Mariah Cornejo 

YVC has a big Running Start population so I’ve gotten to know students from all over the valley. I’ve been able to connect with different people from different backgrounds and formed new friendships.

Mariah Cornejo Student Stories Featured Image


Degree/Certificate & Class Year 
Associate in Arts Transfer Political Science, 2024 


Political Science 

Extracurriculars (e.g., clubs, YVC sports teams) 
YVC: Upward Bound 

Eisenhower High School: President of National Honor Society, Knowledge Bowl, VP of Speech & Debate Club, Coordinator of Mr. Ike Pageant and Youthworks, Yearbook, Softball 

What three words would you use to describe YVC? 
Inclusive, Opportunity, Close knit  

What’s your favorite class? Why? How has it expanded your knowledge? 
Political science has really changed my perspective on politics and also just how our society works. It has made me a better student with the rigorous work that political science has and [Political Science Instructor] Tim Jeske has given me the opportunity to express my own opinions throughout his assignments and also helped me learn more about the world itself. In our class we learned about international relations and our case studies about Turkey. Before I took the class I didn’t know much about Turkey, like where the country was.  With the case study we studied Turkey throughout the whole quarter — I really like knowing more about the country and Middle Eastern politics and became very fascinated with international politics. It’s been a really interesting class and it’s also inspired me to major in political science after I graduate with my [direct transfer degree] here YVC. 

Who is your mentor on campus? Why do you consider this person your mentor? 
So far, every instructor I’ve encountered here YVC has given me a new mindset and they’ve always taught me something besides what they’re teaching me academically. For example, my first quarter here at YVC I was a new Running Start student and it was a new environment —college and high schools are totally different. I was very excited to be in a college and ready to take the next step academically. Margaret France was my English 101 instructor, she was an amazing instructor and taught me so many things that helped me enhance my English skills including writing and analysis on a variety of topics including books and television shows. I took history winter quarter with [History Instructor] Ken Zontek. He helped me with my writing skills as well as learning to write fast, because in his class we had to write class essays in, like, 20 minutes. We also got to examine two perspectives of U.S. history, the conservative perspective and the more liberal approach, providing a compare and contrast — I really liked that because I got to see the history of America in two different lights and I think that also sparked my interest in government. Political science with Tim Jeske helped me figure out what I want to do in in my career after high school, what path I want to take as an undergraduate student. He helped inspire me to go to law school and be a lawyer and so his class has just enhanced my desire of knowing about politics in the U.S. and internationally. 

What made you want to come to YVC? 
I’ve been taking dual enrollment classes since my freshman year. I really liked having a college class as I found myself getting bored at the high school with the classes. When I found out that through YVC’s Running Start program I had the opportunity to go to the college and actually take the classes on a college campus I was excited. I wanted the college experience, but closer to home, before I actually go off to undergrad and whatever college I decide. The variety of classes I could take and in a faster time was also appealing to me, knowing I can get my high school diploma but also get an Associate in Arts and I thought that was an amazing opportunity to kill some time and save money in my undergrad [studies].  

Are there any barriers that you’ve overcome to be successful at YVC? Please describe. 
Transitioning from being a high schooler and then being a college student. In high school they’re pretty lenient with deadlines and homework assignments — you get probably like one or two homework assignments a week. In college, because it’s [a] quarter system, it’s pretty fast-paced, the workload requires a lot of studying on your own time. I’ve had to learn how to study on my own, which I’ve never really done that before.  At YVC I have had to learn a whole new method of studying here because you get challenged and it’s helped me grow academically because now I know how to study and be more productive.  

What do you like or find most interesting about your major? 
I think maybe having a little bit of everything. I learned political science is not only just government, but we also learn why people do things. It has a little bit of psychology and sociology ingrained in it. I’ve heard a lot of people say they don’t care like about politics or that it’s too dramatic or too stressful, but when you think about it, politics is everywhere you go. From going to the store and paying a specific tax, that’s politics because politics connects [to] economics. It’s made me really care  more about politics. I know younger people do not vote as much as an older generation so I definitely want to spread awareness that your vote matters and you have a voice, especially in the United States. Being a first-generation student, my family’s from Peru, and my family doesn’t really vote or care much about politics and so I never really grew up knowing anything. So taking this class is giving me the ability to learn about American politics but also learn how to express my own opinions and knowing that’s OK.  

Where do you find your community on campus? 
YVC has a big Running Start population so I’ve gotten to know not only Eisenhower High School students but also students from Davis, East Valley, West Valley and Selah high schools. I’ve gotten to know different people from all over the valley and not just Running Start students but also [older] college students. I feel like the environment is so much different than high school — everyone’s here because they’re working hard, they’re working towards a goal and there’s no distractions of high school drama. I’ve gotten to really connect with different people from different backgrounds and I’ve gone on to make relationships by studying together, talking and by meeting different people in my classes.  

What advice do you have for prospective students? 
Don’t be afraid to ask for ask help from instructors and staff. Every staff member or instructor I’ve met here has been super willing to give advice and they’re very nice. YVC offers a Math Center and Writing Center. I utilize those tools every quarter. When I took statistics I would be [at the Math Center] every day and it just amazed me that there’s instructors there to help you anytime and it really helped me ace my statistics class.  

What’s your favorite spot on campus? 
Glenn Anthon Hall because it’s kind of the hub for a lot of subjects. Upstairs is science and downstairs are math and English and other classes. I like hanging out in the hallways before class or sitting down at a table to study. I really enjoy that you can study but you can also socialize with other students. 

How has Yakima Valley College changed you? 
I think it’s changed me in a lot of ways. Personally, I’ve got a good support system here from advisors and instructors. A lot of them are so understanding when something is going on in my life, I’m too busy or I’m struggling with my own mental health. Every instructor has always showed compassion towards mental health, and I think that’s  really unique because in a high school a lot of teachers don’t really acknowledge mental health and I think it’s changed me, it’s OK to know that you don’t have to be perfect. That’s something I struggle with because I have always  overachieved in my high school but here, I’ve struggled with my academics and I’ve had to overcome that sometimes you can’t get the perfect score and that’s OK. You tried and you overcame that. So it’s definitely changed my mentality.  

How do you manage stress? 
I think managing my stress can either be negative or positive. Before I would just kind of shut myself down or distance myself from everyone because I’m so stressed out and I didn’t know how to cope with it. Throughout this whole school year, I’ve learned that talking it out with someone or writing in a journal about how stressed you are and also just taking a break helps. I feel like when people are stressed out, they don’t take a deep breath and just take a break.  I’ve learned breathing techniques and when I get overwhelmed with all the assignments and finals week I take a break for 30 minutes. I sit outside and do  deep breathing and after that I go and I look at everything with a fresh set of eyes and schedule everything I need to do. 

Do you have a job? How do you work that into your schedule? 
Last summer I did an internship with the Yakima Prosecuting Office. I still volunteer when I have time.  

What do you view is your biggest achievement at YVC? 
I think maintaining good grades it was hard at first. My first quarter was easy because I didn’t take too hard classes but winter quarter I really struggled, I took some really hard classes and I felt like I was drowning. I worked really hard and I got through it and I was really proud of myself.  

Did you receive any financial aid or scholarship funding to attend YVC? If so, please describe how this helped you on your journey.  
Running Start [and] Upward Bound paid for books from every class, paid all the lab fees. 

What is your ultimate goal? Where would you like to end up? 
One of my main goals ever since I was little is going to a four-year school. When I graduate from YVC and transfer to a university I’ll be the first person in my family to go and that’s something that I’ve been holding on for since I was little. I remember when I was little thinking, “I’m going to college.” That was my dream and being here at YVC I am in college and I’m really proud of myself. I really want to make my family proud, but also for myself I really want to be a lawyer and come back to the Yakima Valley and help this community.  

Can you share some about your summer plans with Washington World Fellows? 
This summer I will be studying abroad in Logrono, Spain through the Washington World Fellows Program. I’m really excited because I’ve never left the West Coast. I’m going to be living with a host family and I’m going to be taking some classes including Spanish language, history, art and college readiness. I’ll also be starting to apply for scholarships getting ready for the Common App for my senior year. We’re also doing a summit, so I’ve collaborated with different students from around Washington that are also in this program and some students from Spain and we’ve created an action project that we’ll be presenting in July. Our focus is about climate change and I’m really excited to be presenting this summer and growing as a person. I’m excited to be by myself and experience a whole new world.  

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