The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

WSU senior completing ‘ultimate goal’ with graduation

Yaneth Valencia navigates non-linear college experience to pursue engineering
Yaneth Valencia posing for a headshot.

Getting a college degree has always been Yaneth Valencia’s goal.

Neither of her parents graduated high school and she is the first of her three siblings to have the chance to pursue a higher education. She is now in the final semester at WSU and will graduate in May with a degree in mechanical engineering. However, the road to her graduation has not been linear.

Valencia started college during the pandemic, but online classes were tough because of the limited ability to work hands-on, so she struggled and did not enjoy it. She said she withdrew from the term and decided she would take the year off and earn money.

When she originally made the decision, her parents’ biggest concern was her realizing the freedom of taking a break from school and not wanting to go back and finish her education, something they had not been able to do in their youth.

“I reassured them that I still wanted my degree and that’s my ultimate goal. So I was like, ‘I’m gonna go back, I just can’t do online right now,’” Valencia said. “It was nice that they allowed me to do that and I could make some money.”

Living in Pasco with her family, she returned to school by staying local and attending the WSU campus in her hometown. But again, she did not like the situation she found herself in.

“I took that whole year off and I just worked. Then the following year, I did the fall semester at WSU Tri-Cities and I hated it,” Valencia said. “It was just too small for me and I was driving 30 minutes there and back every day just for classes.”

Being online and in smaller classes posed a challenge for Valencia, as she knew wholeheartedly she wanted to finish her college education. She said she had a passion for the field for over half a decade up to high school graduation.

She realized her passion for mechanical engineering in seventh grade. When doing hands-on demonstrations instructed by engineers of different fields, she said she told herself, “Yeah, I want to do this.”

WSU has given her the chance to engage with the passion she found in seventh grade. Through her classes and extracurricular activities, she said she is so grateful she decided to be a Coug.

It took her a while to find a community of like-minded people with a similar ethnic background, but after helping re-vitalize the Society of Latinx Engineers and Scientists, she found one there.

While she is disappointed she found the club so late in her college career, she is proud of the work SOLE has done to grow and expand to new members.

“We’re all kind of leaving, but we are also starting the community for other kids that come in the future, which is really nice,” Valencia said.

SOLE is not the only way Valencia has given back to other students in her final year at WSU. For the last two years, Valencia said she has served as an ambassador for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

In that role, she said she went from being a mentee to a mentor and has coordinated events like a Mexican Independence Day social, something she said is her favorite moment from her time at WSU.

While she has been able to support other students and achieve her goal of getting her college degree, Valencia said she could not have done it without the support of her parents.

“I feel like I’m very hard-working because of my parents. They kind of instilled that into me at a very young age,” Valencia said. “I have this mentality of like, if I don’t know how to do something, I know I’ll figure it out eventually.”

Valencia is just over two hours away from her family in her hometown. She said she is far away enough from her family to figure out how to live and work independently, but close enough for them to support her.

Having a close relationship with her family, she said she always misses them but is thankful for the chance to get a feel for the real world, though she knows her family will likely always be close by.

“I had this interview for a job in California and my mom was like, ‘Oh, so we’re all moving to California.’ Things like that is just how my mom is,” Valencia said.

After she graduates, Valencia is looking at roles both close to home in the Tri-Cities and in other places around the country. Regardless of where she ends up after her upcoming graduation, it will mark the completion of her biggest personal goal to date.

“I’m proud of myself for making it here and being the first one on my mom’s side of the family to even make it this far. So yeah, it feels good to be graduating,” Valencia said.

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About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.