Alumni Spotlight: Leveling the Educational Playing Field

Wings-Fall2019-LevelingEducationalPlayingField-1

Glenn Jenkins with his class of fifth-graders at Dick Scobee Elementary School in Auburn, Washington. In his class of 23 students, there are eight different cultures represented.

Students win with the academic approach that weaves culture and racial equity into the classroom.

Glenn Jenkins’ first brush with higher education started very early. He attended college at the age of eight!
Yes, he was extremely bright, but this Heritage alumnus was actually tagging along with his mom as she took courses towards her bachelor’s degree in interior design. Jenkins laughs boisterously as he recalls the day he made his presence well known to a professor, by raising his hand with the correct answer to a question thrown out to students in his mom’s college-level English class.

“After that, I did all of my mom’s English homework,” chuckles Jenkins conspiratorially, admitting he also became the family’s go-to handyman after mom learned she could throw him a DIY book, and he would teach himself how to wire electrical outlets and clear drains.

Education was seemingly infused into Jenkins’ DNA at birth. His passion for education as an equalizer for children of color led him to become an elementary school teacher in the Auburn School District in western Washington state. He was also elected a year ago to the board of the Washington Education Association Representative Assembly (WEARA) in the role of Equity-At-Large Board Director. Over the past year, Jenkins has become the implicit bias trainer, conducting professional development in the areas of race, gender and disability, believing that until educators themselves are exposed to racial equality in education they can’t nurture it in their classrooms.

RACISM LED HIM TO THE CLASSROOM TO ADVOCATE FOR EQUITY

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Jenkins attended a rigorous STEM-focused magnet high school, Cass Technical High School, which counts songstress Diana Ross, comedian and actress Lily Tomlin, and automaker and manufacturer of the time-traveling car in the Back to the Future movies, John DeLorean, as former students. He jokes that he and his friends were “nerds, but cool nerds,” taking tough classes like chemistry, biology and engineering while maintaining the mandatory 3.0-grade-point average.

He was working as a freelance writer for the Michigan Citizen newspaper in 1996 after graduation when he decided he wanted to try somewhere new.

With no destination in mind, he opened an atlas, closed his eyes, and pointed. His finger landed on Tacoma, Washington. Within three months, he moved cross- country and was working in the Pacific Northwest.

“I’ve had about 37 jobs in my lifetime,” said Jenkins. “I write them on the board for the kids every year to show them that success is not a straight line.”

New telecommunications companies were opening their doors almost daily then, and he worked for a number of them in various engineering roles. He eventually joined one that was building out the fiber network in Seattle.

“I became known as the go-to guy,” he said.

One time, his boss called him at five in the morning and said the entire state of Alaska was down, and he had six hours to fix it. And he did! However, when he was passed over for a promotion solely because some of his coworkers were uncomfortable with his skin color, Jenkins decided it was time for a change. That overt racism drove him into education.

He stumbled upon the teaching program at Heritage accidentally, after finishing his associate degree at South Seattle Community College. At the time, the university operated a satellite teacher preparation bachelor’s degree program at the community college.

“The social justice framework of Heritage was exactly what I was looking for if I was going to be a teacher,” said Jenkins, who graduated from Heritage in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in education and an English as a Second Language endorsement. “Their openness to cultural representation was really important to me.”

Wings-Fall2019-LevelingEducationalPlayingField-2

Jenkins assists students Angel Cabral, Gabriel Hernandez-Garza, Feisa Hussein and Jasmine Perry as they work on the math assignment, a house building project.

WHEN STUDENTS GET COMFORTABLE, THEY BECOME ENGAGED

Jenkins runs a tough classroom, but the kids see he cares. He makes a point of being inclusive and curious about their cultures. He shared his own ethnicity in cultural nights at school and encourages his students to share theirs. He asks for help with his Spanish and works hard to get the pronunciation of every child’s name exactly right because he sees that as a sign of respect.

Njeri Bañuelos was a student of Jenkins when he was teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grades in a split classroom. She struggled with English and other coursework, particularly math. Jenkins saw that, and knew instinctively that he had to draw her out to break down the barriers to her learning.

“I was terrible at math,” said Njeri, now an eighth-grader. “I didn’t want to be there, but Mr. Jenkins pushed me to get better. I would be mad at myself and frustrated, but I didn’t want to ask questions. He told me not to be embarrassed because no one ever stops learning. It’s true!”

Njeri’s mom, Guadeloupe, explained that her daughter practically brought Mr. Jenkins home every day – by talking about him so often to the family. Njeri would quote facts about topics like space junk, and after a while, her brothers would simply say, “Let me guess, Mr. Jenkins?”

“My whole classroom is based on the fact that I know you don’t know,” he explained. “But you have to feel comfortable enough in order to ask questions. The best way to make you feel comfortable is to be sure the math, science, history and reading lessons have someone in it that mirrors who you are.”

He gives an example of a long-standing math scavenger hunt in which the clues were always white mathematicians, even though the classroom was comprised of 80% children of color.

“I turned the scavenger hunt into a cultural scavenger hunt that had mathematics tied to it,” he said.

He changed the clues to mathematicians from the countries his students came from, and with 18 different nationalities, including the Marshall Islands and Guam, it wasn’t easy! Students were tasked with learning more about their person, and connecting with that shared background. Now there was excitement! Today, the entire district has adopted his scavenger hunt.

“I’m really happy to be in the district I’m in, they are as culturally responsive as they can possibly be,” said Jenkins.

Another example is the impact he had on the district’s teaching of the Oregon Trail. Most history books leave out the heroics of York, an African slave who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition and who saved the men hundreds of times.

Jenkins said he asks people to tell him who was on the trip, and the most common responses are Sacagawea and the dog. Most don’t know anything about York because he wasn’t written about. Once the district heard Jenkins speak about this, it purchased the book, York, by Brad Phillips, and made it mandatory reading for fourth graders.

“Elementary-aged kids get it,” said Jenkins. “They don’t want to treat people badly, especially when it comes to race.”

LEADING THE PUSH FOR CULTURAL AND RACIAL EQUITY TRAINING FOR EDUCATORS

Adults are more of a challenge, however. In addition to his position on the board of the Representative Assembly, he’s on a state work team for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) working on phase-ins of additional components to the state’s curriculum. The state recently added an ethnic studies elective to middle and high school, but Jenkins would like to see it start in pre-k and be a required part of the coursework. He would also like ethnic studies mandatory for state educators.

“With optional training, you get people who really want to take it, not the people who need to be in the room,” he said. “If we get the people who have not been in the room in the room, they will see.”

Jenkins believes the push for equity is actually a push for excellence because data shows if students and their ethnicity are treated with respect, the opportunity gap closes. Njeri would agree with that. She was recently invited to be a leader student in the school, mentoring sixth graders.

“Mr. Jenkins changed me in a good way,“ said Njeri. “He inspired me to advocate for myself. I still talk about him to my friends, and they all say they wish they had him too.”

This impact, on kids of color in his classroom, is what he’s most proud of in his diverse and powerful body of work.

“Students who are now in high school come back and tell me they are taking physics or AP math,” said Jenkins. “They realized in my classroom, knowledge was the equalizer. It’s something no one can ever take from you.” page23image48835552.

Saving the Language

Zelda Tinnier leads kids from the Yakama Tribal School through Ichishkíin language exercises during the Yakama Nation’s Summer Language Boot Camp.

“IF WE SPOKE OUR LANGUAGE, THE TEACHERS BEAT US. SO LATER, I NEVER WANTED TO TEACH MY CHILDREN. NOW, I REGRET IT.”

In those few words, Gregory Sutterlict’s great- grandfather told of the deeply felt grief among Yakama elders over losing their native language.

Today, Sutterlict, the Mellon-endowed chair of Heritage University’s Sahaptin Language Department and Director of the Heritage University Language Center (HULC), is part of a contingent of Yakama people, schools and organizations working to revitalize the language.

The Ichishkíin Language Alliance teaches the Yakama native tongue to kids in kindergarten through grade 12 and beyond – where the future of the language lies.
The Alliance is comprised of educators, elders and leaders from the Yakama Nation, area school districts and the university. In addition to Heritage, it includes representation from the Yakama Tribal School, the Mt. Adams School District, the Zillah School District, the Yakama Nation Sahaptin Language Group, the Wapato School District, Yakama Nation Headstart and many individuals.

It’s important work: Ichishkíin has been at risk of “endangerment” for several decades.

There are nine stages of language endangerment, said Sutterlict, and in the late 20th century, Ichishkíin was at the stage linguists call “no one under child-bearing age” speaking the language. When young parents don’t know the language they can’t teach their young children, and the language dies. But a language can be revived. With work, it can be brought back to life.

FOLLOWING IN ELDERS’ FOOTSTEPS

Suttlerlict remembers hearing Ichishkíin as a boy along with the stories and lessons of the elders. He always wanted to learn more.

As an undergraduate, he took classes at Heritage, studying under Virginia Beavert, who holds two Ph.D.s in linguistics and is the author of The Sahaptin Practical Dictionary for Yakama, considered the most advanced volume on the Ichishkíin language.

Beavert’s stepfather, Alexander Saluskin, whose Yakama name was Chief Wiy’awikt, spent his life chronicling the language. When his health declined, he prevailed upon Beavert to take up the gauntlet and continue his work. Beavert wrote the dictionary with co-author Sharon Hargus, a linguist at the University of Washington. A second volume is currently in the works.

“The book is not just a dictionary, it’s grammar, morphology, phonology, semantics, phonetics – everything. It’s one of the top 10 books of its kind ever,” Sutterlict said.

Sutterlict earned his bachelor’s degree at Heritage in 2004 and did his master’s work in linguistics at the University of Washington. He’s currently working toward his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon.

Sutterlict’s work and the work of the Alliance focuses on language preservation, revitalization and promotion.

“Preservation is documenting things. Revitalization is bringing it back to life. And promotion is putting it out there into the community,” said Sutterlict.

“Promotion is why we’re on Facebook and why we do YouTube videos – so everyone can access it, so teachers can use it in their classrooms, people can watch it, everyone can access it.”

Olivia Underwood, left, and Marvel Aguilar learn Ichishkin (the Yakama Indian language) in a class July 18, 2019 in White Swan, Wash. (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

TEACHING HERITAGE AT HERITAGE

Members of the Alliance are passionate about the work they do. Classes are held at schools throughout the Yakama Nation and in its surrounding communities. For its part, Heritage’s initiatives include:

• An Ichishkíin-focused 2- and 3-year-old classroom at the university’s Early Learning Center

• College-level Ichishkíin classes, which are also open to the Yakama community to attend free of charge

• The Zillah after-school Ichishkíin Language and Culture Club providing an opportunity to use Ichishkíin in conversation, games and presentations

Sutterlict teaches “Sahaptin101” and “Sahaptin 102” each semester – “Sahaptin” is the scientific and English word for the Ichishkíin language – and estimates that anywhere from 10 to 20 students take the courses and can speak, read, and write the language by the end of the year.

Some Yakama elders still speak Ichishkíin but don’t write it. Sutterlict’s students are typically able to listen to an elder speak and then write what they’re saying.

FROM ELEMENTARY TO HIGH SCHOOL

Natural language-learning geniuses: That’s what Sutterlict call kids.

“All they need is exposure to it, and they get it,” he said. “After puberty, only about 10 percent of us retain the ability to easily learn a language.”

This is why members of the Alliance concentrate their efforts on youth activities. Sutterlict and others teach children using pictures of things, skipping any reference to English words.

“For little kids, it’s seeing and hearing, verbal and repetitive,” he said.

For grade school students, teachers, parents and community volunteers help organize Ichishkíin language competitions, helping with PowerPoint support and judging. Think “spelling bee” but with pictures to encourage answers.

The steady groundswell of support even led to a Yakama Nation supported, month-long Ichishkíin “boot camp” this summer that was run through the tribe’s youth programs. Children from pre-school through middle school spent several hours a day learning the language through a combination of reading and writing exercises, as well as traditional teachings, such as storytelling, song and beading. The idea was to immerse the children in the language through activities that engage them in the learning process.

Alliance members would love to see all Yakama kindergarten-age children learn Ichishkíin.

“We don’t have an elementary level at the tribal school, but that would be a dream come true,” said Sutterlict.

Roger Jacob and Rosemary Miller, both of whom studied under Virginia Beavert at Heritage, teach Ichishkíin at Wapato and Toppenish high schools, respectively. Prior to 2010, there was no Ichishkíin taught in area high schools.

Like the other organizations in the Alliance, Jacob and Miller utilize the learning materials created for Alliance use.

Between the two high schools, 15 to 20 students graduate able to speak Ichishkíin.

Pre-kinder students touch a stuffed toy sturgeon held by Greg Sutterlicht as he teaches Ichishkin (the Yakama Indian language) to the youngsters July 18, 2019 in White Swan, Wash. (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

KNOWING THE CONNECTION

A few years ago, Greg Sutterlict sat on a panel at a Seattle event discussing language. Someone mentioned a universal language would be nice, that easier communication would make life simpler.

“I said ‘I hope we never think of language as being only a communication tool. The fact is language and culture can’t be separated. Language is part of what helps us know what’s important to our people,’” said Sutterlict. “Our young people need to know our language and our history instead of how it’s always been told. I want our children to know and love their culture, a very old culture that’s extremely connected to the land, to the animals and the food, one of respect and honor for them as well as ourselves and our families. Our language speaks of all of that.”

ROOTS GET STRONGER

“My dad tells us, ‘When I was a kid, no one wanted to speak Ichishkíin. No one wanted a braid. Now they want to learn, and they want a braid,’” said Sutterlict. “Today, when my students sing Ichishkíin songs, other students hearing them ask to sing, too. At home, the children sing the songs they’ve learned.

“I tell new students, ‘Repeat after me, Wash nash Yakamaknik. I am Yakama,’” he said. “They learn the language and sing the songs. When they start to learn their culture, you can see the change. Their roots get stronger.” page7image27916096

El Grito de Independencia

Heritage students hosted activity booths such as making paper flowers, coloring luchadores masks, and constructing mini piñatas.

Heritage’s Great Lawn was awash in color this fall as nearly 500 people came out for the 2nd annual El Grito de Independencia Cultural Fiesta.

Farid Alejandro Soberanis Garcia from the Mexican Consulate waves the flag following his delivery of the Cry of Dolores.

El Grito de Dolores is an important national holiday for the people of Mexico, much like America’s 4th of July. It is celebrated on September 15 to commemorate the start of the Mexican War for Independence. Each year at 11:00 p.m., Mexico’s president rings a bell at the National Palace in Mexico City and shouts out a call of patriotism based on the Cry of Dolores, the call out made two centuries ago by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla that started the war for independence. This call is replicated in cities and towns throughout Mexico with the highest-ranking government official making the call. Here at Heritage, Farid Alejandro Soberanis Garcia from the Mexican Consulate in Seattle led the crowd through the Cry of Dolores.

“It was a very moving and emotional moment that reminds us just how important these kinds of cultural connections are for the people in our community,” said Dr. Melissa Hill, vice president for student affairs. “The people who gathered are proud of their Mexican heritage and of the sacrifices that their forefathers made to build the country that sustained their families for generations. It was evident that even when we travel away from home, a piece of our homeland remains deep in our hearts.”

Heritage’s El Grito de Independencia celebration featured traditional foods and beverages, music, dancing, games and hands-on activities for the entire family. Los Luceros de Durango performed traditional and contemporary music for the crowd and dancers from Busy Bee’s Folklorical performed several dances.

Dancers from Busy bees Folklorical.

During the program, Dr. Andrew Sund awarded retired Heritage administrator Bertha Ortega with the Heritage University Community Service Award. Ortega worked for Heritage from the university’s founding until her retirement in 2014. In addition to her dedication to the university and its students, she’s been an active fixture in the community serving on numerous community boards including Northwest Learning and Achievement Group, Eastern Washington University, Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Yakima and the Central Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. This is the first of what organizers expect to be an annual award. page7image21820000

Bertha Ortega, recipient of the 2019 Heritage University Community Service Award.

 

 

Honoring Our Elders

November is Native American Heritage Month, and each year, Heritage University kicks off its celebration by honoring four Yakama elders for their lifetime contributions to their communities. This year we recognize Corky Ambros, Jerry Meninick, Phyllis Strom and Patsy Whitefoot.

CORKY AMBROSE is a warrior and a protector. While serving in the US Air Force, he was part of a flight crew that brought troops, supplies and humanitarian aid to foreign countries. When he returned to civilian life, he spent the next 40 years protecting the natural resources of the Yakama Nation, both as a forester then as a woodland firefighter. Today he is his brother’s and sister’s keeper: supporting fellow veterans, providing funeral service support for the fallen, and serving the community through the Yakama Warriors Association, an organization he helped found in 1992.

JERRY MENINICK’S is passionate about helping the people of the Yakama Nation thrive through the preservation and practice of their cultural history. “We need to learn from our past, to create our future,” he says. His deep and abiding commitment began quietly, growing up in a traditional home where the family fished on the Columbia and listened to their elderstell stories passed down for generations. It grew intoa profession when he started collecting elders’ stories about the Columbia River for a preservation project with the US Forest Service, and into a passion when he was elected to Tribal Council and later became Chairman. As he sees it, connecting to one’s cultural heritage, understanding and appreciating the sacrifices your ancestors made, and practicing time-honored traditions, grounds a person, makes them strong, and in turn, adds to the strength of the entire community.

PHYLLIS STROM spent most of her working years looking out for the welfare of her people of the Yakama Nation. A bookkeeper by training, she spent 35 years safeguarding the strength and sustainability of many tribal programs. Additionally, she sought new funding sources to provide additional services to the Department of Natural Resources, Human Services and Law Enforcement, while continuing to ensure services to manpower and career enhancement programs to assist Native Americans in becoming self- sufficient and build careers to sustain their livelihood. She enjoyed working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Services and Yakama Nation where she helped enforce compliance to established regulations to protect eligibility for continued funding. She credits staff for giving the membership quality services and allowing her to enjoy motherhood for her eight children.

PATSY WHITEFOOT is not afraid of confronting injustices. In fact, she’s spent a lifetime fighting for the rights of Native peoples everywhere. She’s been a strong voice for change at the state and national levels calling for improved access to educational opportunities from preschool through college for Native American students. President Obama appointed her to serve on his National Advisory Council on Indian Education. She’s brought attention to the need for improved mental health and addiction services for Native Americansand is a leader in the movement to draw attention to the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women both on the Yakama homelands and across the nation.

The four elders were each featured in ads that ran in the Yakama Nation Review and were honored during a special ceremony at the university on November 8. This is the fifth year that Heritage has honored Yakama elders. Portraits of all of the recipients are on a permanent display in the Violet Lumley Rau Center. page7image27916096

 

page18image27898464

Who Am I?

Heritage student’s research centers on culture and identity for immigrant youth in the Yakima Valley.

Josefa Zarco was in high school when she first read the bestselling, young adult novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. “It was ok,” she thought as she set it aside and let it slip out of her mind.

Flash forward to her junior year at Heritage. Zarco, an English major aspiring to go to law school, received a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship.She needed a research topic and was looking at a list of suggested reading materials for inspiration. There on the list was the familiar book from her high school days. What a difference a few years makes. This time the book, which follows the teenage daughter of immigrants as she navigates through stereotypes and expectations to find her identity, really resonated with her.

Josefa is a member of the Heritage University chapter of the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.

People think ‘You’re a Mexican woman, you must be really shy and submissive’ or ‘your parents raised you to become a wife and mother, to sacrifice yourself and your needs to take care of the men and children,’ but that’s not necessarily who we are,” she said. “Immigrant families are families just like everyone else. We have a lot of the same struggles and dynamics that you find in families from other cultures.

“Teens are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into this world. Immigrant teens have all of the same angst that their peers are facing, plus the addition of some pretty dark and scary issues, like the fear that their parents or friends may be deported, and racism that tells them that they don’t belong in their own country. For many, there is also a feeling that they don’t fit in. They don’t look 100% ‘American’ and when they go to Mexico, they don’t look or sound like they are from there either.”

Zarco began building the foundation of her research on culture and identity development for immigrant teens in the Yakima Valley. It starts with an introspective look.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Zarco is in a unique position to understand and empathize with the complexities of living in a traditional immigrant family. Her father, Artemio Zarco met her mother, Socorro, and they married and raised Josefa and her two sisters in Los Angeles. Her father had his residency papers when they married, but her mom did not. Zarco candidly admits she worried her mom could be deported at any time.

The family relocated to the Yakima Valley where her parents found jobs, he in a hops field and she in a warehouse packing apples. They saved enough to hire an attorney and began to apply for residency for her mom. Zarco was the oldest, and she knew English, so she became the de facto administrator of her mom’s permanent residency papers.

Zarco’s experience helping her mom was pivotal. It got her thinking about going to college and becoming a lawyer. Her family was supportive, but she knew nothing about the process— how to find a college, scholarships and financial aid, how to apply. She couldn’t ask her parents for help either, so the process was sometimes overwhelming.

Wings-Fall2019-whoami-3

Josefa and her family celebrating Christmas at a Las Pastorelas held in San Bernardino, California.

Years later as Zarco was formulating her research question, she thought back to her own experiences and the challenges they presented to her and her sense of self. She understands how first generation students may feel self-doubt when transitioning from their traditional roles to being students. Moreover, how they wrestle with the choice to follow their parents and peers into the workforce, particularly into agriculture, vs. pursuing higher education.

“We’ve been told we can do more,” Zarco said. “But we repeat what our parents did even though they don’t want us to continue that cycle. We do it because it is comfortable.”

Zarco’s research is important, especially here at Heritage, said Dr. Winona Wynn, Mellon & Leadership Alliance Coordinator at Heritage.

“It’s going to document the real process that happens when students come into the academic environment,” said Wynn. “There’s anxiety, fear, the perception of losing their family, and not feeling capable enough to be here. They question whether they can succeed and if the sacrifices they are making – giving up income or the approval of their families – is worth it.

“While in traditional roles, they know who they are and how they fit in, but as students, they are plunged into a whole new identity and there’s a fear of not belonging.”

Zarco pointed out that while there is a focus on addressing and fixing skills deficits that first- generation students may bring to campus in their coursework, there are other obstacles that can sideline an immigrant student on campus.

“We’re so nurtured in our homes,” said Zarco. “Our parents are super strict, so it’s a whole different world that you step into.”

Among the cultural traditions that are important to Josefa and her family is Las Pastorelas, a traditional Christmas play that recreates the telling of the shepherds following the Star of Bethlehem to find the birthplace of baby Jesus.

YOUNG ADULTS QUESTION VALUE OF EDUCATION

Zarco’s started her preliminary research this summer by talking with young adults who worked in agriculture with her dad. A number of her peers whom she met with said they thought college was a waste of time because they could be earning money by working instead. Others said it wasn’t even anything they considered because “college isn’t for people like me,” meaning they perceived that immigrants and children of immigrants don’t belong in college.

Interestingly, while the young adults often dismissed college, the mothers Zarco spoke to wanted more for their children, expressing concern that their children were following in their footsteps and missing out on opportunities to live the American dream.

The work Zarco did this summer helped her narrow down the scope of her project. She is now in the process of finalizing her topic and will submit her questions to the internal review board in November. Once approved, she’ll begin in-depth interviews with six young adults using the ethnographic interviewing method. In this qualitative method, subjects are given broad, descriptive questions in which they can speak at length about their experiences. Zarco then evaluates the information to identify systematic, recurring themes.

“I expect my research to bring to light a different side of the immigrant story,” Zarco said.

The goal, she said, is to wrap up her research in April 2020 and submit her work to relevant journals for publishing. page11image9349696

United in Our Differences

Multicultural education sets students up for long-term success that extends beyond graduation.

Long before Miguel Juarez set foot on Heritage University’s campus, in fact before Heritage even had a campus, an overarching principle had taken root—Heritage would be a college with a focus on diversity and multicultural education. By the time Juarez enrolled, this foundational framework was strongly in place and instrumental in building an academic experience that helped him, and thousands of other first- generation students, find success.

“Multicultural education recognizes the importance of acknowledging all experiences, all voices, to empower students, to help them build their unique skills and talents, and to appreciate the strength that comes when we acknowledge, respect and embrace our differences,” said Heritage President Andrew Sund, Ph.D.

This, he said, is especially important at Heritage where minority students are in the majority.

Students of color make up 86% of the undergraduate population with Hispanic/Latino and Native American students being the bulk of this number.

“I KNEW I BELONGED”

Like so many Heritage students, Miguel Juarez’s path to higher education wasn’t a straight line. He was born and raised in Mexico and immigrated to the United States as a young adult. He spent years working in agriculture, in the fields and dairies of the Yakima Valley. It was hard, honest work, but he wanted more: a chance to go farther than manual labor would allow and a chance to make a difference in the lives of others. Juarez took a leap of faith and enrolled at Heritage.

It was the mid-1990s. Nationally, the college success rate for Hispanic students was less than 15%, nearly half that of Caucasian students not of Hispanic descent. Statically speaking, the odds for Juarez’s success were unfavorable. However, he had chosen Heritage, the university where the founders intentionally put in place practices that would help students like him succeed.

“The first place I went was Student Services, and people there spoke Spanish,” he recalled. “A lot of students looked like me, and I soon found out a number of faculty were Hispanic. I felt welcomed and encouraged from the beginning.”

The support Juarez received throughout his education was critical to his success. He earned a Bachelor of Social Work and went on to earn
a master’s degree. Today, he is back at Heritage, this time as the field director in the Social Work program. And, he is working toward his Ph.D., focusing on a subject with which he’s intimately familiar.

“My dissertation is on success stories of Latino male students. What are the factors that make them stay in school and graduate?”

In writing about successful educational experiences for Latinos, Juarez is telling his own story of thriving at a multicultural university – a story that begins with a welcome, is filled with reinforcement and personal growth, and ends with a promise of successful integration into a multicultural world, a world in which students are prepared to lead.

EMPATHY IS THE ESSENCE

What students like Juarez feel is a powerful force at Heritage, said Professor Yusuf Incetas who is with the College of Education: it’s empathy.

“Once you establish empathy in the truest sense with everyone, you will be on the same frequency. It’s the essence of a multicultural university experience, and it’s the core of everything here.”

Empathy begins with an understanding of the most basic life challenges for Heritage students, which can include jobs, children, and sometimes language issues. Heritage takes a holistic approach, he said.

“It’s the faculty, the staff, the extra services like the Early Learning Center. It’s the celebration of culturally important holidays, such as Treaty Days, El Grito and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The recognition of our students’ backgrounds is even seen in the types of food we serve in the café and the art on the walls.”

There are specific places at Heritage dedicated to meeting students where they are. The university’s Center for Indigenous Health, Culture and the Environment

works to build partnerships to empower indigenous peoples. The Institute for Student Identity Research helps provide insights into how students’ identities can be engaged as assets and not handicaps in their educational process.

According to Dr. Maxine Janis, the president’s liaison for Native American affairs, a lot of the process of working with students begins with seeing and emphasizing their strengths.

“We talk about support mechanisms that are in place – family, tradition, their own perseverance,” she said. “We flip the script that would look at negatives and look at resilience factors.”

THE DECISION TO SERVE ALL

When people from different cultural groups come together, said university co-founder Dr. Kathleen Ross, respectful conversation and regard for others is crucial.

She recalled going before the Yakama Tribal Council with co- founders Martha Yallup and Violet Lumley Rau.

“We asked if they would like this to be a tribal school. They said, ‘We’re a minority on the Yakama reservation. There are also Latino people, Filipino people, many others. We want everyone here to have a chance.’”

The world has gotten smaller since Heritage’s founding in 1982, said Ross, more interconnected. This, she said, makes conscious multiculturalism that much more important.

“We’ve always had a strong sense of how important it is to be open, to share ideas, to share solutions to issues. It’s even more so today.”

FINDING WAYS TO UNDERSTAND

Building a multicultural education involves more than faculty and staff. The students play a role as well.

At the start of each year, faculty come together for Faculty Days, a full day of peer-supported training presented by the university’s Center for Intercultural Learning and Teaching, led by Ed Rousculp and Mary James. One of Rousculp’s favorite presentations was “Uncovering the Discoverable: Having the Courage to Hear Student Voices.”

“Students did photos, painting, poetry readings, music, dance – expressions of their life experiences that had a lot of emotion connected to them,” he said. “They shared with their teachers what they really wanted them to know about their personal experiences in the world.”

It hit faculty in a powerful way, said Rousculp. That kind of sharing of experiences is integral to multicultural education.

Rousculp and James work with faculty to fine-tune their teaching skills, encouraging the use of textbooks and other learning tools that display cultural awareness. They encourage faculty to bring in diverse speakers who work in the field and, ultimately, to encourage students to speak out.

It starts from day one. One of the first classes for freshmen is University 101: Foundations for Success, a required course that looks at the indigenous experience, the immigrant experience, environmental stewardship, and sexual identity.

“It helps them look at diversity, identity, their experiences and those of their fellow students,” said Rousculp. “It’s the beginning of a thread that runs through the entire university experience.”

MORE THAN ONE TRUTH

“Our understanding of the world may be illuminated if we are willing to admit more than one truth,” said James.

The narrative of the dominant culture has always been the dominant narrative, she pointed out. Heritage faculty seek textbooks and teaching materials that highlight the truths of less-heard cultures – for example,

what the signing of treaties was about for Native Americans. They also learn that treaties are living documents that apply to their lives today.

Students “bloom” when they hear voices from their own culture and when they find their own voice, said James. They bloom when their fellow scholars respect and listen to what they say.

“They bloom when they’re comfortable enough to bring their own personal voice into the discussion,” she said. “That’s when we let go. We’re not the leaders of the conversation anymore, they are.”

Students figure out how they want to work together on issues in their own communities and the world.

Virtually every Heritage major offers students ways to become actively engaged – whether in research in the scientific community, student teaching, social work practicums, or business internships.

“From the beginning, we ask students to consider how they can make the world more just,” said Rousculp. “They move from being inspired by role models, to active engagement with each other, to having the opportunity to be people who can make a difference.”

FINDING THEIR VOICE

At the end of the day, just how much impact does this type of educational experience have on students? It’s transformational, said Juarez.

“When students start at Heritage, they’re not sure of themselves or their place in the world. They’re reserved,” he said. “But by the time they’re about to graduate, they’ve become leaders. They assertively prove their points, at times even challenging the professor.

“I say, ‘Look at you! Look at the language. Look at the terminology you use.’ Even the way they dress is more confident. It’s reflected in everything they do. They know who they are and what they want to do.”

This newly budded confidence stays with them. Janis takes part in student’s exit interviews shortly before graduation. After four, five, sometimes even six years of being a college student, they are once again vulnerable, facing the unknown and having to take a leap of faith. Students sometimes express their fear of leaving, but Janis reminds them of just how much they’ve accomplished.

“I say, ‘It’s up to you now. And you can do it.’ And they do. Because here, they belonged, and they were heard. Here they found their voice.” page7image9381424

 

Heritage University professor co-authors second book on dealing with water crisis in South America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Heritage University professor co-authors second book on dealing with water crisis in South America

Alex Alexiades

Alex Alexiades, Ph.D. holds the two books he’s co-authored on dealing with water crisis in South America.

Toppenish, Wash. – A new, one-of-a-kind book written to be a resource for Indigenous communities and leaders, natural resource managers and government organizations in protecting freshwater rivers in the tropical Andes and Amazon has been co-authored by Heritage University Associate Professor Alex Alexiades, PhD.  Los ríos de las cuencas Andino-Amazónicas (Rivers of the Andean-Amazonian Basins) was co-authored by Alexiades and collaborators to help communities worldwide protect their water from pollution. It is being published in Spanish by the Universidad San Francisco de Quito Press located in Ecuador.

Dr. Alexiades says a recent World Economic Forum Global Risks Report ranked the water crisis as one of the five most important potential threats to worldwide economic and social stability. “The water supply in many regions is becoming scarce as demand exceeds supply while contamination increases. Since 1971, this combination has resulted in more than 80% of freshwater species to dwindle in numbers, or become extinct,” he said. “Because of this alarming threat, it’s more important than ever to help communities understand, monitor and protect their freshwater resources. Los ríos de las cuencas Andino-Amazónicas will enable communities to make better resource management and conservation decisions.”

The work by Alexiades and his partners has received financial support from the Latin American Water Fund Alliance, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the National Science Foundation. The Nature Conservancy and several other agencies collaborated with the authors on Los ríos de las cuencas Andino-Amazónicas for its work to improve water quality in the Andean-Amazon region for both the people and the environment.

Los ríos de las cuencas Andino-Amazónicas is the second book on an environmental crisis authored by Dr. Alexiades and his colleagues. Their first book, Nuestro Vivir En La Amazonía Ecuatoriana: Entre La Finca Y El Petróleo (Our Life in the Ecuadorian Amazon: Caught Between Petroleum and Agriculture), came out in 2018 and detailed the struggles of local indigenous and mestizo communities and their environment as they faced increasing threats from mining, petroleum.

For more information contact Alex Alexiades at (509) 865-0732 or alexiades_a@heritage.edu. To schedule an interview with Alexiades, please contact David Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

 

# # #

 

 

Heritage University to host open house at Columbia Basin College

Heritage University
3240 Fort Road • Toppenish, WA 98948
(509) 865-8500
For more information contact:
David Mance, Media Relations Coordinator
(509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Heritage University to host open house at Columbia Basin College

Toppenish, Wash. – College students in the Tri-Cities can explore different degree offerings to enhance their careers during a Heritage University open house at Columbia Basin College (CBC) in Pasco on November 7, 2019. Representatives of the degree programs as well as financial aid and enrollment specialists from both Heritage and CBC to help prospective students learn more about the transfer process from CBC to Heritage, and receive information about the programs offered at Heritage’s Tri-Cities site. Prospective students will learn more about the programs offered at Heritage’s Tri-Cities site to help and answer questions.

Heritage University offers five programs at CBC for students to turn their associate degree into a bachelor’s, and one program to turn a bachelor’s degree into a master’s. The five undergraduate degrees are criminal justice, elementary education (K-8th grade), psychology, accounting, and social work. People with a bachelor’s degree can obtain a Master in Teaching (MIT) with a K-8 elementary endorsement and the option to add more.

Marisol Rodriguez-Price, the director of the Heritage University office at CBC, said the open-house serves as a one-stop-shop for students wanting to explore options in furthering their education and achieving their career goals. “Not only will people get to meet the chairs of each of the five programs we offer, but our Director of Admissions and Director of Financial Aid will be available to answer their questions and walk them through the process of applying,” said Rodriguez-Price. “Those who attend will see the personalized service and resources we offer to help them earn their bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. Also, students without an AA-DTA can speak with CBC recruiters for information on how to complete transfer requirements.”

The open house will take place at the “B” building at CBC from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information, contact Marisol Rodriguez-Price at (509) 542-5506 or Rodriguez-Price_M@heritage.edu.

# # #

 

Heritage University receives $5 million federal grant to support STEM students at HU and at Portland State University

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Heritage University awarded $5 million National Science Foundation grant to support STEM students at Heritage and Portland State University

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University has received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support high-achieving, low-income students majoring in STEM fields at Heritage and Portland State University (PSU) in Oregon. The grant will fund a program titled Engagement Achievement and Graduation for Low-incomE Students, or “EAGLES,” and will provide scholarships to cover tuition for at least 116 students in STEM majors, including environmental science, engineering, ecology, chemistry, and biology at both campuses.

EAGLES will accomplish three objectives. The first will be to increase enrollment and retention of low-income and other under-represented groups in STEM fields; the second will be to develop an integrated structure to mentor, advise and engage these students in research and outreach activities focused on community-based challenges associated with environmental pollution; and the third will be to examine the impact of instructional interventions in introductory STEM courses and to fine-tune culturally-responsive learning procedures aimed at developing undergraduate students’ science identity and sense of community. With annual career panels at both Heritage and PSU, additional support services, research experiences, and coursework, EAGLES will not only provide scholarships for biology, environmental science and studies, and chemistry students but will also enhance learning opportunities. EAGLES will fill existing gaps at HU in the STEM pathway by allowing Heritage pre-engineering students to pursue bachelor’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering at PSU and giving them access to PSU career placement services and graduate programs.

Heritage Associate Professor Alexander Alexiades, Ph.D. is the principal investigator along with his counterpart at PSU, Dr. Gwynn Johnson. Alexiades will oversee the EAGLES program at Heritage. He is excited about the STEM opportunities for Heritage students, and for the possibility for the EAGLES model to be used at other campuses across the country.

“The research and service-learning activities conducted by our students will address authentic local and regional issues and strengthen community connections, and these results will demonstrate a model worthy of national replication for increasing enrollment, retention, and graduation in STEM majors and development of the sense of science identity needed in further studies and/or careers in the environmental sciences and engineering.”

Heritage Provost Dr. Kazuhiro Sonoda said this NSF award, when combined with other recent NSF grants (including a $2.5 million announced in June and a $350K grant for research experiences for undergraduates), the university is well-positioned to help STEM students for the next five years. “Heritage University and PSU campuses serve some of the nation’s highest-need students,” said. Sonoda. “These awards make it possible for us to create a comprehensive support system for our STEM students, and I’m very excited about the opportunities these grants will help us bring to them.”

The EAGLES program at HU and PSU will begin in September of this year and run through September 2024. For more information, contact David Mance, media relations coordinator at Heritage University at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@heritage.edu.

 

# # #

 

 

Heritage University to host El Grito de Independencia to honor Mexican Independence Day for second year in a row

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Heritage University to host El Grito de Independenciato honor Mexican Independence Day for second year in a row

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is hosting El Grito de Independencia, a Mexican cultural festival in honor of the Mexican Independence Day for the second year in a row.El Grito de Independencia will take place at the Heritage campus on Saturday, September 14, 2019 from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. El Grito de Independencia commemorates the “Cry of Dolores,” a historical event in Mexico that set off the Mexican War of Independence from Spain and will be reenacted at 7:45 p.m.

The festivalwill have fun for the entire family, including games and piñatas for kids, food and beverages, traditional dancers, mariachis and live music. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Melissa Hill at (509) 865-0411 or Hill_M@Heritage.edu.

# # #