To this day, Yvette Yzaguirre won’t eat cherries.
As a young girl in Pasco, Wash., Yzaguirre remembers her parents as warriors of the working class — working late into the night to put food on the table for herself and her siblings. She recalls one weekend in particular, when her parents took the family on a cherry-picking job.
“If you don’t want to do this for a living, make sure you go to school and get a job,” her dad said to her under the smoldering sunlight while picking cherries. “Then you will get to sit in air conditioning in the summer and by heaters in the winter.”
Yzaguirre said that experience is vivid in her memory. She said she’ll never forget how much it made her hate cherries — and how determined it made her to succeed at the University of Idaho.
“That was my driving force,” Yzaguirre said. “I would say ‘I don’t care how long it takes, but I am going to be here and I’m going to finish this out.’ It’s weird because it’s a reality now and I’m actually done with college.”
Yzaguirre, a 22-year-old double major in marketing and management, is among the 925 students set to receive a diploma this semester and among the 467 students expected to walk at the Winter Commencement Ceremony Saturday. While many students may be confused about the next step to take, Yzaguirre has it figured out after spending an extra semester at UI — calling it her “victory lap.”
“I think that if I would have graduated in May, it would have hit me really hard and I would have been really freaked out,” Yzaguirre said.
Yzaguirre completed an internship this past summer with the Spokane Indians and said that made her feel more comfortable about the future.
“They just offered me a full-time position that I’ll start Jan. 3,” Yzaguirre said. “I had decided in high school that I wanted to work in baseball, so actually getting to do this is like my little kid dream is coming true.”
Yzaguirre will be the promotions coordinator for the Spokane Indians.
While graduating with two degrees is an accomplishment in itself, it’s a little more special for Yzaguirre and her family. As a first-generation college student, Yzaguirre has become a role model for her siblings, including her younger sister Angie Yzaguirre– who is currently a freshman at Washington State University.
“Being a first-generation college student always makes the road a little harder, but Yvette is one of the most driven and motivated people I have met in my life and she has made the road easy and easier for those who look up to her, including myself,” Angie Yzaguirre said. “She went through everything first and the things I wasn’t able to ask my parents, I was able to turn to her for help. My road to being successful in college was made a lot easier, thanks to my sister.”
Before crossing the stage on Saturday in front of friends and family, Yzaguirre said she is spending time appreciating the four and a half years spent at UI contributing to the university community.
As the president of Vandal Solutions — a nonprofit student-run business organization — she said she’s learned invaluable skills and had the chance to make professional connections that have positively impacted her academic goals.
“Meeting the executives of businesses that we work with, that has been such a blessing,” Yzaguirre said. “Getting to know them and their organizations and how passionate they are — just the real-world experience. And I’ve got to do things that have applied directly to school. So, things that I’ll learn in class — I’ll go to class and the next hour I’m actually doing it for Vandal Solutions.”
Another notable experience Yzaguirre said she’s had at UI is her active participation in the Alternative Service Break program. Traveling to Quito, Ecuador; Galveston, Texas; Little Rock, Ark. and Americus, Ga. throughout her college career has encouraged her to partake in local service-learning projects.
“I’ve done service projects in Lewiston just on my own accord and I just drag my friends to do that and we also do Saturday of Service and Make a Difference Day,” Yzaguirre said. “Community service or philanthropy, things like that, are really close to my heart.”
Close friend Katie Warmbier said Yzaguirre’s dedication to volunteering is a prime example of the kind of person she is — “driven and kind, detail-oriented and thoughtful.”
Yzaguirre said a trait she especially values of her time at UI is the learning environment provided by opportunity and second chances.
“Here at least, you can make mistakes and be fine and then learn how to correct them or ask teachers about the proper way to go about it,” Yzaguirre said. “Whereas if you’re working in a huge organization, you may not get that opportunity to make a mistake and try to fix it — because it could be detrimental to that organization, whereas here it’s more of a learning experience.”
Yzaguirre said she didn’t get this far on her own. She credits much of her success to family, friends and university support, including guidance from her marketing professor and academic adviser Steven Shook.
Shook said Yzaguirre’s situation upon graduation is fortunate considering most students don’t know what they want to do after they leave UI, let alone where they want going to work.
“I’m glad she was able to find a job, particularly in marketing,” Shook said. “There are a lot of students who didn’t know what they wanted to do, but she was very goal directed and knew she wanted to work in sports marketing, and she got a job in sports marking right out of school. It’s one of those situations where everything just falls into place.”
Starting out in marketing for a minor league baseball team has put Yzaguirre halfway to her goal.
“Ultimately, I want to be a marketing manager for a major league baseball team,” Yzaguirre said. “My family and I are die-hard Mariners so that’s where I’d like to go, but I also fell in love with the East Coast during an internship I had two summers ago, so you never know where I’ll end up.”
Yzaguirre said a career in baseball marketing is her calling, because the sport has had a profound impact on her life. Growing up she witnessed baseball programs bring families and communities together, including her own.
Yzaguirre said her younger brother had surgery as a child and the Seattle Mariners signed a baseball for him. She said recreating that experience for others is her goal in marketing.
“It’s amazing how one moment can change someone’s life,” Yzaguirre said. “I just really wanted to recreate that experience for other people, and that’s why I think I love the Indians so much is because they’re very family oriented to the point where their main thing is the family experience and spending time with family and that has really stuck with me. So I want to be that person where the little boy gets a baseball and it’s the best day of his life and he’s with his dad or his mom. I just want to be that person that makes their experience what I had.”
Amber Emery can be reached at arg-uidaho.edu