Edward Pinto, a Spanish teacher at Wapato High School and a 2010 Quincy High School graduate, was recognized as the 20,000th graduate of Western Governors University.

Pinto finished a master’s in English language learning earlier this summer from the online university based in Kent, Wash.

After graduating from QHS, Pinto headed to Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake where he earned an associates degree before earning a bachelor’s degree at Central Washington University.

Pinto has been teaching Spanish in Wapato for four years and decided to pursue a masters degree at WGU because of the affordability of the tuition and the flexibility of an online program, he said. He also liked the many available resources such as his mentor Tora Tucker, who helped him to finish the program in just one year.

“She (Tora) kind of became a personal cheerleader of mine and answered any questions I had,” Pinto said. “I found her to be really, really helpful.”

To celebrate the 20,000 graduate milestone, WGU will award up to $5,000 scholarships to four newly enrolled students for a total of $20,000. WGU serves all of the United states, and Pinto is the 20,000th graduate in just Washington State alone, the most of any state WGU serves, said Tonya Drake, chancellor of WGU Washington.

WGU was formed over 20 years ago by 19 governors in the Western United States to serve working adults looking to further their education. When WGU opened in Washington, they had less than 1,000 students; now, they have over 12,500, Drake said.

WGU partners with the state to assess workforce needs across the state in industries such as education, information technology and nursing. They also partner with school districts, industries and health clinics to meet the workforce needs of Washington at a local level.

“Washington has a wonderful higher education system and we’re just excited to be a part of that,” Drake said. “We serve a niche that wasn’t being served prior to WGU being around. We serve that working adult through a competency based model.”

Students interested in applying for the scholarship washington.wgu.edu/20k. The deadline for applications is July 31.

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