Peter Za, a senior at Cleveland High School, spent Tuesday afternoon as he usually does, studying with the other members of his homework club at the Kateri Park Apartments — but study time turned to party time yesterday when he learned he is the most recent winner of a $25,000 Bridging the Dream Scholarship from Sallie Mae, the nation's saving, planning, and paying for college company.

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Peter Za, a senior at Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon, celebrates winning a $25,000 Bridgi ...

Peter Za, a senior at Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon, celebrates winning a $25,000 Bridging the Dream Scholarship from Sallie Mae. (Photo: Business Wire)

On hand for the surprise announcement were Za's mother and sister; staff and volunteers from Catholic Charities of Oregon, which runs the homework club; Jennifer Rockwood, a long-time volunteer at the Cleveland High School College and Career Center; and representatives from Sallie Mae, who brought pizza for the club and surprised Za with the news and a very large check.

"As I've worked with Peter, I see a young man who is committed to getting an education, and I cannot think of a student more deserving of this scholarship," said Rockwood, who nominated Za for the scholarship. "In the eight years I've spent at the College and Career Center, I have never worked with a student who was as motivated, hard-working, and passionate about caring for his family and community."

Za, 18, is taking the most rigorous academic path available at Cleveland High School, where he maintains a 4.0 GPA. He is an international baccalaureate certificate candidate, a member of the varsity soccer team, a volunteer math tutor, and a drummer at his church's worship services. Za, who is fluent in several languages, also actively works with others in his community who are learning English.

"I am so incredibly grateful to Jenny for nominating me for this scholarship and to Sallie Mae for providing me the chance to continue my education," said Za. "College is possible now, and I look forward to the new opportunities it will bring."

Sallie Mae's Bridging the Dream Scholarship recognizes inspiring high school juniors and seniors nationwide who excel in academics, athletics, community service, or school activities, but whose financial circumstances may not permit them to fulfill their college dreams. This year, Sallie Mae will award $25,000 Bridging the Dream Scholarships to five recipients selected from nominations submitted by high school counselors and community leaders from across the U.S.

This is the second year of Sallie Mae's Bridging the Dream Scholarship Program. In addition to company contributions, Sallie Mae employees organized a host of fundraising events, raising more than $57,000 to support the scholarship recipients.

"The Bridging the Dream Scholarship exemplifies, in name and intent, what Sallie Mae is all about, and we are proud to be a part of a community of school counselors, teachers, volunteers, and others who see the potential in young people and want to help," said Martha Holler, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. "Peter's devotion to helping others in his community speaks volumes about the kind of young man he is, and we look forward to seeing all that he will accomplish in the future."

Za was interviewed on Facebook Live shortly after he was surprised with the Bridging the Dream Scholarship. Watch the replay of his reaction on Facebook.com/SallieMae.

For more information about Sallie Mae's Bridging the Dream Scholarships, visit SallieMae.com/BridgingTheDream, or join the conversation by using #BridgingTheDream.

For more information about saving, planning, and paying for college, visit SallieMae.com.

Sallie Mae (Nasdaq: SLM) is the nation's saving, planning, and paying for college company. Whether college is a long way off or just around the corner, Sallie Mae offers products that promote responsible personal finance, including private education loans, Upromise rewards, scholarship search, college financial planning tools, and online retail banking. Learn more at SallieMae.com. Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

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