Jose Zuniga

Associate in Science

A first-generation college student, Jose Zuniga has always dreamed of helping others. After graduating from Toppenish High School in 2005, he worked a series of odd jobs and was unable to pursue higher education due to financial burdens. When President Obama passed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in June 2012, Zuniga saw an opportunity to pursue his dream. With funding from the WASFA program he enrolled at YVC in Fall 2014 and quickly realized his passion for the sciences.

Wanting to learn more he immersed himself in the opportunities available at YVC. A very driven student, Zuniga quickly became the President of the STEM Club and a member of YVC’s Phi Theta Kappa and the Pre-Med Club. During a field trip with the STEM Club that Jose had the opportunity to visit the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. This trip inspired him to want to work in the medical field and help children.

This past summer Zuniga was selected to participate in YVC’s undergraduate research projects. These projects are made possible by a science, technology, engineering, and math grant through the US Department of Education. YVC works in partnership with Heritage University to offer this opportunity to students. He worked with YVC faculty and a group of students to collect and analyze well water samples from rural areas around the Lower Yakima Valley. The team tested for nitrate levels and tested for coliform samples including e coli and lead. “This research was a great experience for me, because it helps people who rely solely on water from wells to drink and cook with,” stated Zuniga. “In the future, I plan on working in a research lab studying medical topics that help treat the ailments of my community members. It is my community that shaped me and it is because of them that I am fortunate to be where I’m at today,” he continued.

Outside of the classroom he works full-time as a mortgage loan officer and volunteers on weekends at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital. He will graduate in the Spring of 2018 and hopes to transfer to a four-year university and study biochemistry. He hopes to one-day work at a hospital or medical research facility.