Lizbeth Ochoa standing in front of sunflowers

YVC’s Transforming Lives Nominee Lizbeth Ochoa

Olympia, Wash. –  A single mother who overcame homelessness to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher is Yakima Valley College’s nominee for Washington state’s Transforming Lives Award. Each year, the Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT) Awards Committee  recognizes the accomplishments of nominees from each of the state’s community and technical colleges for the Transforming Lives Award.

Yakima Valley College is proud to honor Lizbeth Ochoa for her outstanding accomplishments and continued success.

A single mother of three children, Ochoa realized that she would need additional education to provide the life she wanted for her family. Armed only with the hope of a better life, she gave up the security of a full-time job and enrolled in college.

“My boys have been my motivation to better myself and pursue a successful future. Even though I knew it was going to be very difficult to make that change, I took a risk and quit my job to be a full-time student,” stated Ochoa.

Though she became homeless shortly after quitting her job, Ochoa’s determination to better herself through education remained strong. Committed to succeeding and excited to begin a new journey, she enrolled at YVC in January 2020.

“I was happy but nervous that I would not be able to catch up as quickly. My first quarter at Yakima Valley College was amazing. The professors made me feel welcome and made everything very simple and practical,” Ochoa said.

While Ochoa’s grades in her classes were strong, as a first-generation college student she found that she needed help planning her educational pathway. In the summer of 2020, she found that help. Ochoa enrolled in English 90 with long-time YVC instructor Mark Fuzie. Fuzie recommended that Ochoa consider YVC’s TRIO Student Support Services, which provides additional resources to help low-income, first-generation and students with a disability achieve academic success. The TRIO program proved to be very helpful to Ochoa and helped her figure out what career path to follow and what classes she would need to complete her associate degree.

“I am grateful to Mark Fuzie for advising this program, now I can see my career road map to accomplish my goal. This has been the most important part of my education: having and understanding my career plan. Also having the guidance and help of the TRIO program staff has been a crucial part in choosing my career.”

After Ochoa graduates from YVC in winter 2022 she will transfer to a four-year university and study elementary education. She hopes to one-day teach elementary school and help Hispanic students be more successful in the classroom and build awareness of opportunities to pursue higher education.

“I hope to inspire my students and motivate them to do their best. To those individuals that have thought about attending a community college or technical college my advice is don’t overthink it, just do it. There are programs and professionals in the colleges that help, guide and advise. The hard step is to decide to enroll in college. Everything else comes easier with time and practice. Believe in yourself you can do it!”

Each Transforming Lives awardee will receive a $250 scholarship from ACT. In addition, every recipient will also have his or her story and picture included in an awards booklet that will be shared with legislators, the higher education community, and posted on the ACT website.

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