Running Start Program Prepares High School Students for Campus Life

In the state of Washington, students have a number of opportunities to earn college credit before graduating from high school.

Some, like College in the High School, meet students where they’re at and offer a curated selection of courses to help put them on the right track to higher education. Others, like Running Start, give participants the chance to explore a full college course catalog while getting used to a higher education environment.

CWU’s Running Start program pairs an opportunity for free college credits with our signature student-faculty connection for a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

“Through Running Start, our students are better prepared to communicate with their instructors and advocate for themselves,” said Associate Director of Running Start Angelia Riviera. “That face-to-face connection is key to the CWU experience, and getting started on it early puts students on the path to success.”

Running Start welcomed 433 high school students into CWU classrooms during the 2023-24 school year, spread out between the Ellensburg and Sammamish campuses, as well as online. The Running Start program works with 38 partnered high schools statewide to make sure students know about the opportunity they have to get an early start on their higher education futures.

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“There’s always some level of nervousness for high schools when their students come to campus, because there’s the risk of the students not being successful,” Riviera said. “Being able to develop those relationships with students and their high schools is essential to providing good advising, as well as the resources and services that our students need to succeed.”

Mason Skeath, a Running Start student and senior at Naches Valley High School, has found the CWU community to be the helping hand he needed as he figures out how college works.

“I didn’t really know what to expect as a 16-year-old just jumping into the college environment, but I was pleasantly surprised,” Skeath said. “The community here is just so kind, and they all take an interest in my story and how they can best support me. It’s intimidating at first, but it gets better and better as you keep going.”

In addition to learning how to navigate the college experience, Running Start offers students the opportunity to learn life skills they might not pick up as part of a normal high school curriculum. Ellensburg High School senior and two-year Running Start student Shyloh Bowen found that the experience prepared her not just for college, but for life in general.

“Running Start has really helped me mature and get a better idea of how the world works,” said Bowen, who will be starting her four-year degree program at CWU this fall. “I’m taking a finance class right now, and there is so much stuff about money that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. It’s really getting me ready to take care of myself as an adult.”

Ultimately, Running Start is designed to provide students with a more gradual transition to college, which is incredibly valuable for students like Riviera. She admits that without the program, she may not have otherwise experienced success in higher education.

“I was the first in my family to go to college, and so while I had a lot of support, my family didn’t really know how to guide me through it,” she said. “Running Start was really helpful for me, because suddenly I had this pathway to college and a whole team of advisors ready to answer all my questions and point me in the right direction. I’m glad to be able to pass that on.”

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