Associate in Science Track 1
Patzy Villagrana was born and raised in the Lower Yakima Valley. After graduating from Grandview High School in 2017 she applied to Yakima Valley College unsure of what her future might hold.
“When I graduated from high school I didn’t know where I was supposed to go. I knew I wanted to be a doctor; I just didn’t know how to get there,” Villagrana said.
As a first-generation student, she didn’t have family members she could turn to for advice. But YVC being close to home appealed to Villagrana, as well as the ability to save money by earning her associate’s degree first and then pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
“After talking to some advisors at my orientation they gave me a list of classes I needed and what degree I needed to transfer out and still remain on a pre-med track,” stated Villagrana.
Like many first-generation students, Villagrana had to overcome barriers.
“One of my main issues at the start was money,” she said. “My parents could not afford to pay for my schooling.”
While Villagrana filled out a FAFSA application in high school, she didn’t complete all the necessary forms and ran into issues having her financial aid come through.
“Luckily, [YVC’s] financial aid office was very helpful and got all my documents in and I was able to rely on financial aid my entire undergraduate journey,” stated Villagrana.
She also struggled with time management and grades until she found support from YVC’s STEM program.
“I’m not the type of person that asks for help. In my book, asking for help meant I was being a bother; I also didn’t know where to start or how to formulate questions when something in class didn’t make sense,” she said. “Once I met Cristy [Cristy Rasmussen, interim STEM academic intervention coordinator] and all the other STEM students I learned to make groups and communicate. This helped me understand material better and improve my grades.”
Villagrana, now pursuing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington, said YVC’s program provided her with a strong foundation for success.
“I liked the environment at YVC. The program was small enough to have a professor that remembered students’ names and class sizes for students to remember each other’s names,” she said. “The lab skills I gained while in the STEM program helped me out during my summer research at the University of Washington. This in turn will help me get more lab positions which will give me the experience needed to pursue my career as a physician scientist.”
She found additional support through YVC’s MESA program, the STEM club and the Finish Strong Program and helped her graduate with an associate in science track 1 degree in the spring 2020.
Ultimately, she hopes to study infectious diseases or neurodegenerative diseases for an organization such as the Fred Hutchinson Research Institute, National Institutes of Heath or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Villagrana also encouraged other students interested in pursuing a career in STEM to avoid feeling discouraged when facing a challenge and to avoid taking on so much that they reach the point of burning out.
“STEM is tough and most people are struggling. But asking questions and forming study groups will get you very far,” she said. “Take your time, we don’t need to be in a rush to get to where we want to be.”