YAKIMA, WA - For the past 20 years, Washington has recognized outstanding students who go to two-year community and technical colleges. It's an extension of the All-USA Academic Team that was created by Phi Theta Kappa, the International Honor Society for Two Year Colleges.
Washington has been honoring students since 1996. More than 8,000 students take classes at Yakima Valley College and dozens of students apply for the all-Washington Academic Team Program, but only two students are chosen.
The winners this year are 24-year-old Rene Guevara and 20-year-old Antonio Valencia.
"I wasn't really expecting to be chosen though," Guevara said. "I was just doing it because I knew I need to be out there, doing work, putting my name in... as many things as I can."
Guevara, a first generation college student, was born in El Salvador. He and his mother immigrated to the U.S. when he was 16. When he settled in Yakima he worked in the fields while earning his GED. He's been taking college courses for the past two years and has always been fascinated by computers.
"For some reason all the computer things have been easy for me," Guevara admitted. "It's kind of natural."
Guevara just transferred to CWU to get a Bachelor's in cyber security and one day he wants to work for the CIA or join the military.
"The Washington All-Academic Team, it really honors two things: success in the classroom and its success in the community," explained Jay Frank, YVC Spokesperson. "It's young men like these two that keep us optimistic about the future here in Yakima."
Yakima native Antonio Valencia also made the team. He attended Selah High School, and after graduating in 2016 started pursuing a transfer degree in computer science at YVC.
"The coding, it's really interesting," Valencia said. "It's like another language if you think about it like that. There's a lot of things you can do with it, there's so many fields that you can take it into as well."
Valencia wants to go into robotics or web design. He has plans to transfer to CWU in Ellensburg or Washington in Seattle. The All-Washington Academic Team Scholarship will help him reach those goals.
"It was really exciting and just to find out that two students out of every college was chosen it meant a big deal to me," Valencia said.
In two weeks, Guevara and Valencia will make the trip out to Olympia where they will be honored during a reception at South Puget Sound Community College.