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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2019 Making An Impact

Breaking the Chains of Limitation Through Business Education and Scholarship

Story by Sue McMurray • Photo by WSU Photo Services

While growing up in Wenatchee, Rigoberto “Rigo” Ayon Fernandez learned from his mother that a college education is one way to break the chains of financial poverty and under-representation of minorities. Knowing that his father didn’t go beyond middle school motivated Fernandez to become the first in his family to pursue a college degree.

He began his college path by doing well in high school and participating in the WSU Cougs Rise summer bridge program that gives participants their first taste of college life. Students live in residence halls and study for six weeks.

The bridge program also provides a direct pipeline to Carson EDGE, a Carson College student success and scholarship program that helps first-generation, low-income students succeed in school. The four-year program is part of The Next Carson Coug curriculum to address the specific needs and barriers of students from low socioeconomic, first-generation backgrounds as they transition to WSU.


All went well for Fernandez until he moved to WSU to begin his freshman year, leaving his loved ones behind in Wenatchee. Feeling very homesick and intimidated by the large size of the campus and classes, Fernandez felt a little overwhelmed. Fortunately, he had an instant support system within Carson EDGE to help him navigate this difficult time. His advisor, Stacey Smith-Colon, is trained to recognize students who are struggling personally or academically. She was able to reach Fernandez in a way that resonated with him and helped him make the most of his freshman experience.

“Stacey told me not to make huge decisions based on temporary feelings,” says Fernandez. “She said I was at WSU for a reason, and that helped me tremendously.”

Fernandez began to focus on opportunities offered within Carson EDGE, such as networking with faculty and industry speakers and research that helped him discover what he wants to do in life.

He plans to develop his leadership skills and major in marketing, a discipline he feels will help him have a stronger voice to represent his ethnicity and influence others to make good choices in life.

“Being at WSU has helped me to become more open minded and envision a future where I can add value to a business or company before establishing my own someday,” he says.


In addition to Carson EDGE resources, scholarships made it possible for Fernandez to be successful in his first year at WSU. As a Carson EDGE student, he was automatically eligible for a $2,000 award for completing the Cougs Rise summer bridge program, in addition to other annual scholarships, including the University Achievement Award. This support allowed Fernandez to pay for tuition, books, and other expenses.

“I am very thankful for these programs that help students like me feel confident and know someone believes in them,” says Fernandez. “The scholarships have opened many doors for financial and academic opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had.”