Governor awards scholarship to girl who overcame great odds to finish school |

Governor awards scholarship to girl who overcame great odds to finish school

Jessica Beckman, center, received a surprise $2,000 scholarship from the Nevada Program Assistance Organization during a ceremony at Gov. Kenny Guinn's office Tuesday morning. Guinn, left, Gary Pierson of NPAO and Jessica's sister, JoJo, 15, were on hand for the presentation. Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Jessica Beckman got a boost Tuesday toward her goal of becoming a teacher.

Not only did Gov. Kenny Guinn take time out to personally award her the Millennium Scholarship she earned, the Nevada Program Assistance Organization granted her a $2,000 scholarship.

Even though the 18-year-old graduated with a near-3.6 grade-point average, college was far from a given. She took on the task of raising her sister JoJo, 15, after their mother was killed two months ago in a car crash.

Beckman worked two jobs to feed and house them, and still managed to finish her senior year at Carson High School with a straight-A report card.

“I cannot imagine how this young lady achieved this,” said Kim Riggs, who directs Carson City School District’s Children in Transition Program.

Riggs brought Beckman to the attention of Gary Pierson, president of the program assistance organization, which he described as a low-key organization which provides scholarships to underprivileged children and adults.

Beckman said she wants to become an elementary school teacher.

“She’s been planning on it forever,” said her sister.

Beckman had already told Riggs she planned to use the Millennium Scholarship to attend college this fall. But she said the program assistance organization scholarship, presented in the governor’s office, came as a complete surprise.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.