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Portland Fashion Institute launches scholarship for teens to find diverse talent

The recipient will receive $19,000 worth of classes plus a chance to create a portfolio to help launch their career or go on to an even bigger school.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Five years ago, if you had told Taneshia O'Neal she'd be in the fashion world, she wouldn't have believed you. "I have two kids they are both in middle school and part of me has always kind of wanted a job with great health benefits and security," said O'Neal. 

While working with Portland Public Schools for about four years she also went to school. "I was in a master's program to get a teaching degree and I was like, 'I can't do this anymore' and I left." 

She decided to pursue something she always wanted to and enrolled at Portland Fashion Institute (PFI), an apparel school where classes are taught by people in the industry. Being in the environment taught Taneshia there's plenty of options for careers in fashion. 

"If you wanted to do marketing, or you want to do retail, or you want to make patterns, (there are) a lot of different things. . . I just didn't know. The scary part was, I just thought it would be uncertain and now when I'm there that's totally not my opinion anymore. " 

PFI offers a variety of classes, certificate programs and scholarships. The institute has been in the Portland area for about 10 years. 

"I think that really the school is kind of a reflection of the population of Portland, I am often the only person of color in a class," said O'Neal. 

The lack of diversity is something PFI founder Sharon Blair, wants to change. "It just seemed wrong that we're missing a whole segment of Portland where we have such great talent," said Blair. 

To find diverse talent, PFI launched 'Fashion Design Scholarship for teens'. Blair partnered with long time friend Abibat Durosimi of Bloom Beauty Collective, a production agency known for showcasing people of color at their events. 

"We definitely built this relationship, where we wanted to see people of color shine within that industry so it was just, of course, it made sense," said Durosimi. 

The scholarship is open to full-time high school juniors or seniors of color in the Portland-Vancouver area. "Our scholarship is $19,000 worth of classes plus a fashion show getting to have experience with a fashion event, a portfolio so that they can then launch their career or go on to even bigger school," explained Blair.

Based on her experience Taneshia says teens should leap on this opportunity for a scholarship. "Just do it, at the end of the day, there are no do-overs, you get one life, do it." Taneshia is still taking classes at PFI and hopes to someday design her own furniture. 

The application for the PFI scholarship is now open until August 1 and recipients will be announced at an event on August 8. 

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