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Esther Estrada

Alum advocates for TRIO programs

Upward Bound (UB) alumnus Esther Estrada ‘16 recently attended the Council for Opportunity in Education Conference hosted by the Washington State TRIO Association to advocate for programs that support populations frequently underserved in higher education.

Estrada was selected for a second year in a row to represent Washington state and traveled to Washington, D.C. in March. She connected with the state’s federal legislators about initiatives that directly affect TRIO programs and shared how YVC’s TRIO Student Support Services and Upward Bound programs influenced her life.

“I am a sum of my experiences, and the support I’ve received from TRIO, has played a pivotal role in my success as a first-generation Chicana,” said Estrada. “TRIO has been the catalyst in my academic career. I relied on the services they provided to transition into and out of college successfully. As a result, the program planted a seed in my life that sparked my passion for working towards educational equity and to pass on the same support I was given.”

After completing her associate degree at YVC, she transferred to the University of Washington and earned a bachelor’s degree in American ethnic studies with a double minor in education, learning and societies (ELS) and diversity. She now works as a bilingual instructional assistant at Jane Adams Middle School in Seattle.

Being able to travel to the country’s capital and speak about the importance of TRIO programs made a significant impact on Estrada.

“I participated in seminars and lobbying last year and knew I wanted to participate again this year,” Estrada said. “It was empowering to share my story and to hear others share their stories. Being there was impactful because it helped remind me that I’m not alone and how much TRIO is needed in our country.”

She also noted how rewarding it was seeing the impact her story had on lawmakers.

 “Being at our Capitol was really moving because this is beyond what I anticipated for myself and my future. To even be on the steps and in the place where so many decisions [about our country] are being made. As a first-generation student this is so far beyond where I thought I’d be. It was very empowering.” — Esther Estrada ‘16

Estrada said her biggest takeaway is the importance of personal stories and for students like herself to have a voice. And reminded her of how crucial TRIO programs are.

“We hold so much power within ourselves and our lived experiences that needs to be shared with the world. We CAN bring the change that is necessary to foster success. One way is to be informed and advocate for change through storytelling.”

“Our education system is flawed and corrupt. Programs like TRIO are in place to mediate those flaws and give students furthest away from educational equity a fighting chance in an uneven and unfair playing field. I am determined to continue to pass on the same support I was given and be the educator advocate that TRIO was for me.”

On the trip she was also able to explore the city and visit the Lincoln Memorial, the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.