Heritage University nursing program director receives 2023 Nurse Educator Award from Washington State Nurses Association

Christina Nyirati accepts 2023 Nurse Educator Award from Washington State Nurses Association


Heritage University nursing program director receives 2023 Nurse Educator Award from Washington State Nurses Association


Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University nursing program director Christina Nyirati, Ph.D., was recently recognized for her work in bringing nursing education to under-represented populations. Nyirati was awarded the 2023 Nurse Educator Award by the Washington State Nurses Association during its convention in May.

The award is given every two years to a member who has demonstrated excellence in nursing education through evidence-based, innovative, and inspirational methods that incorporate principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Dr. Nyirati founded the BSN program at Heritage University in 2014 with the mission to advance the health of multicultural families and communities in rural environments through excellence in nursing education, service, practice, and community-based research.

“I have worked with students who come to me and say I want to be a nurse, but they had been told by their high school guidance counselor they couldn’t be a nurse because they didn’t start speaking English until they were 7, 9, or 11 years old, and they didn’t have access to college prep courses,” said Nyirati in her acceptance speech. “Most of our students have been denied admission to as many as three nursing schools.”

The school has now graduated 80 highly capable and motivated nurses from rural communities who understand their communities.

“She has shaped the nursing program’s emphasis on cultural inclusivity with particular sensitivity to the Native communities from which it draws many of its students,” said Judy Huntington, MN, RN, who nominated Nyirati. Huntington served as WSNA executive director for nearly 19 years.

Heritage University President Andrew Sund, Ph.D. said that Dr Nyirati is truly deserving of this recognition from the WSNA. “Dr. Nyirati has dedicated her career to the exceptional education of nurses and to the elevation of the nursing profession to the highest standards. Her dedication to preparing health care professionals that serve their communities with the highest level of care possible is extraordinary.”

The WSNA Recognition Awards are made biennially in celebration of individuals who have made substantial contributions in nursing practice, leadership, education, and research. Nyirati was one of 10 individuals recognized at this year’s event. WSNA is the statewide association for the 110,000 nurses in Washington state and has been at the forefront of nursing advancements since it was founded in 1908.

For more information, contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.

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Martin Valadez promoted to Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at Heritage University


Martin Valadez promoted to Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at Heritage University


Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University President Andrew Sund, Ph.D. announced on July 13, 2023, the promotion of Martin Valadez from director of the Heritage University Regional Site in the Tri-Cities to Vice-President for Strategic Initiatives at Heritage University. In this role, Valadez will oversee university operations at its new regional site in downtown Kennewick, Wash. and at its branch campus at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Wash. as well as take a leadership role in developing additional strategic initiatives for the university.

Valadez joined Heritage University in 2019 as the director of the newly formed Workforce Training and Education program known as Heritage@Work. A year later, Valadez was selected to become the director of Heritage University’s Tri-Cities branch campus at CBC. Valadez has lived in the Tri-Cities since 2006 and is an active leader in the area’s academic and business communities through his experience at CBC as a professor and as the VP for Diversity and Outreach. He also has strong business connections through his work as the former CEO for the CBC Foundation and as a member and vice chair of Gesa Credit Union board of directors. Valadez also recently returned to his role as president of the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where he has served in various roles for more than 13 years. He is also a board member of the Tri-Cities Economic Development Council (TRIDEC); on the board of directors of the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC); and current Chair of the Mid-Columbia Libraries board of trustees.

Dr. Sund says the adaptability and flexibility shown by Valadez when taking on new roles make him the perfect choice to develop and foster new projects for university growth. “Valadez has a proven track record with delivering consistent results and achieving targets in every venture,” Sund said. “He has shown an ability to grow positive relationships with clients, partners and colleagues which enhance Heritage’s reputation and drives growth. This promotion is a result of his exceptional work and in recognition of Martin’s service to Heritage University.”

Valadez expressed gratitude for this recognition of his contributions to the University thus far and the opportunity to contribute in a larger role. “Heritage has been changing the trajectory of students’ lives for more than 40 years and it is an honor to be a part of an organization that is 100% mission driven.”

Valadez officially started his new role as VP of Strategic Initiatives on July 1. For more information, please contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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Star of children’s book written by second graders is now a learning ambassador for children in the Yakima Valley

Houdini poses for pictures with children at the Heritage University Early Learning Center during a reveal event on June 15, 2023



Star of children’s book written by second graders is now a learning ambassador for children in the Yakima Valley

Toppenish, Wash. – Houdini Was is a story about a classroom pet hamster written by a second-grade class at White Bluff Elementary School in Richland, Wash. The class entered the story into a contest by Scholastic Books called the Scholastic National Challenge in 2010, and their book won first place over more than 2,000 entries nationwide. Fast forward to 2023, Yakima Valley Partners for Education (YVPE) and its partners are bringing Houdini to the children of the Yakima Valley as a learning ambassador. On June 15, the teacher whose class at White Bluff Elementary wrote the story, Christan Conners, and one of her students from that year, Lily Ferguson, read Houdini Was to children at the Heritage University Early Learning Center. Afterwards, Houdini, a costumed mascot, appeared and posed for pictures with the children.

YVPE director Suzy Diaz said longtime Heritage University benefactors Ken and Sharon Smith of Yakima, Wash. became interested in YVPE’s literacy efforts and wanted to help. The Smiths, parents of Christan Conners, purchased the publishing rights to Houdini Was, had 500 copies printed, and are now making the book available to schools and organizations in the Yakima Valley.

YVPE’s partners think Houdini will be a “hamster-iffic” learning ambassador.

“The ESD is thrilled to be joining with other community partners in the Houdini project,” said Educational Service District 105 Director Shane Backlund. We’re looking forward to supporting Houdini’s mission of serving as a learning ambassador throughout our region, and we can’t wait to get started with this partnership.”

“Houdini’s journey from a class pet to a symbol of resilience touched the hearts of young minds. In their words and art, Houdini becomes a beacon of hope,” said Humberto Rodriguez, CEO of United Family Center. “The Smith family’s dedication to sharing this story nurtures healing, reminding us that even in grief we find the power to create light.”

“Early literacy helps children develop a rich vocabulary, self-expression, and reading comprehension and promotes life-long learning,” said Vanessa Frias, director of Parents as Teachers at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic (YVFWC). “These skills prepare children for school by encouraging a love for books and an eagerness to learn. Our organization is happy to support Houdini.”

For more information, please contact Suzy Diaz at (509) 480-9354 or Diaz_S@heritage.edu or Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@heritage.edu.

Pacific Power awards $7,500 grant to Heritage University to support health sciences


Pacific Power awards $7,500 grant to Heritage University to support health sciences

Toni Petty of Pacific Power presents check to Heritage University VP of Marketing David Wise at Heritage University, June 21, 2023

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is pleased to announce it has once again been awarded a grant from Pacific Power Foundation, this time in the amount of $7,500. This is the fifth year in a row Heritage has received the grant, which will be used to fund scholarships for students pursuing degrees in the health sciences field.

David Wise, VP of Advancement and Marketing for Heritage, was presented a grant check from Toni Petty, Pacific Power Regional Business Manager at Heritage University on June 21, 2023. “I am so grateful to Pacific Power Foundation for their continued support of the Heritage University mission of providing educational opportunities for students of the Yakima Valley,” said Wise. Their generosity helps to eliminate financial hardships for students, particularly those pursuing health science degrees.”

Petty said Pacific Power Foundation supports Heritage University’s mission of making a college education accessible. “We are pleased to support Heritage University with this donation from our Foundation,” said Petty. “The Pacific Power Foundation is committed to strengthening the vitality of our communities through such grants.”

For more information, contact Davidson Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

About the Pacific Power Foundation:

The Pacific Power Foundation is part of the PacifiCorp Foundation, one of the largest utility-endowed foundations in the United States. The foundation was created in 1988 by PacifiCorp, an electric utility serving 1.9 million customers in six western states as Pacific Power (Oregon, Washington, and California) and Rocky Mountain Power (Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho). The foundation’s mission, through charitable investments, is to support the growth and vitality of the communities served by Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power. For more information, visit www.pacificpower.net/foundation.


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Law school pipeline program in central Washington to kick off second year at Heritage University


Law school pipeline program in central Washington to kick off second year at Heritage University

Toppenish, Wash. – A program to boost the numbers of people of color serving as lawyers in central Washington is about to begin its second year at Heritage University. The program, funded by a grant from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program, is an innovative partnership between the law schools at Seattle University, the University of Washington and Gonzaga University, and Heritage with the goal of making a law degree more accessible to diverse students, especially Latino and Indigenous students.

To teach specific program topics, the program will host highly acclaimed lawyers, judges, and legal professionals from across Washington state, including:

Stephen C. Gonzalez – chief justice, Washington State Supreme Court
Mary Yu – justice, Washington State Supreme Court
Sonia Rodriguez-True – Yakima County Superior Court
Cesar Torres – Northwest Justice Project Executive Director
Lola Velazquez – attorney, Northwest Justice Project
Derek Red Arrow Frank (Nez Perce) – associate, Stokes Lawrence PLLC
Marta Sandoval – general council, Continental Mills, Inc.
Tony Varona – dean, Seattle University School of Law
Tamara Lawson – dean, University of Washington School of Law

The LSAC PLUS Program kicks off a three-week session on Friday, June 16, 2023, with in-person classes at Heritage three days a week. The program will expand the students’ knowledge and understanding of the legal field. Some of the activities in store for the students include: 1) a mock first-year law student class and mock clinic class; 2) sessions dedicated to explaining the law school admissions process led by admissions staff of each of the three law schools in Washington; 3) seminars preparing students for the Law School Admissions Test as well as drafting personal statements and resumes; 4) a visit to Yakima County Superior Court to observe a mock trial exercise and meet with judges; and 5) individualized law school admissions counseling sessions provided by Washington’s law schools admissions departments. Each LSAC PLUS scholar is paired with a mentor attorney for the duration of the program.

By the end of the program, students will have a better understanding of what it takes to apply to and become accepted by a law school, thrive as a law student, and ultimately a career as a lawyer. Students will make valuable connections with diverse attorneys and judges in their community who are invested in their future success.

Bree R. Black Horse, an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and an attorney with the law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton in Seattle, is the director of the LSAC PLUS Program at Heritage this year. “This program is vital to achieving the full integration of lawyers from historically excluded and underrepresented communities in our legal system, and to address the critical attorney shortage currently facing central Washington,” said Black Horse. “I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the next generation of legal professionals in the Yakima Valley.”

Kimberley Bellamy-Thompson, chair of the Social Science department at Heritage, is excited over the response to Heritage and its partners once again offering the LSAC PLUS Program. “We are honored to help central Washington students envision themselves serving their community as lawyers,” said Bellamy-Thompson. “There certainly is demand for this opportunity, as we have a full cohort of 30 and a long waitlist of students hoping to be part of the program.”

Media are invited to report on the first day of the LSAC PLUS Program, with opportunities to interview students, instructors, and program coordinators. For more information, please contact:

Bree R. Black Horse at (206) 735-0448 or Blackhorse_B@heritage.edu.
Kimberly Bellamy-Thompson at (509) 952-7288 or Bellamy-Thompson_K@heritage.edu.
Davidson Mance, Heritage University media relations coordinator, at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.

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Heritage University’s annual “Bounty of the Valley” Scholarship Dinner raises $838,966 for student scholarships


Heritage University’s annual “Bounty of the Valley” Scholarship Dinner raises $838,966 for student scholarships

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University’s 37th annual Bounty of the Valley Scholarship Dinner, held this past weekend, brought in $838,966 through Monday, June 5. The premier fundraiser for student scholarships at Heritage was also live-streamed for those who wished to attend remotely.

For the second year in a row, the Bounty of the Valley featured hosts, Alex Vera and Gerardo Ruelas, two Heritage alumni and Valley natives who have gone on to successful careers at Costco Wholesale at the company’s headquarters in Issaquah, Wash.

Heritage University alumnus, Miguel Mendoza, who recently graduated from Heritage this past May summa cum laude with a B.S. in biology, served as the student speaker. Mendoza was born and raised in the Yakima Valley and graduated from Toppenish High School in 2019. Not only did he excel academically, but he also worked with the College Assistance Migrant Program at Heritage and as a tutor in the Academic Skills Center, where he supported his fellow students and help them succeed in their studies. Mendoza is now preparing to take his MCAT exam in preparation for applying to Medical School.

Heritage University President Andrew Sund, Ph.D. is thankful for the supporters and sponsors of Bounty of the Valley who continue to invest in student scholarships. “The great majority of our students come from economic backgrounds where they cannot afford higher education,” said Dr. Sund. “It is undeniable that the support our students receive from the community is what allows students to earn their college degrees. For more than 40 years, it is the amazing support of donors that has created the opportunity for nearly 11,000 people to earn their degrees at Heritage. 11,000 people who have then gone on from here to serve the community as educators, business leaders, healthcare professionals and more throughout the Valley. We are grateful for their incredible support.”

The live-streamed portion of Bounty of the Valley can be viewed by visiting Heritage.edu/Bounty. Donations to student scholarships can be made on the same page by clicking on the “Raise Your Paddle” button. For more information, contact Dana Eliason at (509) 865-0441 or Eliason_D@Heritage.edu or Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.

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Heritage University receives $6 million grant to start a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling degree program


Heritage University receives $6 million grant to start a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling degree program

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University has been awarded a $6 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to launch a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling (MMHC) program at Heritage. This initiative, known as the “Heritage University Consortium,” seeks to address the unprecedented mental health crisis that small, rural communities like the Yakama Indian Reservation and the Yakima Valley are facing. The program will train graduates to serve as mental health counselors for schools that are most in need.

Partners of the Heritage University Consortium include the Yakama Indian Nation and Educational Service District (ESD) 105 in Yakima, Wash. and will adopt a “grow-your-own” approach that recruits hard-to-reach populations from local high schools into Heritage University’s undergraduate Bachelor of Psychology and then into the soon-to-be MMHC graduate program. Graduates of the program will be eligible to serve as Licensed Mental Health Counselor-Associates in Washington state and will also qualify as Substance Use Disorder Professional Trainees.

Amy Nusbaum, Ph.D., Chair of the Psychology Department at Heritage, said the Yakama Nation and Yakima Valley schools who will benefit from this grant, have large numbers of students who suffer from the lack of adequate mental health counseling, which can lead to large academic achievement gaps. Dr. Nusbaum said research shows that students of color learn faster when they are not facing social, emotional, or mental health issues. “Our proposed solution is to create a new and innovative partnership that will address the urgent mental health needs that adversely impact the learning and well-being of the diverse students in our community,” said Dr. Nusbaum. “It will streamline and accelerate the outreach, recruitment and training of diverse mental health counselors, and we know that having a counselor that looks like you and is from a similar background increases the chances of therapeutic success.”

Nusbaum also says graduates may serve the general population by working in places such as Comprehensive Healthcare and Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, for example. “These innovative approaches capitalize on this unique opportunity to begin to solve our problem of shortages of local mental health professionals in our schools and communities,” Dr. Nusbaum said.

Enrollment for the MMHC program will begin next spring once accreditation is received, with classes starting in the fall of 2024. For more information contact Amy Nusbaum at nusbaum_a@heritage.edu. For help with securing interviews please contact Davidson Mance at mance_d@heritage.edu or (509) 969-6084.

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Heritage University to hold Class of 2023 Commencement at Yakima Valley SunDome


Heritage University to hold Class of 2023 Commencement at
Yakima Valley SunDome

Yakima, Wash. – Heritage University will celebrate the Class of 2023 during its Commencement Exercise Saturday, May 13 at 10:00 a.m. at the Yakima Valley SunDome. Undergraduate and graduate degrees will be conferred upon students graduating from both the Heritage Toppenish campus and at the Tri-Cities regional site. Overall, 250 students will earn their degrees at Heritage this year.

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, former state representative of the 46th legislative district from 1997 to 2012, will be the commencement speaker. A former small-business owner, she was a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business, President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Assistant Commissioner for the Employment Security Department. Since 2015, Ms. Gutiérrez Kenney has served on the nine-member State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, which provides oversight to Washington’s 34 community and technical colleges. She currently serves as board chair.

Passionate about educational opportunity, Ms. Gutiérrez Kenney was past chair of the Seattle Community College District Board of Trustees and former commissioner on the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. She was a board member for the National Council of La Raza and National Center for Policy Alternatives. She also authorized numerous pieces of legislation concerning postsecondary education during her time in the legislature.

Heritage University will present the 2023 Violet Lumley Rau Outstanding Alumni Award to Ryan Washburn for his exceptional service to his country and community. Washburn earned his B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies in Education from Heritage University in 2012, and his M.S.W. from Walla Walla University in Walla Walla, Wash. He currently works for Benton County in Kennewick Wash. as a therapeutic court coordinator.

Washburn’s commitment to helping others started long before he attended Heritage University. Ryan dedicated eight years of his life to the United States Navy as a fire control technician where he oversaw Tomahawk missile systems. After leaving the military, he earned his degrees.

After graduation, Washburn became the first case manager for Benton County’s newly established Veteran’s Court. He served veterans who struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues by getting them treatment and counseling to overcome their challenges. He was later promoted to run the Therapeutic Recovery Center, which oversees the Mental Health Court.

Heritage will also announce the recipients of the Board of Directors’ Academic Excellence Award and the President’s Council Student Award of Distinction during the ceremony.

The Yakima Valley SunDome is located at 1301 South Fair Ave. in Yakima. Parking is free. Additional information is available online at https://heritage.edu/student-resources/commencement-2023/

For more information, contact David Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.

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Class Notes

Ken Gosney (B.A.Ed., English/ Language Arts (4-12), M.Ed., Professional Development, School Administration) was appointed CEO of Goodwill Industries of Sacramento Valley and Northern Nevada in January 2022. Prior to this appointment, he served as the CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Columbia, covering the Tri-Cities area of Washington state. There, he helped turn the nonprofit into one of the top five performing Goodwill operations out of the nearly 160 territories in the United States and Canada.

Mike Villarreal (M.Ed., Educational Administration) was elected to serve as president of the Washington Association of School Administrators for the 2002-23 academic year. Villarreal is the superintendent of Hoquiam School District, a position he’s filled since 2017.



Amber Richards (B.A, English, M.A., English Language Arts 2011) joined the faculty at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. She serves as a professor of writing in the Department of Writing.



Rosa Gutiérrez
(B.A., Business Administration) was appointed Human Resources Director for Sundquist Fruit and Gilbert Orchards in November. Prior to this, she served as the HR/Food Safety Manager for Sundquist Family of Companies.


Francisco Ramirez-Amezcua (B.A., Environmental Studies) is a migrant graduation specialist at Sunnyside High School. This past fall, he was awarded Student Support Staff of the Year for the Sunnyside School District.


Chelsea Brannock (B.A.Ed., English Language Learners) was appointed the 2022-23 Educational School District 105 Regional Teacher of the Year. Brannock is an English language arts teacher at Wahluke High School in Mattawa, Wash.

Clariza Maldonado (B.A., Business Administration) earned a Master of Science in Information Technology and Administrative Management from Central Washington University. She now works for Konami Gaming as a project manager for their Systems Research and Development department.


Dalia Chavez (B.A., Criminal Justice) joined the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC), where she serves as a civil rights investigator based in the Yakima Valley. The WSHRC is a state agency responsible for administering and enforcing the Washington Law Against Discrimination.


HU Alumni, we invite you to send us updates on your professional and personal achievements! Go to heritage.edu/alumni to complete your submission for Class Notes. page5image59280640

From Heritage to Harvard and Back Again!

From Heritage to Harvard and Back Again!
No one writes a better story about Heritage University and its students than Robert Ozuna. Whether it’s part of an application for a half million dollars or five million, Ozuna writes passionately about Heritage and the students it serves because he knows them. As a first-generation college student with early-life experience working in hop fields, he’s shared many of their life challenges.

Robert Ozuna

Today, as President & CEO of RGI Corporation, the educational consulting business he co-founded in Sunnyside, Washington, Ozuna often partners with Heritage on its multi-faceted grant-writing endeavors, seeking sizable funding for everything from money for new buildings, to getting people in need into college, to necessary support services for existing students. RGI’s small team of a dozen grant writers and researchers includes many Heritage graduates.

The Heritage/RGI grant-acquisition success rate is an impressive 100 percent since 2020: Five applications have been submitted, and all five have been awarded. Their work is responsible for $13.3 million in funding received for programs that served more than 1,000 students over the last five years.

There are reasons for the success, Ozuna said. There is a high level of need in the region, and Heritage is doing great work to meet that need. When the story of the impact of the university in the community they serve is told accurately and compellingly, it’s powerful.

“From Hop Harvest to Heritage to Harvard,” a journalist once wrote about Ozuna. People said he could have worked anywhere – but what mattered most to Ozuna was what the people back home needed.


Robert Ozuna was born in south Texas to parents who were migrant farmworkers. After years following the seasons back and forth, they ultimately settled in Grandview in the Yakima Valley.

“Working in the fields was hard labor,” Ozuna says. “My parents always told me, ‘You need to graduate from high school and get out of the fields.’ They dreamed of me getting a good job bagging groceries inside a store.”

Ozuna graduated from high school and took a job recruiting migrant children into school programs for Educational Service District 123. Later, he trained parents to become involved in their children’s education.

“I acquired a passion for helping people, especially students,” he said. “And after a while, I thought, ‘I’m telling all these students to get an education, yet I don’t have a degree myself.’ I decided to go to back to school. I had a lot of ties to the Yakima Valley, and I felt Heritage was the best place for me.”

Once at Heritage, Ozuna started getting to know his fellow students, both Latinx and Yakama.

“I was driven to really engage with them because I found that everyone had a story,” he says. “The common thread was there was usually no role model because their parents didn’t know about college or how to navigate financial aid. There was a lot of determination in the face of adversity, and here, students could get their education without leaving the valley.”

Heritage gave Ozuna the confidence to pursue his educational goals. He thought about going to Harvard.

Like his success today, his higher-education trajectory beginning at Heritage was impressive. The university was a 600-student college still
in its infancy when he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration. He proceeded to follow it up by earning his Master of Public Administration at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He dedicated the first half of his career to public service and education.

“I wanted to go to Harvard, and I thought, I will never get in, but I’ll just apply, get rejected and get it over with,’” he says. “But I got accepted.”

Ozuna was there during a time when many of his fellow students were going to work for the Clinton administration. He was appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s U. S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Federal Advisory Board, even though he’d already decided to return to Washington State.

“Our dean said if anyone wanted to work in government, that was the time – we had the opportunity. But I always felt we really needed to get an education and come back. We need lawyers and doctors who look like us.

“I said my work was back home. There was so much to be done. Heritage provided me the opportunity and knowledge to pursue my educational goals leading to Harvard and coming back. Heritage will forever have a special place in my heart for providing me with this opportunity.”


Ozuna returned to the Yakima Valley and took a position directing the Statewide Farmworker Employment and Training Program, followed by the University of Washington Yakima Valley Community Partnership. Then he fulfilled an important personal goal: to be the CEO of his own business.

“I had worked with students and families one- on-one,” he says. “Instead of touching lives one at a time, I wanted my work to have a positive effect on as many people as possible, to do things on more of a macro instead of a micro level.”

He founded RGI Research Corporation with Heritage mathematics professor Ryan Landvoy in 2002. In addition to Heritage, RGI clients today include the University of Washington, Washington State University, ESD 105, Utah State University and many Alaska School Districts, whose student population is 98 percent Alaska Native.

Ozuna’s care for his community has most recently been exhibited in the fulfillment of another dream: to become an elected official. He’s served on the Grandview City Council since 2020.

His goal with RGI has always been to stay small so they can pick and choose their clients and do the work that matters most. “I am proud that Heritage University is one of our most valued clients.”

“I’ve had friends who’ve said, ‘You went to Harvard, and you came back?’

“’Absolutely,’ I say. I came back to help our people.” page17image62693088