YVC Announces 2021 All-Washington Academic Team Members

Yakima, Wash. – A student who has a passion for public service and another who wants to give back to the community are this year’s Yakima Valley College nominees for the All-USA Academic Team competition and both are automatically named to the All-Washington Academic Team. Each year, Yakima Valley College and other community and technical colleges in Washington state each select two student nominees to represent their college in the All-USA Academic Team competition. Students will be honored in a virtual All-Washington Academic Team ceremony on April 15, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. PST where two students will be selected from the state of Washington nominees to participate in the All-USA Academic Team competition.

Yakima Valley College is proud to announce Miguel Blancas-Alejo and Chance Goodwin have been named members of the 2021 All-Washington Academic Team and have a chance to be selected to the All-USA Academic Team Competition.

Miguel Blancas AlejoMiguel Blancas-Alejo was born in Chavinda, Michoacán, Mexico. At the age of five his family moved to Quincy, Wash. Growing up Blancas-Alejo often felt discriminated against due to the color of his skin. He was kept in an English Language Learners program that allowed for only limited interaction with his native English-speaking peers, adding to his feelings of isolation and lack of acceptance.

Based on his experiences at a very young age, Blancas-Alejo began to realize that changes needed to be made in his community. His passion for public service emerged while volunteering at the Quincy Community Food Bank during a school break. That desire to help others has shaped Blancas-Alejo’s determination to make an impact in his community.

“While working as a volunteer I witnessed food insecurity across all social-economical groups and the importance of this resource,” he stated.

Blancas-Alejo’s desire to give back led him to volunteer during his junior and senior years of high school as a medical assistant at Quincy Valley Hospital’s emergency room and convalescent center, which serves a community that lacks access to healthcare. As a volunteer firefighter for Grant County Fire Protection District 3, he saw how important unity is for communities during natural disasters. In 2001 Blancas-Alejo became the youngest person to serve as a board member for Upper Columbia Basin Habitat for Humanity — a role in which he was able to witness how many people were affected by homelessness.  In 2009, he moved to Yakima, Wash. and began working as a firefighter for Yakima County Fire Protection District 12, later joining the Yakima Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit.

“Through the work of these local organizations, I saw the impact that public service played through advocacy, policy change, reform and simply listening,” Blancas-Alejo continued.

Wanting to expand his ability to help others, Blancas-Alejo enrolled at Yakima Valley College in January 2019 to work on his prerequisites to pursuing a law degree. With the confidence of his peers, he was quickly selected to serve on the student government.

“Upon starting at YVC I immediately noticed a lack of food service on campus. The campus was busy from early morning through later afternoon as well as busy streets around the campus. During class, I could hear many of the students making noises due to the lack of nourishment before class. I surmised that the campus had a food insecurity issue, which affected the college community,” he continued.

During this time he also began volunteering at the Rotary Food Bank and noticed how drastic food insecurity was throughout the Yakima Valley.

Blancas-Alejo got to work doing research on how to establish campus food pantries on both the Yakima and Grandview campuses. The student council partnered with the Rotary Food Bank, YVC Transfer Club and YVC Connections Bridge Club to help identify students in need. After almost a year of work, in January 2020 the students and administration of the college secured funds and locations for food pantries on both campuses. Blancas-Alejo, along with fellow members of the student life office, were able to secure food from OIC of Yakima to help supplement the number of nutritious food options available on campus for students and community members.

In November of 2019, Blancas-Alejo realized another dream when he became a United States citizen. Becoming a citizen enables him to continue to advocate for change without the fear of retaliation. He states, “Being a citizen means I can now speak for those oppressed and work to make changes for the greater good. It’s one thing to have a voice; it is another thing to have a voting right to be part of the changes. Now that I am a citizen, the fear of speaking out is gone and I have gained courage knowing that what I do on a daily basis is helping and improving the lives of others.”

While serving on the student government Blancas-Alejo and his fellow officers also worked to unite the student government offices on the Yakima and Grandview campuses. Blancas-Alejo and his peers advocated to create a new position to increase student support on the Grandview Campus.

He will graduate in spring 2021 with his associate degree from YVC. He plans to transfer to a four-year university and pursue a law degree.

“My academic and career goals are to continue fighting for social justice through public service. I have learned [that] through educating and advocacy we help expand critical thinking and promote celebrating our differences,” he concluded.

Chance GoodwinChance Goodwin was born North Bend, Wash., and moved to the Yakima Valley when he was five years old. Following high school he enrolled at Yakima Valley College in fall 2019 to pursue a degree in English language and literature. Raised by a single mother who worked hard to provide for her family, Goodwin credits her with motivating him to succeed.

“If I am to be honest, I am not motivated by the money or the illustrious titles I could hold. I am motivated by making my mother happy and providing for her after all she has gone through for me. This is my chance to take care of her, as she had done for me all of her life as a single mother. Growing up, I may not have been born into the life of a middle class or high class family, but those are the things that do not bother me,” stated Goodwin.

While taking English 101 & 102 courses Goodwin often visited the college’s writing center and was inspired by the writing tutors he observed. The passion of his instructor, Kristy Webster, also helped guide him and he discovered his love of English language and literature. Wanting to help other students who were struggling, he completed the center’s training for tutors and was assigned to help students who were having difficulty with their essays.

His goal as a tutor is to help students overcome the feeling that they can’t become better writers.

“My main strategy for helping these students in need was to help them see the fun in writing. I explained to them that not every paper can be created equal, and writing is a great opportunity to express their true feelings towards the matter of the subject,” he continued.

In addition to tutoring, Goodwin has also been involved with the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) student club. PTK has provided support to Goodwin and qualified him for various scholarships.

Off campus, Goodwin helps support his mother’s small business selling custom decorated furniture and delivering it to customers.

Goodwin will graduate in the summer with a transfer degree. He plans to transfer to Heritage University and pursue a bachelor’s and later master’s degree in English language and literature. Although his future aspirations are still unclear, Goodwin hopes to continue to work towards making the world a better place whether by writing books, becoming a historian or a teacher, or telling engaging stories through cinema.

Wherever Goodwin’s aspirations take him, he aims to help his community.

“I try to help almost every person that I come across these days,” Goodwin said, “and I hope that my friendly demeanor can rub off on some that reside within my community, because I hope that we can all make the world a better place.”

The All-Washington Academic Team program recognizes and honors our state’s finest higher education students. The students who make up the All-Washington Team reflect the diversity of the state, maintain high standards of excellence and contribute positively to the community. The program has become a showcase for Washington’s community and technical colleges because it honors academic high achievers, men and women who have demonstrated a commitment to success in the classroom and in the communities in which they live. To qualify for the All-Washington Academic Team, students must be part of the Phi Theta Kappa international honor society for two-year colleges.

In addition to recognition of the All-Washington Academic Team, each of YVC’s nominees is also placed in competition for the All-USA Academic Team, Coca-Cola Academic Team and the New Century Pathway Scholarship awards. Phi Theta Kappa will notify students of their placement on national teams in April 2021. All-Washington Academic Team members who are also Phi Theta Kappa members are eligible to apply for the Guistwhite or Hites Scholarships.

Each All-Washington team member will receive a commemorative medallion and a $250 scholarship from KeyBank. Thanks to the generosity of the Yakima Valley College Foundation YVC’s nominees will receive an additional $250 scholarship.

In addition, the top-qualifying students will receive scholarships from Washington State Employees Credit Union and the Washington State Association of College Trustees. Students who choose to transfer to four-year colleges and universities within Washington state also are eligible to receive additional scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $12,000.

Press Release Contacts:
Dustin Wunderlich / 509.574.6870 / dwunderlich@yvcc.edu
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 / smenard@yvcc.edu