Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Executive Q&A

Meet Dr. Faviola Barbosa executive director of the Washington Apple Education Foundation

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The Washington Apple Education Foundation (WAEF) is the charity of the tree fruit industry and since the 1990s has awarded scholarships to over 3,000 students. The organization has grown from awarding $100,000 to over $1 million in scholarships.

In 2014 WAEF launched their Beyond the Scholarship program to provide student support services such as mentoring, professional development workshops, career exploration, care packages, holiday dinners, and many more supports to secure their academic success.

These services helped WAEF to reach a 90% retention rate and an 86% graduation rate within four years or less. WAEF’s mission is "impacting lives through access to educational opportunities." 

Dr. Faviola Barbosa was drawn to her position as executive director because of her background in the tree fruit industry and higher education and having benefited from scholarships herself. 

“I understand firsthand the challenges first-generation college students face when navigating the higher education system,” Barbosa said.

Recently we caught up with Barbosa to learn more about her and her goals for WAEF.

 

Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

My family brought me to the United States from Mexico at age two, and we settled in Orondo, WA. My parents worked in the fields and warehouses for Wells & Wades Twin WW Orchards and Avuil Fruit Company for many years. 

I attended Orondo Elementary and continued my schooling through the Eastmont School District. Upon graduating from Eastmont High School, I attended Washington State University and earned a dual degree in marketing and international business. Several years later, I returned to school and earned a master's in college student affairs from Nova Southern University and then a doctorate in leadership in higher education from Capella University. 

My first professional job was working with the Washington State Migrant Council as a vocational employment specialist for a migrant farmworker grant dedicated to providing advocacy, rehabilitation, and training to injured workers interested in reentering the workforce. My first professional experience in the educational system with the North Central Educational Service District led me to higher education. I spent the next 18 years at three different community colleges within the Washington State Board for Community and Technical College on both the student services and instructional sides of the house. And then, I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity with WAEF. 

My household includes three generations: my son, mom, and myself. Until two years ago, my household included an additional generation, my 101-year-old grandma. We lost her two months shy of her 102nd birthday.

I have two beautiful children and an adorable grandson. My daughter is also a Cougar alumnus and lives in Florida with her family. My son is a senior at Eastmont and will hopefully be a part of the Cougar family soon. 

I enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and biking. Additionally, I love to cook and travel with my family, and my bucket list includes visiting destinations such as the Great Wall of China, Machu Pichu, and the Egyptian Pyramids.

What are you most looking forward to in your role as executive director of WAEF?

Jennifer Witherbee, my predecessor, did an incredible job of building WAEF from the ground up, and I am committed to continuing her legacy by increasing the number of scholarship awards. We receive more applications than we can fund, and this can sometimes be challenging when the application pool is exceptional.

Looking ahead to 2024, we are excited to celebrate WAEF's 30th anniversary and highlight the WAEF community. We are currently working on our database to feature alum stories highlighting how WAEF impacted their lives and what they are doing now. We will also capture the voices of longstanding donors, volunteers, and past board members. 

We are enthusiastic about this project and can't wait to share it with everyone. Stay tuned for updates on our progress and the exciting things to come as we celebrate WAEF's 30th anniversary.

What does a normal day look like as executive director of WAEF?

While a typical day in the office may involve managing finances, making phone calls, responding to emails, and scheduling outreach activities with donors, there is so much more to WAEF that requires planning, organizing, and communication. 

We rely on our volunteers, donors, and vendors to deliver a high-quality WAEF experience, and many of our events and projects overlap regarding preparations. To ensure that every detail is addressed, we manage checklists and prioritize our tasks to ensure we are ready for "go" time. 

Our team works diligently to ensure that our events and programs run smoothly and that we provide a high-quality experience for our scholarship recipients and supporters.

What is your favorite part about your job and why?

As an educator, we have two favorite days: the first day of the school year because students are excited to be on campus and ready to pursue their dreams, and graduation day because students are proud of themselves for accomplishing their dreams and earning their degrees. 

Through WAEF, I experience all of this: the first time I meet new scholarship recipients and present their award letters to them. I see pride, hope, and gratitude in their eyes. And at our student luncheon celebrations when we recognize our graduating seniors. Again, I see pridefulness in their eyes because they accomplished not only their dreams but their parent's dream of going to college and earning a degree. 

What are some of your goals for WAEF?

WAEF has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a state university that matches up to 20% of our WAEF scholarship if the student is enrolled at their school. This unique partnership benefits our WAEF students and potentially may entice a student to attend their school. I would love to have more schools enter into similar partnerships with this type of agreement. It would be great to have more schools enter into similar partnerships with this type of agreement, especially community colleges' technical and vocational programs. WAEF has many scholarships available for students interested in technical and vocational degrees with the intention of utilizing these degrees within the tree fruit industry. The goal is to create these partnerships with community colleges and then upscale to include universities. 

 

In addition, increasing the number of scholarships and growing the volunteer base are also important objectives. As the scholarship awards increase, more individuals will be needed to serve on the scholarship committees and help with the selection process. Additionally, WAEF will require assistance in meeting the increased demand for student support services.

The biggest project that WAEF is taking on is our alum database. With over 3000 scholarship alums, it's crucial to have accurate and updated information. Therefore, the information is being organized, and alums will be reached out to, hoping to reengage them as possible volunteers and attendees at the 30th student celebration luncheon next summer.

Who or what inspires you?

Mi Familia (My Family) means everything to me. Every step I take, I take with them in mind. They are my biggest supporters, and I always strive to make them proud. 

When I got the job with WAEF, my dad cried tears of joy. He is proud that I am now working and representing the tree fruit industry that provided my family with employment, housing, and a livable wage. Higher education has always been my dad's passion, and he referred families and their children to me when I worked in higher education.

My mom cried during my hooding ceremony because I am the only one on both sides of the family to have obtained a bachelor's, master's, and doctorate. I am grateful to my mom for helping me raise my kids while I pursued higher education. She was the one who looked after my children when I had to travel for my residences, internships, and doctoral research. Being a single parent while pursuing a degree and working full-time can be challenging, but my mom was my rock and partner in crime.

Therefore, mi familia es mi mundo (my family is my world)!

What do you like to do with your free time?

As I mentioned before, I love the outdoors, traveling, and cooking. I have a group of friends I continuously hike and pack back with, mainly locally, but I have gone on trips with them throughout the state and abroad. I love food and enjoy learning how to cook new dishes, especially from other countries and cultures. My favorite pastime is cooking, eating, conversing, and laughing with my family. 

Is there anything else you want our readers to know?

Our WAEF scholarship applications are currently available through our website at www.waef.org/schoalarships, and the deadline is March 1, 2024. WAEF has two different applications: vocational and universal. The vocational application is for any individuals interested in pursuing a vocational or technical degree with the intention of utilizing the degree in the tree fruit industry. The universal application is for high school seniors or current college students with direct ties to the tree fruit industry and pursuing an undergraduate degree. If you have any questions about our scholarship applications, please feel free to call our office at 509-663-7713 or email us at scholarships@waef.org. 

Quinn Propst: 509-731-3590 or quinn@ward.media.




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