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Jasmine Aldaco poses in front of Walla Walla University's sign on her graduation day in 2022

Granger native gets jump-start on college

Not many people have earned their master’s degree and worked almost a full year in their career field by age 23, but it’s a feat achieved by Granger native Jasmine Aldaco ‘17. Aldaco took advantage of YVC’s Running Start program, allowing her to save money and work toward a college degree while still in high school. 

“I was always a great student and worked hard at trying to keep up on academics,” said Aldaco. “My two older brothers were both in college and mentioned the Running Start program and that they thought it would be a good fit for me. I spoke with my high school counselor and got signed up.”

After getting started, Aldaco suffered a major setback when, just a few short weeks into her studies, she and some classmates were involved in a horrific car accident —resulting in the death of a close friend and several painful injuries for Aldaco. 

“It was really hard to overcome the grief and learn how to process and move on from the situation,” she said. “I had to take the remainder of the quarter off while my injuries healed. The experience really helped motivate me to finish the program. I wanted to do it for my friend who didn’t have that opportunity.”

Aldaco also participated in YVC’s Upward Bound program and is thankful for the support she received from mentors Al Garcia and Laura Yolo.

“I spent pretty much any downtime I had in Al Garcia’s office. He always had helpful tips on next steps, or an open ear for me with whatever I needed help with.”

Originally considering a career in business and science, Aldaco credits YVC with helping her discover her passion and career goals.


 “I wouldn’t have been able to earn a master’s degree by 23 without YVC’s Running Start program.” — Jasmine Aldaco, ’17 

“The Running Start program provided me an opportunity to take classes while in high school that I was interested in as a potential career choice,” she said. “It allowed me the opportunity to take businesses classes along with sociology and psychology classes. I quickly learned that I didn’t enjoy business classes and was much more interested in the social sciences. It helped me narrow down what I wanted to do for my bachelor’s degree and helped me focus my end goal and what career I wanted.”

After completing her associate degree, Aldaco transferred to Eastern Washington University and earned a bachelor’s degree in social work with a minor in addiction studies followed by a master’s degree from Walla Walla University. She now works as a counselor at Granger High School — the same school where she was a student just a few years ago.

“I wanted to return to the community and give back. I didn’t originally envision myself working in a school, but mental health work is the future and academic counseling provided a stepping stone into the field. I like how it allows me to connect with students. Talk to them about how they are doing and help guide them toward their future decisions.”

Aldaco is now working toward her clinical license, and within the next five years expects to accumulate enough hours to be an independent licensed social worker.

For other students considering pursuing college in high school, Aldaco encourages them to explore the several options available to them — from Running Start to Upward Bound to AP classes — and consider which fits best for them.

“I talk with them about the different options and really lay it out for them. I share my experiences with the two programs and how grateful I feel for the opportunity. I wouldn’t have been able to earn a master’s degree by 23 without YVC’s Running Start program.”