A Yakima Valley College student is among five winners of the statewide Transforming Lives Awards, presented each year by the Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT).

Lori Fischer, selected from a pool of nominees submitted by community and technical colleges from around the state, will receive a $500 cash prize and be invited to share her story at the Transforming Lives Awards dinner during this month's ACT Winter Conference.

All of the nominees will tell their stories -- in their own words -- in booklets that will be distributed at the conference.

Fischer, who is studying to become a teacher, grew up in the Yakima Valley but dropped out of high school and started a young family, according to a YVC news release. In 1990, she returned to school, earned a GED and continued to work at Cliff's Septic Tank Service in Yakima -- a job she still holds.

"Work hard, believe in yourself, follow your dreams, and make good choices. Isn't that what we're all taught?" Fischer said in her application letter. "Not everyone. I don't remember a time in my life when I was told to believe in myself, follow my dreams, or make good choices but it's definitely what I tell my seven children every day," she wrote.

The Transforming Lives Awards program, created by ACT in 2012, is meant to recognize current or former students whose lives have been transformed as they've pursued higher education at Washington's community or technical colleges.