The first WAEF scholarship was awarded in 1996, 20 years ago. So many amazing students have been selected to receive scholarships during this time. It's only been recently we've been more diligent in keeping up with these students. What a rewarding experience that is!
Claudia Figueroa-Dominguez received her first WAEF scholarship in 2009. She learned about the scholarship from Eric & Sue Olson. We got to be involved with her through the 2011-12 school year when she graduated from Washington State University.
Claudia was one of our first members of the WAEF Alumni Association. She shares why she joined, her family and the impact of scholarships.
When did you decide you wanted to attend college? Were their obstacles you needed to overcome?
I knew I would be going to college for as long as I could remember, before high school even. It is common for migrant-agricultural-working parents to have their children work alongside them at a very young age. My parents were no different. Back in the 90's, before lawskeep parents from bringing their children into the fields with them, my parents would keep us safely tucked away in a fruit bin while they harvested the cherries, pears, and peaches.They have been working agriculture ever since, my parents now currently bee-keepers. We soon grew up to work with them extracting honey every summer until it was timeto go off to college. I am truly humbled by the experiences I had in my childhood and growing up, working under those harsh conditions, because without that experience, I wouldn't have wanted to obtain higher education as badly as I did. You see, my parent made sure that I understood higher education was the ticket to a "better" life. Never once did they allow me to miss a class day to go out to the fields or honey house; "Mija, tu único trabajo es la escuela (your only job is school)" they would say. I did not have the Disneyland summer breaks or the beach-destination spring breaks, but my parents were there to remind me that mija one day you will have that and more.
Were there any obstacles I needed to overcome? Most definitely, as many immigrant, first-generation, low-income, English as a second language student can identify with, there were numerous obstacles. My parents could not help me proof-read my high school essays, assist me with my calculus homework, pay for a tutor, know what my SAT/ACT test scores meant, or let alone afford college tuition. I learned somewhere along the way, that these "obstacles" would only teach me perseverance and that I would never be able to do this alone; I had my family, my teachers, and my community to help me get to the goal. Thank you Washington Apple Education for being one of many entities that allowed me to obtain my Bachelor's Degree.
Was your career path clear from the beginning? What influenced you to seek a career in education?
Helping others has always been in my nature and going into college I wanted to go into the medical field. Once there, I discovered the vast, I mean vast, career paths that Washington State University had to offer, I did change my major a few times, fell in love with so many different career pathways that all lead to education.
Your brothers followed you to college. Were there others that you looked to for inspiration? Did you see yourself filling a particular role for your brothers?
My inspiration has always been my parents and brothers. To this day, my brothers and I are the only ones that have pursued higher education within our extended families and that is something my parents are extremely proud of. Being the oldest sibling I always have and always will have the responsibility to pave the way for my brothers. We are a support system and simply for the fact that I am the oldest, I get to be the first to do everything. My brothers are able to learn from my experiences and mistakes. Ultimately though, they too are just like me, first-generation, low-income, English as a second language student that have lived the same experiences that have made us the people we are today, humble, hardworking and now, educated. My parents could not be prouder, to have a daughter with a Bachelor's of Arts in Foreign Language and Cultures, a son with a Bachelor's of Science in Public Health and another son with a Bachelor's of Arts in Law and Justice, another in middle school and finally a little one in elementary. We all have plans to continue our education to pursue a Master's degree, and who knows, maybe even a Doctorate and we have no doubt that the little ones will soon enough fall into our shoes.
Share about your life now including your career and family.
I started my very own family while attending Washington State University. After graduating 2012, I dedicated myself to be a stay-at-home mom for my two beautiful children Emmanuel (5) and Isabella (3) in Pullman, WA. My husband Filemon, a graphic designer, and I decided to move back to Yakima, where we both grew up and I started working in Head Start as a Family Advocate, moved up to the Family Support Coordinator and now currently as the Head Start Family Engagement Content Specialist at ESD 105. I will be completing my first year as the FEC Specialist this August, and boy has it been the ride of my life. I have had the amazing chance to be a part of a team that is building the foundation of a brand new grantee to support Head Start, Early Head Start and Migrant Seasonal Head Start. All federally funded programs that service children and families with the same background I come from. Filemon and I are currently expecting our third little one in early August as well. Brother and sister are beyond-the-moon-happy and anxious for his arrival.
What led you to join the WAEF alumni association?
I joined the WAEF Alumni Association because without it I would not be where I am today. Any scholarship, big or small that I was awarded was one more step to earning my BA. But it is not only about the money, it is about community serving foundation that WAEF is. WAEF upholds the values of volunteering and allows the scholarship recipients to thank in person the people that directly support their education. It also gives the scholarship recipients' families the incredible experience of recognizing their children's' hard work and dedication. Attending the WAEF luncheon what one of the first times I was able to experience community recognition for all I had worked for. It was a glimpse of the sparkle and gleam in my parent's proud eyes that I wouldn't see again until college graduation day. Thank you WAEF for not making it only about the money, but for giving me and my family the opportunity to experience a fancy venue, with delightful salads, and eye catching center pieces. I hope you know that for many of us, it is a day we will never forget. I want to be a little part of that, of knowing that my little contribution will make parents eyes sparkle with gusto and that I will touch the lives of future farmers, horticulturists, nurses, doctors, teacher and educators.
Thank you, Claudia, for sharing your story with us and thank you WAEF donors for creating opportunities!