Class Notes – Updates on Heritage University Alumni

1985

Lisa Still (B.A., Business Management) is a volunteer with RESULTS, an organization that advocates for domestic and global poverty issues through face-to-face lobbying with members of Congress as well as through letter-writing campaigns to Congress and the news media. She was part of a recent campaign that successfully lobbied against cuts to food stamps and is now working on housing issues.

1988

Judy Lefors (M.A.Ed., Professional Development) opened Oakridge Montessori School, Inc. in Yakima, Washington after earning her master’s degree from Heritage. The school serves children from 18 months through ninth grade and has been in operation for more than 25 years.

1993

Ken Harper (B.A.Ed., Secondary Education) is an adjunct professor at Northwest Nazarene University and teaches high school and college credit courses in English at Liberty Christian School in Richland, Washington.

1995

Georgia Ramos-Brown (B.S.W., Social Work) retired after working in social work in the Yakima Valley for close to 18 years. Ramos-Brown earned a master’s degree in social work from Walla Walla University after graduating from Heritage. She worked at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic as an outpatient clinician serving high-risk youth and their families. In addition, she conducted crisis work for Yakima County through the Farm Workers Clinic, where she assessed children and teens who were at risk for suicidal and/or homicidal actions for possible hospitalization for mental health care.

2002

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Kenneth Mitchell (M.Ed., Educational Administration) received the 2019 Crystal Apple Award from the Yakima School District. He is the principal of Ridgeview Elementary School. The award is given annually to educators who use creative and quality instruction approaches, develop a positive learning environment, and advance education in the district.

2005

Leah Smartlowit (B.A.Ed., Elementary Education, M.Ed., Special Education) works as a special education coordinator for the Yakama Nation Tribal School and is a pastor of the Wilderness Full Gospel Church in Wapato, Washington. She is applying for doctoral studies through Abilene Christian University.

2006

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Debbie McLean (M.A.Ed., Professional Development in English as a Second Language) received the 2019 Crystal Apple Award from the Yakima School District. McLean teaches kindergarten at Roosevelt Elementary School. The award is given annually to educators who use creative and quality instruction approaches, develop a positive learning environment, and advance education in the district.

2007

Kristina Rawlins Brown (B.A.Ed., Elementary Education) is the principal of the Dayton School District joint middle and high school. She was hired for this position last July.

2008

Valerie Feth (B.A., English/ Language Arts) earned a master’s degree in instruction and curriculum from Western Governors University.

2009

Edith Diaz (B.A., Business Administration) is certified in disability management. She was recently hired by Advanced Vocational Solutions where she works as a vocational rehabilitation counselor.

2015

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Sarah Cook (M.A. Medical Sciences) earned a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from Pacific Northwest University of Medical Sciences and entered into her residency at Central Washington Family Medicine in Yakima, Washington.

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Denice Laws (M.A., Multicultural English Literature and Language) was named Department Chair at New Horizons High School in Pasco, Washington. New Horizons is a trauma-informed school where a growth mindset is taught. In addition, she is the school’s drama club and literary journal advisor.

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Artemio Madrigal (B.A., Business Administration) earned a Master of Organization Leadership from Gonzaga University and a Professional in Human Resources certificate. In 2017 he received both the Community Leader Award from Central Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Mason Role Model Award. Madrigal is involved in numerous organizations, including Yakima Craft Beverage Association, the Central Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Yakima Morelia Sister Cities Association. He recently moved to Seattle and is working as a training and on-boarding consultant for the University of Washington.

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Brooke Steadman (M.A. Medical Sciences) earned a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from Pacific Northwest University of Medical Sciences and entered into her residency at Central Washington Family Medicine in Yakima, Washington.

2016

Jessica Sadler (M.A.Ed., Elementary Education) was named the 2019 Washington State Outstanding Young Educator by the Washington ASCD, formerly known as the Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Sadler teaches at Leona Libby Middle School in West Richland, Washington. She organized the school’s first science, technology, engineering, arts and math night and is the advisor for the school’s science club and Science Bowl team.

2017

Laura Rebecca Cole (M.I.T., Elementary Education) passed away unexpectedly on October 31, 2018. Cole completed her master’s degree through Heritage’s Tri-Cities regional site. She taught special education at Whittier Elementary School and was an author of 10 fantasy books for young adults. Additionally, she was a craftswoman who enjoyed making soap, leatherworking and art and had a special love of animals and vulnerable people.

Cole is survived by her parents, Thomas and Ellen Cole of Essex Junction, Vermont; by her two sisters and their families (Michelle Connor/Aaron Goodell with their son Brendan Goodell of Essex, Vermont; and Kimberly and Peter Connors of Bothell, Washington); her grandfather Herbert Cole, as well as uncles, aunts, cousins and friends.

The family created a memorial scholarship fund in her name to support the Pasco School District Special Needs Program.

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Virginia Marie Valdovinos (B.S.W., Social Work) earned a Master in Social Work from the University of Southern California in May. She is a part- time faculty member at Yakima Valley College teaching adult basic education courses at their Toppenish and Grandview locations.

Submit Your Class Notes

Did you get married? Have a baby? Get your dream job, an award or even a promotion? If you have good news to share with your fellow alums, let us help.

Send us your submission for Class Notes. It’s easy. Just visit heritage.edu/alumni, complete the submission form and upload your picture. Be sure to include a valid email address so we can contact you if we have any questions.

27 new Eagles coming to Heritage on full-ride scholarships

More than a two dozen of the Yakima Valley’s best and brightest students will be coming to Heritage this fall on full-ride scholarships. The future Eagles are each recipients of one of Heritage’s highly competitive Act Six, HU Soar, Moccasin Lake Foundation, or Sinegal Family Foundation Scholarships.

“I am always impressed by the caliber of students who come from our communities,” said David Wise, vice president for Advancement and Marketing. “We receive hundreds of applications for these scholarships. These students stood out from the crowd. They are all extremely talented, focused on their goals and are truly leaders among their peers. I know we will see great things from each of them.”

Sunnyside High School students who received full-ride scholarships to Heritage pose with their scholarship announcement checks.

This year’s recipients are:

ACT SIX SCHOLARSHIP

Sulem Bernal-Sunnyside High School
Brenda Lustre Cruz-Toppenish High School Andrea Ceja-Toppenish High School
Jesus “Lizbeth” Cervantes-AC Davis High School Isaiah Cisneros-Toppenish High School
Karina Colin Corona-Sunnyside High School Maryedith Dominguez Najera- Grandview High

School
Zahira Flores Gaona- AC Davis High School Miranda Yale- White Swan High School
Juan Carlos Reyes Francisco- Granger High School

HU SOAR SCHOLARSHIP

Abigail Bravo-Sunnyside Christian High School Zuzeth Jimenez- Toppenish High School Guadalupe Iniguez-Toppenish High School Wendy Cruz- AC Davis High School

Anjuli Barragan-Toppenish High School Aiyh Sarama-Sunnyside High School Andrea Tovar Lopez-Sunnyside High School

MOCCASIN LAKE FOUNDATION SCHOLARSHIP

Elian Coria Brito – Granger High School Heidy Lemus – Sunnyside High School Arely Padilla – West Valley High School Paola Villanueva – Sunnyside High School Alejandra Morales –Heritage University HEP

Program

SINEGAL FAMILY FOUNDATION SCHOLARSHIP

Jason Grajales-White Swan High School Nansi Iniguez-Toppenish High School Miguel Mendoza-Toppenish High School Kareli Mora-Granger High School Rebecca Gomez-AC Davis High School.

Congratulations to all of our scholarship recipients!

Toppenish High School students who received full-ride scholarships to Heritage pose with their scholarship announcement checks.

Heritage University awarded $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant to increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students in STEM workforce

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Heritage University awarded $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant to increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students in STEM workforce

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University and its partners will use a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) Program for “CRESCENT,” a project to increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce. CRESCENT, which stands for “Culturally Responsive Education in STEM”, will combine innovative strategies for professional development of STEM faculty, STEM curriculum enhancement through institutional partnerships, offering experiential learning to students through hands-on research experiences and community outreach, and development of intensive culturally-responsive student support services to increase the number and diversity of students pursuing higher education in STEM disciplines.

CRESCENT will be led by Heritage University faculty Dr. Jessica Black, the Director of the Center for Indigenous Health, Culture & the Environment and the Chair of the Department of Natural Sciences. The program will incorporate students’ unique cultural strengths in the STEM Student Learning Intervention (SSLI) wrap-around services, combining near-peer mentoring, intensive advising, enhanced tutoring, undergraduate research training, and leadership development activities for engaging and supporting underrepresented minority (URM) students in learning. “We have many talented and driven students in our region who are interested in pursuing STEM careers but can sometimes struggle on their journeys and become discouraged. The CRESCENT program is designed to support these students throughout their pathway from high school to graduate school”, said Black.  “CRESCENT program activities will also empower faculty to develop innovative teaching strategies for instructing our diverse students and prepare the next generation of global citizens with a breadth of knowledge and essential life skills to succeed in the rapidly changing environment of the 21stcentury”.

The CRESCENT program will also investigate factors influencing STEM gatekeepers at the most influential and critical educational transitions that are limiting URM student engagement and advancement into STEM careers, testing innovative models transforming these gatekeepers into positive forces. Other goals include expanding a sustainable collaborative network with regional high schools to increase the pool of URM STEM-prepared first-generation freshmen undergraduate students, increase the number of URM student interested in STEM disciplines, improve the performance and retention of URM STEM students, and increase the number of URM students who pursue graduate studies in STEM disciplines after completion of their undergraduate degrees. The project will generate new knowledge on how to improve the retention and graduation of these students, and the outcomes will be shared with other HSIs seeking to grow their numbers of successful students.

Other HU faculty involved with CRESCENT include Dan Sisk, engineering professor and Dr. David Laman, chemistry professor. Project partners will include Dr. Naidu Rayapati, professor/plant pathologist and Director of the Washington State University Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser, Dr. Rodney Cooper, research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Wapato, and Dr. Matthew Loeser, biology faculty at Yakima Valley College. The CRESCENT program will be funded from September 2019 through August 2024.

For more information contact David Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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Seven-year accreditation reaffirmation reflects Heritage University’s commitment to higher education for all

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Seven-year accreditation reaffirmation reflects Heritage University’s commitment to higher education for all

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University President Dr. Andrew Sund announced two recent milestones that demonstrate Heritage University’s commitment to delivering higher education opportunities for all people of the Yakima Valley. The first, the reaffirmation of Heritage University’s accreditation by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) for another seven years, and the second, the adoption of a board-approved strategic plan for the University’s growth and continuous quality improvement through the year 2022.

Accreditation is a process of recognizing educational institutions for performance, integrity, and quality that entitles them to the confidence of the educational community and the public. Eight accreditation evaluators visited Heritage University for five days in early April to review the institution’s seven-year self-evaluation report. Following their visit, the evaluators commended Heritage in five areas:

  1. The deep commitment of its faculty, staff, and administrators to the mission of the University, which guides them in outstanding support of transformative, student-centered education, developing leaders who embrace social justice and community engagement.
  2. Its dedicated, data-driven efforts to support student access and equity, as exemplified by the summer Math Bridge and English Academy programs that have enabled hundreds of students to advance from developmental to college-level study.
  3. The Center for Intercultural Learning and Teaching’s (CILT) dedication to the delivery of high quality and continuous faculty development in areas of program review and assessment, the use of classroom technology, cultural responsiveness and care of students, and pedagogy that supports academic excellence for all students.
  4. The culture of assessment among its professionally accredited undergraduate and graduate-level majors and programs.
  5. Its Board of Directors for advancing the mission of Heritage University through its strong leadership, engagement, advocacy, philanthropic support, and discerning recruitment of new members to the Board.

In a letter to Dr. Sund reaffirming Heritage University’s accreditation, NWCCU President Sonny Ramaswamy stated “The NWCCU is committed to an accreditation process that adds value to institutions while contributing to public accountability. This action was taken after consideration of the evidence, including the institution’s Self Evaluation Report, the Peer-Evaluation Report, and information received as part of the institutional representative meeting with NWCCU Commissioners.”

Dr. Sund represented Heritage at the NWCCU Commission meeting in Park City, Utah last month at which the Chair of the visiting team officially presented her report to the Commission. “I am happy to report that the commission accepted the report of the visiting team with no additional comments. It is a reflection of our faculty and staff’s ongoing commitment to achieving the Heritage mission and that we meet the Commission’s expectations for complying with the accreditation criteria,” said Dr. Sund. “The accreditation renewal reinforces our conviction in the Heritage mission to empower a multi-cultural and inclusive student body to overcome the social, cultural, economic and geographic barriers that limit access to higher education embracing a transformational student-centered education that cultivates leadership and a commitment to the promotion of a more just society. We will continue to support the initiatives that made the university what it is and develop new programs that are responsive to the needs of students and the Yakima Valley community we serve.”

Recent initiatives demonstrating the University’s commitment to the valley include:

  1. Strengthening the University’s relationship with Yakama Nation: This year instituting the Full Circle Scholarship which allows enrolled members of the Yakama Nation to attend Heritage with no out of pocket expense for tuition.
  2. Reinforcing alliances with both Yakima Valley College and Columbia Basin College to make seamless the transfer process for their students.
  3. Adding the Heritage@Work, workforce development unit, to enhance training and development opportunities for local industries in preparing their employees for increasingly challenging positions within their organizations.
  4. Enhancing the University’s partnership with Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences (PNWU) through shared programs including the Master of Arts in Medical Sciences (MAMS) and the Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA): Both preparing graduates to succeed as innovative leaders in the delivery of healthcare in the Yakima Valley and nationwide.
  5. Developing closer ties with Valley High Schools: Students can participate in the University’s “New Horizons” program that allows their students to earn college credit while still in high school at no cost; and establishing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Yakima School District (YSD) to become the primary provider of free college credits for College in the High School classes for YSD’s A.C. Davis and Eisenhower students.

The Strategic Plan adopted by HU’s 30-member board of directors in June lays out a roadmap for growth and continuous quality improvement at Heritage through December 31, 2022. The initiatives embraces are directed at growing the offering of services to students. These include implementing programs to meet the transportation, health resources and nutritional needs of students; completing a feasibility study on having on-campus housing; and implementing a sports program. “I’ve been blessed to work with faculty and staff who are dedicated to designing programs that further our mission,” said Dr. Sund. “Thousands have trusted this institution to transform their lives through their Heritage experience, and our strategic plan and renewed accreditation only embolden our intention to do just that.”

In addition to regional accreditation of the University, several programs at Heritage are accredited by accrediting bodies responsible for certifying competency in specific programs. They are as follows:

Medical Laboratory Science: The MLS program at Heritage is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Lab Sciences (NAACLS).

Education: State of Washington approval through the Professional Education Standards Board (PESB) has been granted to the following education programs: Residency Teacher; and Residency Principal/Program Administrator.

Nursing: The baccalaureate degree program in nursing at Heritage University is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, 655 K Street, NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001, 202-887-6791. It is also approved by the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission.

Social Work: The Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.) degree was accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) effective with the class of 1997. The program was re-accredited in 2019.

Physician Assistant: At its September 2018 meeting, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) extended Accreditation-Probation status for the Heritage University Physician Assistant program until its next review in September 2020.

For more information, contact David Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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Bountiful Giving and Grateful Hearts

Nearly three-quarters of a million dollars! That is what Heritage’s generous donors contributed to support student scholarships in a single night at the 33rd annual Bounty of the Valley Scholarship Dinner.

“Scholarship Dinner is one of the most magical evenings of the year,” said David Wise, vice president for Advancement. “I say this all the time; Heritage is truly blessed with some of the most gracious and generous friends and donors. The work we do here at this university simply would not be possible without their continued commitment. Some of our most ardent supporters come year-after-year, for 10, 20 even 30 years in a row, to be part of this great event that celebrates our students and ensures that they, and future generations of students, can access a quality college education here in the Yakima Valley. Their commitment to this institution and our students is truly heartwarming and humbling.”

The event brought 250 people to the university campus on the first day of June, and raised a total of $742,275 in gifts that came in through a combination of sponsorships, table sales and paddle raises. This brings to the total raised since its inception to more than $7-million.

“One of the things that makes this so beautiful is who is giving,” said Wise. “Most universities have a deep alumni base that stretches over many generations, and their alums are by far their greatest source of contributions. Heritage is a young institution. We do not have that same luxury. Our donors are, for the most part, complete strangers to the students in whom they are investing. They give to Heritage, to our students, because they believe in the power of education, in the ability of Heritage to deliver that education, and in our students’ capability to succeed, graduate and make a real difference in the world.”

The event, with its gourmet meals, fine wines and attention to details, has a reputation for being one of the premier dinners of its kind in the Yakima Valley. Local favorite Gasperetti’s Gourmet Restaurant catered the four-course meal, and O Wines and Columbia Crest provided the wine. An original piece of artwork by Central Washington artist Rich Kimura—a work created from folded vintage fruit labels that is a cross between origami and a kaleidoscope image—set the feel for the evening. And of course, the students themselves take the starring role, hosting the evening and sharing their stories with the guests.

 

Board members Rick Linneweh and John Reeves.

The night’s grand total: $742,275 raised!

Guests raise their numbers high to make their gifts during the paddle raise at the end of the evening.

Recent graduate Shelby Clark, B.S.N., Nursing, shared a bit about her journey and the importance of scholarships.

Vice President for Advancement David Wise leads the paddle raise.

Dr. Andrew Sund and his wife, Norma Chaidez raise their paddles to support scholarships.

Bertha Ortega, Senator Curtis King, Ester Huey

Jim Barnhill sports his Heritage jersey emblazoned with his Boy Scouts number and Scholarship Dinner paddle raise number.

Retired Rep. Norm Johnson and Sharon Young

All Nations Student Powwow

Heritage freshman Candice Chief Scabbyrobe dances in the women’s jingle competition.

The gloom of an early spring storm couldn’t keep away serious powwow dancers and singers who came out for Heritage’s 3rd annual All Nations Student Powwow in April. More than 500 people came to the campus for the one-day event, which featured drumming, singing and dance competitions, as well as storytelling, a stick game and wápaas (basket) weaving demonstrations. And of course, vendors selling everything from Indian fry bread tacos to hand-crafted jewelry to blankets and t-shirts filled the grounds.

This is the third year that Silas Martinez has competed at the Heritage powwow. Here he is dancing in the boys junior traditional competition.

The powwow is hosted by the university’s two Native American student organizations, the American Indigenous Business Leaders of Heritage University (AIBL) and the Heritage University Native American Club (HUNAC). Student volunteers plan, organize and host the event.

“The powwow affirms our community’s place on our campus. We can celebrate our culture while also sharing it with our larger Central Washington community,” said Keegan Livermore, HUNAC president and powwow organizer.

Chris Paul Jr. was one of the many who entered the hand drum singing competition.

Dancers of all ages competed in men’s and women’s traditional, fancy, grass and jingle dance competitions—from tiny tots (children who are under five years old) to adults over 55. Kids 17 and under competed in the Stan Strong Special, which was hosted to bring awareness to suicide prevention. During one particularly meaningful special dance, a crowd of men, women and children — some in regalia and some in street clothes — danced around three featureless mannequins dressed in red. The REDgalia blanket dance raised money and awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women in the Yakima Valley and beyond.

Competitors in full regalia joined the grand entry into the arena to start the day.

The drum group Chute #8 served as head drum for the powwow. Heritage University board member and long-time supporter Arlen Washines, deputy director for Yakama Nation Human Services, was the master of ceremonies for the third year running. Karen Umtuch was the whip woman for the second year in a row. Caseymac Wallahee served as the arena director. Toppenish Longhouse catered the evening meal. The event was sponsored by Yakama Legends Hotel and the CIA Recruiting Program.

Ashley Crossing-Horse competes in the women’s traditional category.

 

Jason John dances during one of the inter- tribal dances between competitions.

 

 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go

“You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So…get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss

For every Heritage University graduate, there is a book of stories— stories of challenges met, obstacles overcome, victories celebrated, and paths yet to be traveled. For some, Heritage is the launching pad into the job that will build into a rewarding career. For others, it is the start of an academic journey that will take them into graduate and doctoral studies.

Here’s where five of our Class of 2019 are heading now that this chapter of their life has ended. Oh, the places they’ll go!

 

MARIA VILLANEUVA

B.S., Chemistry

Throughout her undergraduate studies at Heritage, Maria took full advantage of the research opportunities that were offered to her. She studied human diseases at the University of Virginia and at Montana State University and plant diseases with the USDA in Wapato. What her experiences taught her was that she wanted to be on the patient care side of things in the health care field. Maria applied to the Washington State University Doctor of Pharmacy program and was one of only a handful of applicants accepted. She will start in the four-year program this fall.

 

 

SHELBY CLARK

B.S.N, Nursing

Ever since she was 10 years old, Shelby wanted to be a nurse, just like her aunt who served as a nurse in the Army. When she started at Heritage, her goal was to graduate and start a career as a flight nurse. However, after two rotations at Indian Health Services, she developed a passion for public health. Her advisor, Dr. Christine Nyirati suggested she apply to the University of Washington’s Doctor of Nursing Practice, Population Health Track. Much to her surprise, Shelby was admitted and will start in the program this fall. Her goal is to return to the Yakama Nation to work for her tribe to help improve the healthcare system.

 

 

JOHNATHAN SCHAB

B.A., Business Administration

Johnathan entered Heritage with the goal of graduating in just three years. Not only did he accomplish this goal, he did so with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

As part of his degree requirements, Johnathan completed a summer internship with Ramsey Companies, a family-owned conglomerate in the lower Yakima Valley. They were so impressed with him that they offered him a full-time position as a financial analyst after graduation. He started his career early this summer.

 

 

CASSANDRA GARCIA

B.S., Biology

Cassandra entered Heritage set on becoming a teacher. However, partway through her education she had a change of heart and decided to work towards a career where she could work with the animals that she loves. With her advisor’s help, she became a science major and created a plan to become a veterinarian.

Admission into veterinary school is notoriously competitive, with nearly 1,500 students clamoring for 133 seats at Washington State University alone. Starting this fall, Cassandra will be one of those lucky few who are joining the Doctor of Veterinary Science Class of 2022.

 

 

JHEYMY MERCADO

B.S.W., Social Work

Jheymy is passionate about helping people suffering from mental illness to live their best life. She completed her practicum working at Comprehensive Health Care and was hired by the company shortly thereafter. She is a case manager who works with incarcerated men who have been found to be unfit to stand trial, helping them to prepare for their legal proceedings. In addition to entering her career, Jheymy was accepted into the social work graduate program at Eastern Washington University. She will be a full-time grad student, and full-time employee starting this fall.

 

 

To see a special message from Johnathan, Cassandra and Jheymy about their time at Heritage and the importance of scholarships, go to heritage.edu/sdvideo.

Class of 2019 SIMPLY UNSTOPPABLE!

Ida Moses-Hyipeer, B.A. Business Administration, celebrates walking across the stage after getting her diploma.

All totaled, 363 men and women earned their undergraduate and graduate degrees at Heritage this academic year.

“Commencement is always a special moment,” said Dr. Kazuhiro Sonoda, provost. “We are all honored to share this moment with them.”

Commencement speaker Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez

This year’s commencement address was given by Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steve González. He was appointed to the State Supreme Court in January 2012 and subsequently won two contested races for six-year terms starting in 2013 and 2019. Prior to his appointment, González had served as a trial judge on the King County Superior Court.

In addition to González’s address, two graduating students gave their remarks. Cristy Fiander (B.A., Environmental Studies) presented the baccalaureate student address and George Pope, (M.A., Medical Sciences) gave the master’s degree student address.

Heritage V.P. for Student Affairs Melissa Hill introduces Cristy Fiander (B.A., Environmental Studies.)

Fourteen graduates received the Board of Directors Academic Excellence Award, which is given to undergraduates who completed their degree with a perfect 4.0-grade point average. This year’s recipients were: Brenda Cardona, Social Work; Janette Cardona, Social Work; Fatima  Delgado, Social Work; Rylie Dixon, Social Work; Kimberling Garibay, Social Work; Delia Garza, Elementary Education; Amanda Goodman, Social Work; Rachel LaBelle, Psychology; Domitila Morales, Social Work; Jennifer Mitchell, Elementary Education; Kelsey Picard, Nursing; Johnathan Schab, Business Administration; Kyle Wandling, Accounting; and Mette Warnick, Accounting.

Naomi Leon Guerrero and Matthew Braun, both M.A., Medical Science

Yesenia Lopez, B.A., Business Administration

 

The President’s Student Award of Distinction, which is given to an undergraduate with a distinguished record of academic excellence and service to the university, was awarded to Shelby Clark, nursing.

 

 

 

 

David Wise and Maria Villalobos-Bevins

 

 

Honoring a Role Model

Every year, Heritage honors an alum whose service and professionalism embody the teachings of the university. This year’s Violet Lumley Rau Alumnus of the Year award recipient was Maria Villalobos-Bevins (M.Ed., 1986)

Villalobos-Bevins was one of the university’s earliest students. After earning her education degree, she went on to a 26-year career as a teacher in the Yakima Valley. Additionally, she is active in her community, volunteering as a translator for physicians at the Union Gospel Mission and serving as a visiting preacher working with incarcerated women in the Yakima County Jail. Villalobos-Bevins is also part owner of Hispanavision and leads a weekly television program that airs on several of the station’s channels.

Legal Eagles

Legal Internships Give Students Opportunities to Serve Their Communities

Last semester, two Heritage students took a different route to work than normal. In January, they began six-month fellowships at two local organizations, working with attorneys to get a sneak peek at what a law career might look like. The program is called The American Rural Communities (ARC) Law & Policy Fellowship, and it was launched last year as a collaborative between Heritage, Columbia Legal Services (CLS), Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and PopUp Justice.

HANDS-ON, REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE BUILDS STUDENT SKILLS AND CONFIDENCE

Senior Noemi Sanchez, a history major, joined Columbia Legal Services as an intern-fellow and junior Maria Rivera, who is studying criminal justice and history, joined the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. The non-profits provide legal services to underrepresented populations in the community. CLS advocates for laws that promote social, economic and racial equity for those in poverty, often through class action litigation. Northwest Immigrant Rights Project devotes itself to supporting immigrants through advocacy, legal services and education.

Maria Rivera at the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project in Granger, Wash.

During these internships, the students were mentored by practicing attorneys and gained practical, professional skills as well as learned about experiences other attorneys had in law school and in their careers – especially as people of color. In addition, the students promoted and were guests at a set of workshops called the Lunchbox Series. The series brought together experts in law and social justice who are advocates versed in the diversity and unique aspects of rural communities to share thoughts, provide guidance and answer questions.

The organizations maximized the students’ skills and their enthusiasm to dive in, introducing them to cases and tasking them with projects like conducting client interviews; gathering, organizing and cataloging research; and distributing information about resources through community outreach.

LIVED EXPERIENCE LEADS STUDENTS DOWN DIFFERENT LEGAL PATHS

Sanchez and Rivera learned about the fellowships from Kim Bellamy-Thompson, who is chair of the Social Sciences department at Heritage. “Both students see the need for social change in the community,” said Thompson. “I knew they would be interested in the fellowship.”

Thompson said she looked for juniors or seniors who have strong writing skills and even more so, have a fire in them, believing that action for these causes can lead to a change.

PIPELINE TO LEAD MORE LOCAL STUDENTS TO RETURN TO THE COMMUNITY

For her part, Sanchez was trying to figure out if law school was a must for her real career passion, public policy, which propels social justice through legislation. Rivera was certain law school was her next step, but she wanted more exposure to daily life as an attorney as well as more direction about proceeding to law school.

Senior Noemi Sanchez at Columbia Legal Services in Yakima.

Lori Isley, a directing attorney at CLS, said students like Sanchez are an asset to her organization and the community.

“This has been a very exciting collaboration,” said Isley, who was one of Sanchez’s supervisors and mentors. “One exciting part for me is developing a pipeline from our community into law school by providing context and connection and then having them come back and serve our community.”

Sanchez has been working on the organization’s Working Family Project, which focuses on the undocumented community and farm workers. This is a special interest for Sanchez because she grew up in a family of farm workers and she saw workers with untreated injuries or wage issues who were afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. As a student who identifies as a queer and non-binary student, Sanchez is also passionate about advocating for LGBTQ inclusion in the schools.

“So many Heritage students bring lived experiences of the challenges faced by many in our community,” confirmed Isley. “Having them makes our work more effective. Their own stories are a source of power, and it helps them connect with others on the journey.”

Isley said Sanchez organized research and cataloged information requests so litigation could proceed more quickly and smoothly. She also helped elevate the organization’s community outreach by assisting Insley with visits to camps of H2A workers, using social media to locate and reach out creatively to people in Mexico for a case, and even recorded a Facebook video to explain a settlement in layperson’s terms. Community outreach actually proved to be one of Sanchez’s favorite aspects of the work.

“It’s been really exciting,” said Sanchez about their visits to the camps. “I love to connect with people and show them they are not alone. This means a lot to me because my parents and grandparents didn’t have access to these things.”

Sanchez is still planning to work in public policy, but she has decided that law school can equip her to do that, first at the city and county level, and later, she hopes, at the state level. “When I first came here, I was unsure about law school, because I’m so policy driven,” she said. “What I learned is policy changes can come out of litigation, so even as an attorney, I can still create change.”

NON-PROFIT ENVIRONMENT, CLIENT STORIES IMPACT RIVERA

While Sanchez was pondering the value of law school, Rivera needed no such confirmation. She had been single-mindedly pursuing the goal of earning a Juris Doctorate from the minute she set foot on the Heritage campus. She had taken two years off after high school and had worked for a law firm during that time, so she knew it was what she wanted. When she joined the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, however, she was surprised by how much she enjoyed the non-profit environment, something she admits she had never considered.

“There are four attorneys here working 100 cases, and they all have pretty big hearts,” said Rivera, who described the all-female office staff she worked with as nurturing, strong and persistent.

The fellowship dovetailed with Rivera’s long-term goal to practice immigration or criminal law in the Valley. She has a curiosity to know what makes people do what they do and for uncovering details that may prove someone’s innocence.

Rivera said her daily tasks were similar to a paralegal’s. She took notes, researched background information on immigrants’ countries of origin to document facts that could strengthen their cases for remaining in the U.S. Many clients had difficult lives before arriving in the Valley.

“I’ve taken the declarations of two clients so far,” said Rivera, who explained that it’s part of the immigration process. “They sit down with me and tell their stories about why they came to the U.S. many times, traumatic events have occurred, and it’s a process that results in the reopening of those wounds.”

As Rivera guides them gently through conversations that can take two or three hours, she tries to capture as much detail as possible while walking slowly toward topics that are painful for them. She believes it’s a privilege to be entrusted with their stories. “It’s not something I take lightly,” she said somberly.

Both Rivera and Sanchez now share the same goal – attending law school and then returning to the Valley to put their law degrees to work in their community.

Bellamy-Thompson said the fellowship would not be possible without someone willing to step up and fund it. Thankfully the Laurel Rubin Farm Worker Justice Project stepped in and provided all of the funding necessary. Isley shared that the project, which exists to make internships available to students interested in pursuing law careers that provide services to farm workers in Washington, has a long history of funding law school students, but this was the first time the organization supported undergraduates.

“We can do great things if we have the funding,” said Thompson, who hopes to offer the ARC Fellowship again to students in spring 2020.

“I can’t imagine not coming back to this community after law school,” concluded Sanchez, who is hoping to begin law school in the fall of 2021. “I just want to give back to the people who have given so much to me.”

Heritage University announces first-ever “Eagle Giving Day” June 27 to boost student scholarships

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Heritage University announces first-ever “Eagle Giving Day” June 27 to boost student scholarships

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University friends, donors, and alumni will have the opportunity to help make college possible for countless students by participating in the university’s first-ever “Eagle Giving Day” on Thursday, June 27. Every dollar raised during this one-day online fundraising campaign will go directly to student scholarships.

David Wise, VP of Advancement and Marketing at HU, said the university has been blessed by generous supporters who believe in the Heritage mission of providing students an opportunity to earn a college degree regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. “Nearly every student who has ever attended Heritage has had scholarship support thanks to the generosity of our amazing donors. If there is one constant in this valley it is the belief that education offers the best mechanism to transform lives, and the women and men of the Yakima Valley have demonstrated this belief through their giving,” said Wise. “All of us are lifted up when we provide those who are most in need, with the opportunity to pursue their dreams.”

HU alumni are also being invited to help provide scholarships to students who are following in their footsteps. Alumni will be able to support students in the programs of their choice. “Social workers can give to social work majors, teachers can give to education majors, nurses can give to nursing majors, and so on,” said Wise. “It is not the size of the gift that matters, lots of small gifts add up to really big opportunities for students. And as added incentive an anonymous alum has agreed to match every gift up to the first $5,000!“

Gifts can be made before and through June 27 using Heritage University’s secure online donation form at heritage.edu/givingday, or by calling (509) 865-8587.

For more information contact David Mance at (509) 855-0731 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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