Yolanda Yazzie finds success at Coconino Community College

Brenda Silveus, left, with Yolanda Yazzie, right, at the CCC Students First Celebration held Sept. 13. (Photo/CCC)

Brenda Silveus, left, with Yolanda Yazzie, right, at the CCC Students First Celebration held Sept. 13. (Photo/CCC)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Yolanda Yazzie, a student at Coconino Community College (CCC), is not just pursuing an education; she's forging a path from adversity to ambition, driven by a deep sense of purpose and a desire to give back to her community.

Yazzie has dealt with abusive parents and with the foster care system. With poverty and hunger. Now, as a parent herself, she is committed to helping others, and she has dedicated herself to improving her life with a career in the hospitality industry by embarking on a journey of education beginning at CCC.

Yazzie grew up facing the harsh realities of poverty and the burden of an unstable home environment marred by abusive parents. It was her aunt who stepped in as a guiding light, raising her alongside her own children.

Food was often scarce in the Yazzie household, and like her cousins, she would sometimes go hungry.

"I was in and out of the foster care system or living with relatives like my aunt after my parents separated,” Yazzie said.. “At the time, I didn’t really understand what was happening, but looking back on it now, I can see why working hard was never a choice."

Yazzie grew up, married and started her own family. Their oldest child was born with Down Syndrome and requires additional home health care, which places enormous demands on Yazzie's time and energy. It was during this period that she discovered a new sense of purpose.

She found employment at Twin Arrows, where she worked in the coffee shop. Over eight years, she moved up the ranks within the company, taking pride in her role of providing exceptional service to patrons. It was during this time that she began to envision a different career path, one that combined her newfound passion for hospitality with her commitment to helping others.

Now in her second year at CCC, Yazzie is part of the CCC2NAU program, aiming to transition to Northern Arizona University (NAU) to pursue a bachelor's degree in hospitality. Yazzie’s ultimate goal is to leverage her skills and knowledge to give back to her community, possibly by opening her own restaurant or coffee shop in Tolani Lakes.

"It's always been the hard stuff in my life that pushes me to work hard and be self-determined; to find a way," she said.

Yazzie is quick to express her gratitude for the support she's received on her journey. Scholarships from the Blue Family Foundation and the Raymond Education Foundation have provided her with essential financial assistance for school supplies and transportation. Beyond the monetary assistance, these scholarships have granted her the precious gift of time with her family.

For more information about CCC scholarships or the CCC Foundation, visit coconino.edu/foundation.

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