Five Yakima Valley students win Act Six scholarship; full-tuition to Heritage University

Five Yakima Valley students win Act Six scholarship; full-tuition to Heritage University

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.--Five high school seniors from around the valley are headed to college thanks to a local leadership program.

"It was like a feeling I couldn't explain because being told no and then yes, it was exciting," said Wapato High School Estefani Cruz.

It was a roller coaster of emotions for Cruz who found out she won the Act Six scholarship.

As part of the Yakima Leadership Foundation, it's the valley's only full-tuition leadership award.

Partnering with Heritage University, students earn free tuition and books for four year programs.

"It's a diverse group of students who are all passionate about leading and giving back to the community," said Yakima Valley Act Six director Amber Ortiz-Diaz.

Cruz, Nelson Avila Mendoza (Davis High School), Irwin Godinez Cruz (Toppenish High School), Stephanie Maybee (Selah High School) and Yanet Torres (Zillah High School) earned the Act Six scholarship this year.

As part of the application, each had to show what changes they'd make in their communities after college.

For Cruz this means more than just a full-ride scholarship.

"My grandpa, he used to be involved with the [Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic] and I've always said to myself ever since he passed away that I would want to work there. And the way I would give back to my community is becoming a nurse and coming back to a small town and be a nurse here in Wapato," she said.

The process to win was not easy, taking months to determine who's worthy of this honor.

"Their essays, their stories, how they did in their interview, how well they did in Phase 2. They have judges and facilitators who are watching them," Ortiz-Diaz said.

But Cruz says that shouldn't discourage students from applying for this opportunity.

If anything it should make them feel determined, just as she is entering the next phase of her life.

"It makes me want to take advantage of my schooling and there's not going to be any excuses or any of that," Cruz said.

The five Act Six recipients will be honored during a celebration Wednesday night at Hope for Nations Foursquare Church in Toppenish.

It takes place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and the community is invited to attend.

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