Work Scholars

Student Highlight

Connecting Personal Experience and Professional Mission

 February 12, 2018

Driven by life experiences, Marco Ortiz, LC Work Scholar and Social Work major, finds a perfect fit in the 2nd Judicial District Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program in Lewiston, ID. Ortiz’s professional mission to earn his degree in Social Work which began many years ago. 

When he was a teen, Ortiz lost his cousin in the “system.” Ortiz remembers, “We did not know whether he was okay, alive, or still living in the state.” Ortiz now knows that his cousin was adopted to another family and the two are in contact.  But, Ortiz remembers thinking “I wanted to do [social work] so I could find him one day, to let him know that we still care about him, and love him.” The events and personal experiences that have taken place in his life led him to where he is today.

From a young age Ortiz focused on his education. His father never went to school a day in his life. His mother had to drop out of school to work and help support her family when she was a freshman. The youngest of three children, Ortiz remembers, “It was a little difficult growing up needing help and not necessarily having that educational support in my house. But I always had emotional and financial support from my parents. Both my sisters finished high school.”

Marco CASA

“When I set my mind to something, I do it. I try not to limit myself to the possibilities of what I can do.”

Ortiz is the only child that decided to continue his education outside of high school.  But, this path wasn’t always clear.  Ortiz didn’t really know where life would take him until his high school English teacher told him that he saw a lot of potential in him and he should look into applying to college. Ortiz felt lucky and recalls, “I didn’t really think about coming to college. I didn’t really think that I was good enough for college.”

Ortiz remembers visiting Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC), “After that day, I fell in love. The campus, the atmosphere, the people, the community in general. I visited the next year and the next.” LCSC was the only school that Ortiz applied to after graduation. Ortiz laughs and said, “So, if I didn’t get in, it wasn’t meant to be.”

“I am strong willed,” Ortiz comments, “when I set my mind to something, I do it. I try not to limit myself to the possibilities of what I can do.” Ortiz contributes this mindset to his parents who were former migrant farm workers from Mexico and are now US citizens.

In addition to classes, Ortiz attributes LC Work Scholars with helping him define what he really wants to do in life. Networking and building strong relationships within the community, just talking with people – it comes in handy for writing reports and being able to speak in public. Listening skills also play a major role in his job. The opportunities that he has to speak with a variety of people, his love for working with children, and being able to see how the CASA process works, fits hand in hand with his career goals.

Ortiz smiles and says, “This job has helped me know for sure that this is what I want to do. Being successful to me would be making a difference in someone’s life.”

Ortiz takes this professional mission statement to heart, “I really hope to make a difference in at least one person’s life. For them to look back at me and say: Marco was someone who has made a huge impact on my life and because of him, I am here today. It would be my ultimate description of success.”


Work Scholars work 10 hours a week during the academic year and maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher in exchange for a tuition scholarship and stipend. This one-of-a-kind program in Idaho is funded by the Idaho State Legislature. All departments and divisions are encouraged to apply. Off campus businesses are encouraged to contact Erin Cassetto at (208) 792-2084 or Further information can be found on the Work Scholars information page.

Read more LC Work Scholars highlights by major subject areas.


More LC Work Scholars News

Archived Student Highlights

Program Launch

MLK Day of Service

Journey Fall 2015

LC Work Scholars Reaching New Heights

Scholarship x Effort