To the Washington Apple Education, a steward is an adult who cares about student success and is willing to dedicate their time to help a young person succeed.
WAEF celebrates Brian Alegria and a decade of service on the WAEF board of directors and as a steward to young people. Brian, CEO of CPC International Apple Company in Tieton, shares why he initially joined and continues to serve today, "I joined to help provide opportunities to the young people of our tree fruit industry... everyone needs a hand, someone to open a door and create opportunities to succeed... I choose to help students gain the ability to better themselves through education."
Brian grew up in the industry, in Yakima, working the summers in his family's warehouses and orchards. Brian attended Gonzaga University in Spokane and after completing a degree, returned to the Yakima valley. Brian was exposed to WAEF at a young age, his dad being a board member in the early 90's. When approached in 2007 to be on the board, he was excited, saying "I knew how important education was for my family and I saw it as an opportunity to give back, I decided to give it a shot."
Brian served as the WAEF Chairman from 2012 to 2013. During this time, he was an integral part of a major transition within the foundation: measuring student success rather than number of scholarships awarded. It was during this time that WAEF's student stewardship program was created... Brian says, "We wanted to serve the whole student, specifically their well-being... and provide them with a better ability to graduate... we wanted them to feel that the whole industry is behind them."
WAEF's student stewardship program serves the purpose of easing the stressful transition from high school to college, for students and their families. Many WAEF students are the first in their families to attend college. First generation college students have higher risk factors for leaving college prior to degree completion. The student stewardship program aims to ensure WAEF students are the positive statistics. "Being with students throughout their collegiate career was our priority", says Brian, "Care packages, summer luncheons, regional dinners, holiday dinners, a mentorship program, scholarship training, job shadows to connect students back to the industry... these were initiatives that took off during this time."
During the evolving years where Brian was part of the executive committee and serving as chairman, WAEF was spending a significant amount of time focusing on student success and degree completion. With the increased level of outreach and support, the WAEF board wanted to be sure to stabilize funding sources. After much deliberation, it was determined that a mandatory contribution to scholarship administration would be added to each scholarship contribution. "It was a key point to be able to move forward confidently with the administration of scholarships through WAEF", Brian shared.
Today, WAEF continues to uphold the values of student outreach and support that go along with the scholarships awarded. "WAEF has done a good job of following through with students throughout their college career and seeing them through graduation... significant impact continues to be provided" says Brian. "Seeing the students on stage receiving their scholarships in front of their parents, siblings and peers is the most rewarding part of being involved with WAEF... the sense of pride on the faces of their parents, the spark in the younger siblings, that this could be a possibility for them in the future, is very rewarding", says Brian, "I have enjoyed seeing the students awarded with scholarships throughout the years, seeing them grow into mature adults and moving into their desired careers."