College Success Foundation, YVC partner to bolster college attainment

College Success Foundation (CSF) and Yakima Valley College have strengthened their partnership to help students from underserved communities and low-income households within the Yakima School District achieve their dreams of a college education.

CSF recently added to its staff a College Success Coach who is located on YVC’s Yakima Campus as part of CSF’s historic expansion of its college coaching services in partnership with Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) in the 2022-23 academic year. The success coach will focus on supporting students — with an integrated system of academic, financial, social and emotional supports — as they transition from high school and pursue their post-secondary credential at YVC.

Carolina Garza, CSF program director for the Yakima region, said that growing the organization’s partnership with YVC will amplify opportunities for young people who frequently face hurdles to completing college.

“CSF will serve more than 200 students at Yakima Valley College this year,” Garza said. “We know that young people from low-income households, students of color, foster youth and first-generation college students in our community will especially benefit from this enhanced support.”

Jennifer Ernst, vice president for instruction and student services at YVC, said having a CSF student success coach based at YVC will enhance the college’s existing supports for students such as academic advising and tutoring.

“CSF has demonstrated exceptional success in working with students beginning in middle school to start developing the mindsets and abilities they need to be successful in life,” Ernst said. “By embedding a coach here at YVC, it helps with the continuity of the personal support students receive through high school and college.”

CSF has worked in Yakima public schools since 2001, starting at A.C. Davis High School and expanding over the years to Eisenhower High School along with three middle schools. CSF’s record of success includes having 58% of CSF Scholars in Washington state graduating from college compared to 52% of low-income students who start college nationally.

“CSF and YVC are dedicated to improving educational equity,” Garza said. “Our work together is giving more young people an opportunity to get ahead in life and contribute to a more vibrant community.”

Starting in middle school, CSF works to ensure students know college is an option for them and what early steps they can take to become ready for college. In grades 9-10, programming focuses on supporting students successfully transition to high school. In grades 11-12, CSF staff help students navigate their final two years of high school and prepare for a successful college experience through college visits, one-on-one advising, financial aid application assistance, scholarship assistance and more.

Once in college, CSF continues their support of students through college and career coaching, networking with other CSF Scholars and alumni, and connections with business and community partners to successfully complete their college journey.

CSF’s recently announced expansion enables it to support more than 4,000 college students attending more than 50 Washington state post-secondary institutions in the 2022-23 academic year — nearly quintupling the number of students supported.

“Students are facing unprecedented challenges in college, especially students historically underrepresented on our college campuses,” said James Dorsey, College Success Foundation’s President and CEO. “We are committed to meeting the diverse needs of students through personalized supports that promote the achievement of college and career goals. I appreciate WSAC’s leadership, partnership and commitment to ensuring that our state prioritizes services that help students achieve their higher education goals.”

Nationally, undergraduate college enrollment plummeted by nearly 1.4 million students or 9.4% during the pandemic, from spring 2020 to spring 2022, according to recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The drops are more dramatic for underserved youth.

In an effort to increase college persistence and graduation, CSF has expanded its staff to include 25 College Success Coaches, including the YVC-based coach.

CSF’s coaches will focus especially on first and second-year college students, where persistence is key. Coaches champion each student’s autonomy — encouraging students to bring forward and advocate for their own goals, while also providing crucial one-on-one guidance. Coaches will host regular workshops on key topics such as financial aid, selecting a major and managing a budget. Additionally, coaches will enhance a scholars’ support network by connecting them with on-campus and virtual resources aimed at making college and career success more achievable, including CSF’s Emergency Fund — through which students can swiftly address financial barriers that jeopardize continued college enrollment, like registration fees, medical emergencies, and technology repair or replacement.

Press Release Contacts:
Dustin Wunderlich / 509.574.6870 /
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 /