Editor’s note: This is the last of four reports on 2019 graduates from Eastmont, Wenatchee and WestSide high schools and Wenatchee Valley College.
WENATCHEE — Procrastination is not part of Armando Estrada’s work ethic.
“I like to be organized and get things done so I don’t have to worry about them later,” he said. It’s a thing with him, he said, which made his last-minute decision to attend college out of character.
“Through high school, my endgame was to graduate and then go into the workforce,” he said. He was on the honor roll, but he didn’t see college in the cards.
“I thought the difficulty level would jump dramatically, the way the movies portray it. I just didn’t think college was for me,” he said. “I thought I would flunk out and it would be a waste of money.”
His Cashmere High School teachers, including Kim Holladay and Rebecca Swanson, along with family and friends thought otherwise.
Weeks before his 2017 CHS graduation, gentle pressure from his supporters prompted a change of heart.
On Friday, he will become his family’s first college graduate, earning an associate’s degree from Wenatchee Valley College. He is enrolled this fall at Central Washington University, continuing on a path toward a bachelor’s degree in education, with a minor in Spanish. He intends to teach consumer science (a nod to Swanson’s teaching style) and go on to get his certificate as a school administrator, with an eye toward being a school principal.
His first quarter at WVC was a little shaky, he said, in part stemming from an issue with high school algebra.
“I was playing tennis and not paying attention to math class. I didn’t do well,” he said, which led to remedial math class his first quarter in college, along with English 101 and Psychology 100. He soon found he knew the math material and proved it by taking a placement test that boosted him to the college level. He earned an A- in his other two classes.
“That helped me see I can get good grades and pushed me to continue going to school every day, trying my best to get As,” he said.
He also signed up for the College Assistant Migrant Program, designed to help students from migrant, seasonal and farmworking backgrounds during their first year of college. The program provides academic and financial services support, helping students access resources as needed.
CAMP helped him learn the ropes of academia, including the ins and outs of financial aid and scholarships.
It also provided a sounding board and a place to get answers to questions about everyday college life, which helped him let go of some of his self-doubt and anxiety.
“I remember during the orientation for CAMP thinking that I want to do well and I need to convince myself I can do it. I’m enrolled, so I might as well get right mentally to go for it. I had a chip on my shoulder. I needed to prove myself wrong.”
His second year at WVC, he was hired as a CAMP office aide and helped mentor other CAMP students.
“I’m getting some experience at what I’ll be doing as a teacher and it’s helping me give back, helping others as I was helped. It feels good. I can see myself in their shoes. I know how they’re feeling and what they need help navigating,” he said.
He is looking forward to Central, he said.
“I’ve been just doing the basics before getting into the actual major,” he said. “I think of it as getting the boring classes out of the way so I can get into the meat of the degree.”
Along the way, he found some other courses of interest, though, including sociology and criminal justice and the medical field.
“But I want to be a high school teacher,” he said.
WVC helped him take that next step.
“I feel prepared to move on to the next level. At WVC, I didn’t feel rushed. I’ve grown. I’m looking forward to a new school, a different town, more friends. I’m not too worried about it,” he said.
His biggest challenge, he said, might be breaking away to be more social.
“I focus a lot of my time on homework, studying, preparing for assignments and school work. I lock myself in my room and study. My friends have noticed that. They say, ‘You don’t have very much fun. You’re always in your room.’ Maybe I have succeeded enough I can allow myself to do other things besides study.”
His parents, Jorge and Holly Estrada, are proud, he said. His dad came from Mexico. His mom from California. They moved to the Wenatchee Valley before Armando arrived on the scene. He has two older sisters, both in their 30s.
“I don’t think they’ll cry at Friday’s graduation, but they are happy I’m getting an education, succeeding and doing well.