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Samantha Reyes

Partnership bolsters college attainment

YVC, College Success Foundation aim to help students from underserved, low-income households

Over the past two decades, the College Success Foundation (CSF) has supported thousands of young people from underserved communities and low-income households in Yakima on their journey to earning a postsecondary credential. Among those are many who have graduated from Yakima Valley College.

Earlier this year, CSF and YVC strengthened their shared work to expand access to higher education with the addition of the CSF College Success Coach located on the Yakima Campus.

Samantha Reyes stepped into the role in mid-July and supports more than 200 students attending YVC. The work is personal for Reyes, who grew up in the Wenatchee area as a member of a migrant family.

“I’m a first-generation college student myself, I know what it’s like to have to overcome obstacles to go to school,” said Reyes, who is also an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe. “I love being able to meet with students and empower them to understand that they belong here.”

In her role, Reyes focuses on providing the academic, financial, social and emotional supports that help students successfully transition from high school and pursue their post-secondary credential at YVC.

That includes programming on financial aid, how to manage stress, managing a budget and opportunities to engage with the YVC community and Yakima Valley more broadly. CSF 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.

Additionally, Reyes is helping enhance her scholars’ support network by connecting them with YVC resources such as the College Assistance Migrant Program and TRIO Support Services.

“Our students have a lot of family connections here in the valley. They want to see positive changes and contribute to progress in the Yakima Valley.” Samantha Reyes

Jennifer Ernst, vice president for instruction and student services, said having a CSF student success coach based at YVC enhances 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 graduate from college compared to 52% of low-income students who start college nationally.

Many of the students Reyes supports have been in CSF since entering high school. 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 helping 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.

One of the attributes of the students she works with that most impresses Reyes is their desire to contribute to the Yakima Valley community. Early in fall quarter, she was already having conversations with students about local volunteer opportunities and organizing cultural activities for the YVC community.

“Our students have a lot of family connections here in the valley,” Reyes said. “They want to see positive changes and contribute to progress in the Yakima Valley whether that’s as a teacher, a business owner, a health care worker or some other career.”