Pat Tillman being an advocate for education and community involvement."
Of his upbringing, what he enjoyed most was being raised in a small community. He misses the sunsets, foggy mornings and seeing familiar faces.
As a child, he spent his time in the fields, the reservoir and riding his bike. He spent a lot of time on Poso Street with his grandfather.
"My grandpa liked to grow things, and I really enjoyed the nature in Wasco," said Ornelaz.
After graduating from Wasco High School in 2006, he enlisted in the military. He had various positions as a security forces member, physical security manager and installation patrolman.
"I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather and father, who also served," said Ornelaz. "It was my goal since I was little."
He said he learned a lot from his military experiences, like perseverance and the ability to adapt.
"That has helped me in all my past and current goals, " said Ornelaz.
After his discharge completing his term in 2014, he left for Amherst College, graduating with bachelor's degree in history and sexuality, women and gender studies.
Currently, he attends Syracuse University in New York, where he is pursuing a master's degree in fine arts and creative writing to become a poet.
Ornelaz plans to return to Wasco after his graduation as a teacher of history and creative writing.
"I would like to facilitate the younger generations into going into the military or pursuing their education while assisting them in harnessing whatever talents they have."
Ornelaz is also a passionate poet and has been published several times. One of his published works is a poem about Wasco, "What's home like."
In the poem, he talks about the memories he holds of Wasco and the struggles of living poor.
"There was food insecurity, and every family I grew up with at one point had to determine if they were going to keep the lights on or not," said Ornelaz.
Despite poverty, he was able to overcome many obstacles. He is an inspiration for all those from a small town that have big dreams and aspirations.
"I want others to see that there are things that are bigger than themselves that they can pursue."