Olivia Gargaro

Olivia Gargaro poses for Student Story Picture.

Associate in Arts

Olivia Gargaro is graduating this June with her associate degree and her high school diploma. Gargaro, is one of 185 students who have participated in the Running Start program at Yakima Valley College, which gives high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to complete their high school diploma and work toward a college degree at the same time.

Gargaro, who attended Selah School District, is the first in her family to earn a college degree. Raised by a single mother, she was always pushed and encouraged to challenge herself academically. This encouragement, which led her to enroll in YVC’s courses as a junior, also  helped her strive to become this year’s Selah High School valedictorian.

“I knew I needed a challenge and with many years of schooling ahead of me, I valued the jump start from the Running Start program that would allow me to wipe out my prerequisites for a bachelor’s degree before I even turned 18,” stated Gargaro.

Gargaro enjoyed how YVC’s program allowed her to take additional courses not available at her high school.

“I really enjoy being able to personalize my education. At high school, everyone takes the same five or six classes a semester, and the overall variation is limited. At YVC, I could study anthropology and chemistry at the same time — two of my deepest passions, fields of study my high school would never offer,” she continued.

To help pursue her studies she has received funding from the Finish Strong program, which helps counsel and advise STEM students so they can be successful at both YVC and any university where they complete a bachelor’s degree.

After graduating in June, Gargaro will transfer to the University of Washington where she will study biochemistry and participate in the university’s honors program. Ultimately, she plans to transfer to medical or physician assistant school and specialize in pediatrics.

“I’ve always known the medical field was for me. I mean, what kid has a favorite periodic element? Just me, I am guessing. Running Start at YVC has allowed me to earn an AA by the time I graduate high school and ensures I have a head start at a 4-year university this fall,” Gargaro said. “Everything I do is for my family, to make them proud and see them smile when I accomplish the smallest of things. Getting to succeed so young with YVC has brought joy into my heart and theirs. This AA I earn here will be the first college degree earned within my family, and that truly is one of the most meaningful things within my life.”


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