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Jennifer Witherbee | 2010 scholar encourages students

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Guillermo Espinosa earned his first WAEF scholarship in 2010 — now he’s employeed full time in the admissions office at Gonzaga University.

Recently I got to catch up with former Washington Apple Education Foundation (WAEF) scholarship recipient Guillermo Espinosa over coffee at Anjou Bakery. Guillermo was in the area on business for Gonzaga University. Does it make me sound old to say that I was surprised at how grown-up he now seems?

Guillermo received his first WAEF scholarship while a senior at Cascade High School in 2010 and continued as one of our students throughout his undergraduate years at Gonzaga University. Guillermo graduated last spring. Following a one-month stint backpacking abroad, he returned to Gonzaga as a full-time employee of its admissions office.

Guillermo was making official Gonzaga visits to Cascade and Cashmere high schools when I saw him a couple of weeks ago.

His passion for his alma mater is quickly evident! Yet the most important message he thinks he can give to students is to consider all of the post-secondary education options without allowing cost nor discouragement from others to be the drivers of their initial search.

Guillermo used scholarships, financial aid, college grants and his own labor to fund his education and managed to graduate from Gonzaga with very little student debt.

Understanding the importance of higher education and its significant cost, Guillermo’s parents encouraged him at a young age to take responsibility for his grades encouraging him that his hard work can pay off by creating opportunities for college and beyond.

WAEF students are enrolled in trade schools, community colleges, public four-year institutions and private universities. Students all have unique reasons for selecting for their college paths.

With the high costs of college and a still recovering job market, it’s important for students to consider career interests and lifestyle choices when investing in their education.

In our own tree fruit industry, we hear more and more about the need for students with a technical education to assist with emerging technology. Changes in production are creating a greater reliance on new hires with strong computer skills and mechanical training.

We love to keep up with the changes in our students’ lives, and it’s especially rewarding to see paths continuing to cross.

I was happy to hear that Guillermo’s presentation in our area included a direct message to all students to check out WAEF scholarships (!

Jennifer Witherbee is executive director of the Washington Apple Education Foundation. She can be reached at