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Rich Schillinger speaks with students during the Yak Family Night event in Yakima

Engage and connect

Percussive rhythms of cumbia music filled the evening air, inviting students and family members to dance along during the college’s first-ever Yak Family Nights this May on the Grandview and Yakima campuses.

“The Yak Night events were something fun to do in the good weather,” said Olive Ucar, an international student studying in the United States from Russia. “It really helps bring the community closer, which can be hard at a community college.”

The family-friendly events provided sizzling tacos, refreshing aguas frescas, lively music, games and activities.

“It was really exciting to see all the students and families come out,” said Isai Lujan, who is working toward his associate of applied science degree in civil engineering and serves on the Grandview Student Council.

“As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, YVC’s mission is to deliver accessible, student-centered education, by striving to continue to meet the needs of our diverse and often marginalized communities,” said Tenya Moravec, director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

It was with this goal that members of YVC’s student engagement strategic planning workgroup set their sights on creating a new event for current students and their families.

“By placing student engagement at the forefront our work, we can increase our collective impact.” — Tenya Moravec, director of diversity, equity and inclusion

The result was the establishment of Yak Family Nights, held on both the Yakima and Grandview campuses in May.

The events were created to strengthen the sense of belonging among students and welcome their families into the YVC community, something workgroup members felt was key to engaging students in a more impactful way.

“Inviting the students’ family members to participate in these events created a positive connection between the family, the student and the institution,” said Karla Rabadan, student life manager and member of the workgroup. “Family members are now more aware of the resources and opportunities the college offers, which helps the students be more engaged, aware and more likely to succeed.”

The events included an open house highlighting various resources and programs available to students along with free food and cultural music and dancing, campus tours and fun activities for family members of all ages.

“The student engagement workgroup worked very hard to make this event happen and we are extremely excited to put this on for our students and their families. Go Yaks!” — Karla Rabadan, student life manager

Jessica Fisk, who is studying in YVC’s business technology program with the goal of working in a law firm, was excited to learn about resources to help her be successful during her time at YVC.

“I wanted to see all the resources and activities the college has to offer,” said Fisk. “I’m the first person in my family to go to college and I’m trying to be as involved as I can.”

Jazzlyn Torres and her sister Natasha Ochoa noticed the event happening in Grandview and wandered over.

“We were here picking up my sister from class and saw the event happening,” said Torres, a Running Start student studying business administration. “It was nice to connect with programs I didn’t know existed.”

“Events like Yak Night promote community, unity and fun for our students. Events like these also create excitement for our students and something fun and interactive they can look forward to,” said Rabadan.

Dozens of YVC departments, including student life, athletics, housing and special funding programs, were present for students to ask questions, learn about resources, meet faculty and staff and more.

For Rabadan and others on the planning committee, the event served as an important reminder and valuable venue to promote student success.

“We want students and their families to know that we as a college are rooting for their success and encourage them to reach out to departments or programs that may benefit them as we are here to assist them,” continued Rabadan. 

Lead Grandview Student Council Ambassador Isaac Jimenez was excited to be part of these events and what they mean for YVC students.

“I think it means something to them because we are able to show that they matter in our college, and we want them to get involved with each other,” said Jimenez. “It’s important to students where they can show their families what college they go to and to spend time with their families. Not many students get to spend time with their families and to show what they do at college.” 

“Engaging with the college and my peers is really important to me. I’m more likely to reach out to campus services now that I’ve learned about them at this event.” — Natasha Ochoa, student

For Moravec these events are a promising sign for future engagement and growth on campus.

“As an institution, we want to continue to create and implement ways for students to develop and contribute their voice in helping the institution cultivate equitable and inclusive practices, while creating and expanding networking opportunities and support for students,” said Moravec. “As a new team member to YVC I’m excited and hopeful for the future of diversity and inclusivity at YVC. There is a lot of inspiring work already happening here, and it is only the beginning.”

The events served approximately 500 students and families in total. Visit our website for information on YVC’s ongoing strategic planning and diversity, equity and inclusion work.


Story by Stefanie Menard, AA-DTA ’05, communications consultant. Photos by Menard and Matt Barton, graphic designer/multimedia content producer.