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Sun, Nov. 17

Early college students tout LEAD program at completion celebration

Yavapai College LEAD students took part in a completion celebration at the YC Prescott campus. (Yavapai College Community Relations/Courtesy)

Yavapai College LEAD students took part in a completion celebration at the YC Prescott campus. (Yavapai College Community Relations/Courtesy)

Yavapai College LEAD students heralded the early-college program for motivating them to pursue a college degree, for bolstering their time-management and study skills and for connecting them with supportive YC personnel and new friends.

“I’ve never felt more confidence in my school work than I have while in this program,” LEAD student Sky Wurtz said in remarks during a completion celebration recently at the YC Prescott campus. Wurtz, of Prescott Valley, plans to study 3-D animation at YC in the fall. She added that “all the kids in the class made coming here every day totally worth it.”

Participation in the LEAD program over the summer helped James Hanson of Chino Valley choose a career path — cybersecurity. “I didn’t really know what I was going to do before. The LEAD program helped me figure it out.”

James’ mom, Heather, said the LEAD program gave her son momentum to continue working toward a college degree. “If he would have taken the summer off I don’t think he would have been so motivated.”

Another parent, Julie Williams of Sedona, said she is confident that her daughter, Olivia, will succeed at Yavapai College because of her LEAD experience. “The LEAD program no only gives the students a great start on navigating the demands of college, but it also gives the people who support those students at home the peace of mind that their child has a friendly face to approach when struggles arise. You all have provided that “lighthouse in a storm” for these kids and I am eternally grateful,” Williams said.

YC’s LEAD program exposes new high school graduates to the college student experience with skills training, university field trips, group adventures, job shadowing and two college-level courses. Students who complete the free program earn four college credits for their coursework.

Jonathan Umali of Prescott told the gathering of LEAD students, their families and well-wishers, that he plans to continue studying toward his dream of becoming an artist, moviemaker and time traveler. “The LEAD program has taken away a lot of my fear for the future,” he said.

In his remarks, Dr. Ron Liss, YC Vice President of Instruction and Student Development, congratulated the LEAD students for setting themselves up for success. “You are so far ahead of other students starting college in the fall because of the LEAD program and because of the connections you have made.”

Liss said it was heartwarming to hear the early-college students talk about their experiences this summer and how they overcame their fears of hard work and the unknown. He closed his remarks with some advice: “No one can take education away from you. Don’t ever forget that.”

While every LEAD student is eligible for a scholarship, some applied and earned YC Education Now scholarships providing a first-year tuition waiver. Helena Santillan of Cottonwood earned one of those lucrative scholarships.

“Because of my family’s encouragement and the LEAD program offered through YC, I am extremely lucky to be able to say that as a first-generation college student I will be finishing my first year of college debt-free. And, for that, I am forever grateful,” Helena said.

Information provided by Yavapai College Community Relations J.J. McCormack

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