Commentary: In Celebration of the Centralia College Running Start Program


When spring rolls around, it’s time to celebrate Washington’s most successful education program — Running Start.

Running Start orientations began this month at Centralia College (CC), and it’s time to get in on this amazing program.

Running Start allows high school juniors and seniors to attend CC tuition-free, saving our young people thousands of dollars on job training and college classes. All CC classes are open to Running Start students. They can take career training classes, such as welding, diesel tech, information technology and nursing, or finish their first two years of a bachelor’s degree, all with no tuition.

Plus, they can participate in esports, college clubs and activities, student government, music and theater, and so much more.

The average college graduate in 2022 is carrying almost $38,000 in student loan debt. That’s a life-changing burden for young people. For motivated high school students, Running Start is the difference between struggling and debt, and graduating with a career and clear pathway to success.

Ashlee Vadala was a Centralia College Running Start student from W.F. West High School. She knew she wanted to be a nurse, so she took prep classes at CC while she was in high school. When she graduated in 2018, she continued her studies and graduated with her nursing degree in 2021.

For those considering Running Start, Vadala said, “Do it! It is so worth it and I feel like I did not miss out on one single thing of being at the high school all day long. Anything I thought I might ‘miss out on’ I still got to do; any assembly or anything I wanted to go to I still had the option to do.”

The same is true for Levi Sathre, a Running Start student from Adna High School. Levi finished his associate degree at CC while he was still in high school and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Teacher Education at CC in 2020. He is now teaching fourth grade at Edison Elementary in Centralia.

“I made that choice to do Running Start and it’s paid off in the long run,” Sathre said. “I was able to get scholarships … those have helped me pay for my now bachelor’s degree. It’s been awesome.”

Hundreds of high school students are building their future for free at Centralia College right now.

Parents and high school juniors and seniors are encouraged to drop in on one of the online Running Start orientation sessions happening now through June.

You’ll learn everything you need to know about Running Start and hear from some current Running Start students who are blazing their trail tuition-free. Learn more at


Bob Mohrbacher is president of Centralia College.