Honoring Our Elders

Each November, Heritage University celebrates Native American Heritage Month by recognizing four Yakama tribal elders for their lifetime contributions to their community.

Please click here to visit our page honoring this year’s tribal elders.

Washington State Women’s Commission director to lead Empowher, Heritage University celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage


Washington State Women’s Commission director to lead Empowher, Heritage University celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage

Toppenish, Wash. – A dynamic panel of women leaders are being featured as part of Empowher, Heritage University’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. Empowher will be held virtually on Wednesday, October 14, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Dana Eliason, senior director of Donor Development at Heritage, and Empowher organizer, says recognizing this milestone for women is a natural choice for the institution. “Heritage University is an institution founded by women and where women make up 70% of the student body,” said Eliason. “At Heritage, we are all about empowering women to make an impact in the world.”

Headlining the event is Regina Malveaux, newly appointed director of the Washington State Women’s Commission, who will share how the Commission works to ensure women’s voices are heard in Olympia.  Ms. Malveaux will be interviewed by Reesha Cosby, YWCA of Yakima Board of Directors president. Following her remarks Ms. Malveaux will moderate a panel discussion. The panel is comprised of women in leadership positions across government, business, education and social service agencies. The panel consists of Washington State Representatives Debra Lekanoff (D-Burlington) and Gina Mosbrucker (R-Goldendale); Quinn Dalan, Yakima Volunteer Attorney Services executive director; Magaly Solis, La Casa Hogar citizenship program manager; Cady Padilla, Nuestra Casa executive director; and Virginia Hislop, community activist and volunteer.

People interested in attending Empowher can register at heritage.edu/empowher. For more information, contact Dana Eliason at (509) 865-0441 or eliason_d@heritage.edu.

Empowher is sponsored by Tree Top, and would not be possible without support from the following local organizations:

Washington State Women’s Commission
Junior League of Yakima
La Casa Hogar
League of Women Voters Yakima County
United Way of Central Washington
Yakima County Volunteer Attorney Services
YWCA Yakima
Nuestra Casa


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Heritage University awarded $50,000 grant from the Yakima Valley Resilience and Response Fund to help Non-Title 4 students impacted by COVID-19


Heritage University awarded $50,000 grant from the Yakima Valley Resilience and Response Fund to help Non-Title 4 students impacted by COVID-19

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is grateful to announce it is a recipient of a $50,000 grant from the Yakima Valley Resilience and Response Fund that is the result of a funding partnership with United Way of Central Washington, the Latino Community Fund, and the Yakima Valley Community Foundation. The grant will provide emergency funding for non-Title 4 eligible students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Non-Title 4 students, primarily DACA students, are not eligible to receive Federal CARES Act Funding for hardships resultant from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The grant from the Yakima Valley Resilience and Response Fund supports charitable organizations and agencies working to address COVID-19’s impact on the Yakima Valley, focusing on its most vulnerable populations. Andrew Sund, Ph.D., president of Heritage University, expressed his gratitude to YVCF and its partners for awarding the grant to Heritage. “While the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act has been instrumental in assisting many of our students, our non-Title 4 students are often the students most in need of emergency relief funding,” said Dr. Sund. “This grant will help ensure that all of our students facing COVID-19 related crises will be able to afford necessities such as food and housing until the economy begins to find its footing.”

Sharon Miracle, YVCF President and CEO said she is pleased to award the $50,000 grant to Heritage University. “We appreciate Heritage’s commitment to all of the amazing students that are such an important part of the Yakima Valley community,” said Miracle. “The educational opportunities Heritage provides is critical to our Valley, and we are honored to support them during this pandemic.”

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


The Latino Community Fund cultivates new leaders, supports cultural and community based non-profit organizations, and improves the quality of life for all Washingtonians.  Contact Info: info@latinocommunityfund.org, (509) 901-2798

United Way of Central Washington gathers together people, ideas and resources to strengthen communities and improve lives. United Way of Central Washington is a local non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization, serving Yakima and Kittitas counties.  Contact Info: info@uwcw.org, (509) 248-1557

Yakima Valley Community Foundation has awarded grants in the Yakima Valley since 2004. The Yakima Valley Community Foundation’s mission is to connect people, resources and ideas so people and communities thrive.  Contact Info: grants@yakimavalleycf.org, (509) 457-7616

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La Casa Hogar executive named Heritage University’s Violet Lumley Rau Alumna of the Year


La Casa Hogar executive named Heritage University’s Violet Lumley Rau Alumna of the Year

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University alumna Magaly Solis, currently the citizenship program manager at La Casa Hogar in Yakima, Wash., is this year’s recipient of the Violet Lumley Rau Alumna of the Year award. Heritage president Andrew Sund, Ph.D., presented the award to Solis during a ceremony held virtually due to Covid-19 safety protocols, with Solis receiving a trophy and certificate at the La Casa Hogar office on August 27, 2020.

La Casa Hogar is a non-profit organization that partners with Yakima Valley immigrant families which offers culturally and linguistically responsive early learning, adult education, civic engagement, and citizenship services. In her role as citizenship program manager, Solis connects people to their dreams of U.S. citizenship and all the opportunities it brings to them. “Magaly exemplifies the ideals and values of Heritage University—excellence, inclusion, perseverance, leadership and service,” said David Wise, vice president of Advancement. “She demonstrates her commitment to helping others and building communities every day in her personal and professional life. We are so proud of her and proud to call her an Eagle.”

“Heritage University offered me a pathway to achieve my educational goals. Dedicated instructors offered support and encouragement throughout my journey. The education I received at Heritage has allowed me to positively impact many lives in our community,” said Solis. “I am honored to receive the Violet Lumley Rau 2020 Alumna of the Year. This award is a celebration to many years of dedication and service to immigrant families in the Yakima Valley. I am proud to partner with students, volunteers, allies and La Casa Hogar’s resilient and powerful team to transform lives and our Yakima Valley.”

Magaly Solis graduated from Heritage in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in Education. Ms. Solis is the first in her family to obtain a college degree. As a teenager she immigrated from the state of Guerrero, Mexico to Mabton. After earning her diploma, she worked as a substitute teacher for the Toppenish School District, and worked as a medical interpreter helping injured farmworkers, communicate with their medical providers. This work led her to La Casa Hogar, where she volunteered teaching citizenship classes. Solis says the experience was so rewarding that she joined the team as a part-time employee and later took on the program’s full-time coordinator position.

In her role, Ms. Solis earned a legal credential through the Department of Justice to successfully support immigrants to complete the long and arduous process of becoming United States citizens, which takes months or even years from start to finish. To apply for citizenship an applicant must first be a lawful permanent resident (a status that, by law, many immigrants cannot access) for a minimum of five years, and be in compliance with numerous requirements. During the interview, individuals must also pass English, U.S. history and civics tests.

“Immigration law is very complex and intimidating. Our goal is to build our students’ confidence to navigate the naturalization process and achieve their goal of becoming U.S. citizens. We teach the rights, responsibilities, and the importance of civic engagement as citizens. We work with each person, meet them where they are, and support them from the initial eligibility screening through their oath ceremonies,” said Solis.

Under Ms. Solis’s leadership, the program has grown from her one originally part-time position to an office of four full-time staff members and 50 volunteers. She used her Heritage education to write the program’s first comprehensive citizenship curriculum in 2016, complete with clear learning objectives, evaluation processes and methods to share students’ progress. Moreover, the number of people who completed the program and are now citizens rose from a few hundred to now over 1,200– single-handedly representing 10% of the entire eligible population in Yakima County.

Outside of her work commitments, Ms. Solis was just appointed in July of 2020 as a Board member of the Yakima YWCA and a member of the City of Yakima’s Community Integration Committee. She also volunteers with the Yakima Yoga Collective and devoted 200 hours this year as a participant in the Collective’s first cohort of bilingual yoga instructors. Ms. Solis is an avid outdoors-woman and has summited several of the region’s volcanic mountains, serving as a role model among Latina women exploring the outdoors and in mountaineering. In 2019, Ms. Solis received the 39 under 39 recognition from the Yakima Herald-Republic.

To set up an interview with Magaly Solis, please contact Davidson Mance, Heritage University media relations coordinator, at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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The American Dream – Alumnus helps Latinx families move towards citizenship

Magaly Solis builds bridges. Not physical structures made of steel and concrete. Her bridges are metaphorical. She connects people to their dreams and a lifetime of opportunities. Solis is the citizenship program manager at La Casa Hogar, a non-profit organization that partners with Yakima Valley immigrant families and offers culturally & linguistically responsive early learning, adult education, civic engagement, and citizenship services. She is this year’s Violet Lumely Rau Alumna of the Year recipient.

“Magaly exemplifies the ideals and values of Heritage University—excellence, inclusion, perseverance, leadership and service,” said David Wise, vice president of Advancement. “She demonstrates her commitment to helping others and building communities every day in her personal and professional life. We are so proud of her and proud to call her an Eagle.”

Solis graduated from Heritage in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in education. She was a substitute teacher for the Toppenish School District and an interpreter helping injured farmworkers in the lower Yakima Valley communicate with their medical providers when she noticed the great need for adult education, particularly for this population.

“These workers were injured and had little to no way, that wasn’t physical labor, to support themselves and their families,” said Solis. “My own experience taught me that education was something that could open up opportunities for them. I started volunteering in the lower valley, teaching adult education classes in Spanish, English classes and computer literacy classes.”

Solis continued to volunteer with the program for several years before connecting with La Casa Hogar. She learned about the citizenship program and volunteered to teach some of their courses. The experience was so personally rewarding that she joined the team as a part- time employee and later took on the program’s full-time coordinator position.

“I think that coming directly from the immigrant community and having that firsthand experience, I see the needs that we have, and I want to do whatever I can to support those who have that need for education, connection and belonging,” said Solis. “That is why I get involved.”

Solis immigrated into the United States with her family when she was just 12 years old. They settled in the small town of Mabton and she enrolled in school. Her academic experience was challenging. Not only did she have to learn the required curriculum, but she also had to do it while learning a new language, an experience that many in the immigrant community share.

“I knew that education and learning English were the pathway to accessing opportunities,” said Solis. “There were lots of challenges, I had to work really hard, and I feel like I was privileged to have the opportunity to earn my college degree. That isn’t something that is easy for many to access when facing financial and language barriers.”

Today, Solis pays forward the opportunities she received by helping others do the same.

The citizenship program she oversees supports immigrants as they complete the long and arduous process of becoming a United States citizen. It can take years to complete from start to finish. An applicant must first be a lawful permanent resident for a minimum of five years, and be in compliance with other residency requirements, such as time living in the state where the application is being filed and time in country. They must have sufficient English proficiency and pass a U.S. history and civics test. Some applicants are exempt from the English test but still have to demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and civics. And, they have to have good moral character and demonstrate their attachment to the United States and its constitution. The process requires classes, lots of paperwork, testing and a naturalization interview with an immigration officer. It can be very intimidating, confusing and frustrating, especially for those whose education level is rudimentary at best.

“Our program offers combined citizenship education, English and naturalization legal services. We have created a safe, welcoming space where learning and celebration go hand-in-hand. We want to remove barriers for people to naturalize. We work with them and meet them where they are and support them from the initial screening to their oath ceremony,” she said.

Immigration law is very complex and intimidating.

Our goal is to support our students’ confidence in navigating the naturalization process and achieve their goal of becoming proud U.S. citizens. In class, we talk about their rights and responsibilities as citizens and the importance of civic engagement.”

Under Solis’s leadership, the program has grown significantly. Staffing increased from her part-time position to an office of three staff members and a volunteer bank of 50 people. She used her Heritage training to write the program’s first comprehensive curriculum, which provides a clear plan and a process for evaluating and sharing students’ progress. Most importantly, the number of people who completed the program and are now citizens rose from a few hundred to more than 1,200.

When Solis enrolled at Heritage as a freshman, she never imagined the life that she leads today. She thought she would be teaching bright, young students in a K-12 classroom. While she didn’t end up in an elementary school, she found a calling that makes a deep and lasting impact.

“When someone becomes a U.S. citizen, you see this overwhelming emotion on their face, it is the most rewarding feeling seeing this,” she said. “So many of the people I work with want to become a citizen because the United States has been their home for many years. For some, it is about peace of mind, belonging, safety and family unity. And, by being a citizen, they can engage civically, use their voice, and uplift their community. This is what keeps me motivated.”


News Briefs – WINGS Summer 2020

HU grads selected for Latino health fellowship program

Social work major Israel Cervantes Rodriguez and nursing major Dulce Dominguez are among ten students selected statewide to participate in the University of Washington (UW) Latino Center for Health’s inaugural Student Scholars Fellowship Program. The two were in the final semester of their senior year when selected.

Israel Cervantes Rodriguez

The program seeks to advance the field of Latino health by building capacity to address current and emerging health issues facing diverse Latinx communities in Washington state.

“The overall aim of this program is to support the next generation of leaders and scholars who promote the health and well-being of Latinx communities in our state,” said Dr. Gino Aisenberg, associate professor in the UW School of Social Work and co-director of the Latino Center for Health. “Under the leadership of Mikaela Freundlich, Program Coordinator, this fellowship program provides crucial funding to students as well as programmatic activities that promote community and engagement with the faculty and staff of the Center.”

Dulce Dominguez

The students selected for the program came from both Heritage and the UW.

“The recipients of the Latino Center for Health Student Scholars Fellowship Program are the future leaders of Latino communities in our state and region,” said Dr. Leo Morales, professor and chief diversity officer of the UW School of Medicine and co-director of the Latino Center for Health. “They are the most important aspect of the Latino Center for Health’s aspirations and vision.”

Ag industry executive takes the lead of Heritage@Work

Yakima Valley agriculture industry leader John Reeves, Ph.D., joined Heritage University in June to serve as the director of Heritage@Work, the university’s workforce development program.

John Reeves, Ph.D.

Reeves is an agriculture business consultant who works with a number of companies including Pink Lady America, a company that directs the marking for the Pink Lady brand of apples; Roy Farms, which produces hops, apples, cherries and blueberries; and Fall Creek Farm and Nursery, a blueberry breeding company. He has also worked with Anheuser-Busch, Frito-Lay, and is the former vice president of research and new products at Earth Grains and Yakima Chief.

“John was an early advocate for establishing Heritage@Work while serving on the university board of directors,” said David Wise, vice president of Advancement and Marketing, who also oversees Heritage@Work. “His extensive knowledge of the agriculture industry, especially as it relates to their needs surrounding employee education, made him the ideal candidate to take leadership position filled when previous director Martín Valadez transitioned to head the university’s Tri- Cities campus at Columbia Basin College.”

Physician Assistant students awarded scholarships

Two students in the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program received scholarships from national institutions.

Bassanio Martinez, Jr.

Bassanio Martinez Jr. received the Sgt. Craig Ivory Memorial Scholarship by the Veterans Caucus. The caucus is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the interests and contributions of veterans through service, education and fraternity, particularly as it relates to health care. The scholarship was established at the Caucus by Pat and Terri Ivory to honor the memory of their son Craig, an Army medic who passed away in Iraq.

Heather McKnight

Heather (Mayer) McKnight received the American Academy of Physician Assistants Foundation’s Rural Health Caucus Scholarship. AAPA is a national organization that represents all PAs in the United States. The scholarship McKnight received is a competitive award given to students from

rural communities who are committed to serving in rural communities once they earn their degrees and credentials.

Heritage awards record number of full-tuition scholarships

For 58 students, how to pay for college is one less thing they need to worry about this year. All are the recipients of a full-ride scholarship.

“These are among the best and brightest students in our communities,” said Gabriel Piñon, director of Admissions. “We can’t wait to see all the good they will accomplish here at our university.”


This year’s recipients are:


Perla Bolanos, Toppenish High School
Gissel Garcia, East Valley High School
Yesenia Garcia, White Swan High School
Arely Osorio, Toppenish High School
Raehyun Park, Eisenhower High School
Vivianna Phillips, AC Davis High School
Angel Ramirez, Toppenish High School
Leonardo Rios, Granger High School
Emanuel Valdez Santacruz, Eisenhower High School
Elvia Valdovinos, Eisenhower High School


Yamilca Coria Zaragoza, Pasco High School
Joaquin Padilla, Heritage University


Gustavo Mendez Soto, Selah High School
Colton Maybee, West Valley High School
Miguel Ayala, Sunnyside Senior High School
Andrea Mendoza, Heritage University
Maria Vaca, Heritage University
Indys Lindgren, West Valley High School
Jeffrey Brannon, Yakima Valley College
Anthony Brooks, Concordia University
Stephanie Rabanales, Heritage University
Yoana Torres, Heritage University
Yaritza Maravilla, Heritage University
Anna Diaz, West Valley High School
Cristian Cruz Sanchez, Eisenhower High School
Mayra Diaz Acevedo, AC Davis High School
Michael Gonzalez, Angeles Film School
Elizabeth Juarez, Washington State University


Israel Bentancourt, Granger High School
Christopher Berk, Sunnyside High School
Richard Corona, Zillah High School
Gizela Gaspar, Wapato High School

Yvett Corona, Grandview High School
Liliana Hernandez, Granger High School
Gabriela Madrigal, Yakima Valley College
Norma Manzanarez, AC Davis High School
Luis Medrano Espinoza, Prosser High School
Bryana Soto-Guillen, Wapato High School


Madison Candanoza, Sunnyside Christian
Rachel Guerrero, Sunnyside Senior High School
Carolina Herrera, AC Davis High School
Hunter Jacob, Yakima Valley College
Jasmine Martinez, Toppenish High School


Mariela Corona, Sunnyside High School
Maira Hernandez-Gonzalez, Heritage University
Carolina Moran, Granger High School
Jessica Robles Rios, Zillah High School
Katellin Santiago, Heritage University

GOODBYE DEAR FRIENDS: Heritage family loses two of its finest


Judge Michael McCarthy

Judge Michael McCarthy, a beloved member of the Heritage University adjunct faculty for the Criminal Justice Program, passed away on February 21, 2020, following an extended illness.

McCarthy had a long and distinguished career working in the legal field. He was a criminal prosecutor for the Yakima County Prosecutor’s Office from 1980 until 1998 when he started focusing on civil cases. He left the Prosecutor’s Office in 2001 when he joined the Yakima District Court Judicial Bench. He was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Superior Court Bench in 2008, and remained in that position until his death. McCarthy joined Heritage as an adjunct professor in 2012, teaching criminal justice and law courses.

A celebration of life was held in March, and the family requested that donations be made to Heritage University in lieu of flowers.


Dr. Apanakhi (Butterfly Woman) Buckley

Dr. Apanakhi (Butterfly Woman) Buckley passed away peacefully surrounded by family on July 4, 2020. Buckley was a teacher, colleague, and most importantly, a friend to many. She taught in the College of Education from 2000 to 2016 until her illness forced her to retire.

“Apanakhi was an exceptional teacher and mentor to many education students. She was more than a faculty member. She fixed a nutritious dinner for each class for her night students. She sang in the Heritage choir and led the multicultural dance troupe for years. She was faculty senate president and always pushed everyone to remember that staff and students were at the heart of our mission,” said friend and former colleague Pam Root. “Many of the teachers we have in the Valley today owe some of their inspiration and the compassion that they show their own students to her example.”

Buckley held a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in Science Education from the University of Washington, where she completed her dissertation: Beginning the Medicine Path: American Indian and Alaska Native Medical Students. She was passionate about her Choctaw heritage and about building social justice through the inclusivity of multicultural education. Her extensive background in multicultural and scientific education included serving as the director of the Kutkutlama teacher education project and teaching environmental data collection for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment before joining the Heritage faculty.

In 2018, Heritage named Petrie Hall room 1112 The Professor Apanakhi Buckley Collaborative Classroom, honoring her vision of teaching and learning as a reciprocal process. She received the 2013 Heritage University Board of Directors Faculty Teaching Award from Heritage.

Honoring her wishes, her family created the Memorial for Apanakhi Jeri Buckley Facebook group, which can be accessed via the link www.facebook.com/groups/apanakhi.

Before her passing, she wrote a message and asked that it be shared with all of those whose life was touched by her.

“Remember to recognize that you are happy when you are happy because ‘we were happy then’ doesn’t work. ‘Happy then’ is not happiness. It is regret. I am happy now, and it’s because of you. You have helped me find joy and happiness at the end of my life. I love you!” she wrote. “I wish you joy. Please continue to show the kindness to each other that you have always so generously given me.”

Buckley requested that memorial gifts be given in lieu of flowers to one of the organizations “near and dear to my heart:” American Civil Liberties Union, Defenders of Wildlife, Seattle Shakespeare Company, and the Pam Root and Apanakhi Friendship Scholarship at Heritage University.

Class Notes

You are an important part of the university family, and we want to make sure that you are fully informed of all the great opportunities that are available to you through Alumni Connections. There are lots of great ways to stay connected:

Of course, the best way to stay connected is to make sure your contact information is up to date. Please be sure to let us know if your address, e-mail or phone number changes. You can submit your changes online through heritage.edu/alumni, e-mail us at alumni@heritage.edu or give us a call at (509) 865-8644.


Marylu (Roche) Martin (M.Ed., Guidance and Counseling) worked in the Omak School District for several years before moving to Alaska to serve as an itinerant school counselor for the Yukon Flats School District, which is about the the size of the state of Washington above the Arctic Circle. She spent five years flying in bush planes to 11 villages; carrying her food, clothing and counseling supplies; sleeping in cabins, teacher housing, and on wrestling mats on classroom floors; and had many adventures. She even helped cut up a moose head for a funeral dinner and did a 10-day river rafting trip down the Kongakut River to the very top of Alaska.

Martin then moved to Moses Lake to be near her son and taught special education for one year. During that year one of her students who had autism was evaluated by a HANDLE (Holistic Approach to Neurodevelopment and Learning Efficiency) practitioner. Martin was so impressed by the work that she studied with the HANDLE Institute to work with people with neurological challenges such as traumatic brain injuries, autism, and learning disabilities. She is now a screening intern and wishes she had this knowledge when she was teaching special education.


Gerardo Rueleas (B.A., Business Administration) was promoted to IT Director – International Operations and Solution Delivery at Costco Wholesale.



Nicole St. Mary-Franson (M.I.T., Elementary Education) is the executive director of the Central Washington Catholic Foundation. Prior to joining the foundation, she served as a teacher, principal and executive principal for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Seattle.


Kathryn Dozier Quinn (B.A.E.D., Elementary Education) joined Avenues: The World School in Shenzhen, China where she teaches English.


Mario Uribe (M.I.T., Elmentary Education, 2019 Ed. Admin./ Principal Certification) is the interim principal at McLoughlin High School in Milton Freewater, Oregon. Prior to his appointment, he served as the school’s vice-principal.


Debra Whitefoot (B.A., Business Administration) is the executive director of Nch’I Wana Housing in The Dalles, Oregon. Nch’L Wana Housing is a newly established nonprofit organization focused on housing and community development for indigenous people living on and near the Columbia River.



Juan Aguliar (B.A., Business Administration) is the property management coordinator for Comprehensive Healthcare in Yakima, Washington. Prior to accepting this role, he served as a case manager for the same organization.



Meadow Rodriguez Jr. (B.S., Computer Science) earned his Security+ certification, which attests to his proficiency to protect networks and sensitive data. Additionally, he was promoted to IT Compliance Analyst 3 at Costco Wholesale. He is an IT change advocate within Costco’s IT division, which means he acts as a liaison between the company’s IT upper management and its employees during its continued transformation of the IT division.



Marcus Morales (B.A., Mathematics) joined Amazon pathways operations program with Amazon operations management position internship in their fulfillment centers.

Amber Ortiz-Diaz (B.S., Biomedical Science) was named by the Yakima Herald Republic as one of the 39 under 39. Ortiz-Diaz is the Yakima Valley site director of Act Six and the Ready to Rise Program, a leadership development and college access program that brings together diverse, multicultural cadres of emerging urban leaders who want to use their college education to make a difference on campus and in their communities at home.



Jacob Billy
Sr. (B.A., Environmental Studies) graduated from Oregon State University with a Master of Education.







Amalia Akagi (B.A., English) joined Sealaska Corporation as the project coordinator of the company’s intern program. In her position, she travels to colleges around Washington and attends conferences like AISESto recruit for our program. “I love being a member of our intern team because the program connects students with the unique and vibrant cultures of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people.”



Brandon Berk (B.A., Mathematics) graduated from Whitworth College with a Master in Teaching. He will start teaching in the Sunnyside School District in the fall.



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.

Understanding Dyslexia

Sharon Bloome with her granddaughter Townsend Gantz Taft.

Sharon Bloome sees herself in the child left behind – the one who can’t read like her classmates and doesn’t understand why.

She was in her 30s before she learned the name for it: dyslexia, defined as “a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that does not affect general intelligence.”

“I didn’t know why I’d lose space on the page or drop word endings. Reading out loud was embarrassing because I never knew when something wouldn’t come out right.”

Bloome learned how to come up with a word by making sense of context. Though she didn’t have the critical teaching expertise that can be available today, she did well in high school, achieving high honors and graduating at age 16. She ultimately went on to become vice president of a Fortune 500 company and founder of three national non-profit groups.

Bloome’s 12-year-old granddaughter also has dyslexia – but she was diagnosed early.

“Early diagnosis and good educational opportunities have made all the difference for her,” said Bloome.

Bloome’s personal experiences moved her to donate to Heritage to get its new Master of Inclusive Education program started.

“It’s help I would have benefited from,” said Bloome. “And it’s exciting to be able to make a difference.”

Kari Terjeson, chair of the university’s Teacher Preparation Program, understands the struggle and its impact from her own teaching experience and from her experience as a mother: All three of her children have dyslexia. It’s not only the children with dyslexia who experience frustration, she said. Parents and teachers do as well because they don’t know how to help them.

Terjeson said Bloome’s way of making it through reading is common for children with dyslexia.

“Up to third or fourth grade, a lot of their ability to read comes from memorizing words,” she said. “As reading requirements ramp up, their challenges come to light.”

Many people think of dyslexia as perceiving reversed letters, such as seeing “b” when the letter is “d.”

“It’s a neurological condition that’s more an inability to ‘hear’ individual sounds within words,” said Terjeson.

Like Bloome, Terjeson also knows from personal experience that children with dyslexia, when it’s identified early and the right help is there, can excel.

“They can achieve wonderful things,” said Terjeson. “Samantha and Allie (her daughters) are both teachers now.

“Early intervention followed by explicit instruction can have a powerful impact.”

Teaching the TEACHERS

As the COVID-19 pandemic became a worldwide reality last spring, teachers throughout the Yakima Valley found themselves delivering their students’ education from a distance. While they rose to the challenge, many also found themselves with unexpected downtime – and some decided to do some distance learning of their own.

One of them is Kayli Chavez Berk. She’s a teacher in the Sunnyside School District, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Education from Heritage in 2018. She was taking some courses to earn her English Language Learner (ELL) certification when she learned about the university’s newest master’s degree program in inclusive education.

“I was intrigued by the fact that the program was titled M.Ed in Inclusive Education, and I wanted to learn more about what exactly the program had to offer. When I learned that it would include coursework covering ELL, dyslexia, and cultural competence, I was immediately hooked. These are areas I am personally passionate about in regard to teaching practices and assessment,” she said.

Chavez Berk is one of the earliest adopters of Heritage University’s new master’s degree program, one that can be completed entirely online – or involve no class time at all.

When they’ve earned their degree, Chavez Berk and other master’s-level teachers will have two endorsements: the first, English as Second Language (ESL), English Language Learner (ELL), or Bilingual Language Educator (BLE); and the second, a Reading Endorsement.

The ESL/BLE Endorsement includes a strong focus on building a culturally competent teaching practice; the Reading Endorsement features a heavy emphasis in both assessment and instruction for students with dyslexia.

For their higher level of education and advanced teaching ability, educators will receive an immediate and significant boost on their school district’s salary schedule, as well as enhanced job security.

Most important, when they are finally reunited with their students, they will have a greater depth of knowledge to help the growing population of students who need teachers with the most effective teaching skills.


As difficult as the “great pause” has been, the break in teachers’ schedules could not have come at a better time for this online educational opportunity, said Kari Terjeson, chair of Heritage’s Teacher Preparation Program.

Two years ago, Washington lawmakers passed a bill that, among other things, requires school districts statewide to screen children for signs of dyslexia. They are required to start doing so beginning the this fall.

The bill had a bit of its genesis more than 20 years ago in Seattle when seven-year-old Eileen Pollet was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. It was a relatively early diagnosis, and she was fortunate to have had more help available than many students receive. Yet despite her teacher’s dedicated effort, she wasn’t learning to read.

“Her teacher devoted 30 minutes a day three times a week before school to helping her learn to read,” said Eileen’s father, Gerry Pollet. “But she simply had never been given the training to teach a child with dyslexia how to read.”

As a member of the Washington House of Representatives representing the 46th District, Pollet’s experience as a parent led him to champion numerous education bills over his 20-year political career. Working closely with the Washington Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, the State Superintendent of Public Schools and others, Pollet drafted Washington Senate Bill 6162. It was voted into law in 2018, requiring every child from kindergarten through second grade to be progressively assessed for reading challenges and those with dyslexia provided with multi-tiered teaching support.

Screening tools and a road map for teaching students with learning challenges have been identified and quantified, Pollet said.

“Now, teachers have to be trained.”

The vast majority of colleges and universities are not yet beginning to plan for how – or if – they will provide the training.

That’s why Pollet finds Heritage’s early adoption of teaching the necessary skills so encouraging.

“Heritage not only understands the research and recognizes the need for this additional training, but faculty and administration are willing to put it into action.”

Because the ultimate responsibility to train teachers to identify and be able to teach children with dyslexia is with the school districts, teachers who come prepared with the training will be in demand.

In addition to the more thorough identification process, teachers in fall 2020 and beyond will need to work with students differently. School districts will be required to teach children with dyslexia in the regular classroom, not in a special education classroom.


Heritage is one of only two universities in the West Coast region to offer this master’s degree program. That’s unique, said Terjeson, but it’s not surprising.

“Heritage has always done what it takes to train teachers, especially to be able to teach marginalized students. Innovation in education is part of the tradition of our College of Education. It’s part of the Heritage mission and vision, the basic heart of Heritage.”

It applies to the other endorsement as well, which prepares teachers to teach students with a variety of language challenges. The degree offers both the ELL endorsement in which a teacher does not speak Spanish but works with non-English speaking students, as well as the BLE endorsement for teachers who are literate in both languages.

“This master’s degree is really about a multitude of language barriers. The ELL/BLE endorsement that’s offered as part of this degree is designed to ensure that all students with language challenges, due to second language acquisition difficulty, are considered,” said Terjeson. “And, because we serve indigenous and Latinx communities, it’s imperative that cultural competency is embedded in everything we do.”

It is this comprehensive approach to building teachers’ skills to work with students facing a multitude of language barriers that attracted Chavez Berk to the program. In the two years that she’s been teaching, she’s worked with many students who struggle to learn.

“Within the classroom, it is very common to work with students who have learning challenges and reading difficulties due to their way of processing information as well as their diverse language backgrounds. I have seen firsthand how many try so hard to succeed but are unable to because they are not given a chance to do so, or are not supported in the way that they need. As a result, they are not able to learn to their fullest potential,” she said. “Learning how to help these students overcome their specific challenges is definitely a motivating factor for me to enroll in this program. I choose to be part of this program not just to add another degree to my resume or bump me up on the pay scale. I am doing this to help increase my knowledge and skills to enhance the education can provide for my students. They are what matter most to me, and they deserve the best.”


With total cost through the competency-based option of Heritage’s new master’s program at just under $15,000, it’s an investment that provides significant returns. In the State of Washington, a teacher with a master’s degree earns on average $10,000 more per year than his or her counterparts without one.

Teachers already in the classroom are best positioned to benefit from the additional education, said Terjeson.

“They are uniquely prepared to identify students with reading difficulties, understand the appropriate interventions, and be able to implement best practices for designing and delivering instruction. It behooves all teachers to have this training/ education, not just those who teach reading. It provides professional development and growth opportunities.”

Heritage’s accrediting body approved the program to be offered through a variety of models: face-to-face, online and competency-based, meaning teachers almost anywhere can take the courses and earn this degree. How students complete each course offering is interchangeable.

“Students can take classes online, and they can do face-to-face coursework, but there’s also an option to actually not take the courses,” says Terjeson. “If you believe you already have the training and experience to challenge the competencies for one or more of the micro-credentials in each course, there’s an option to prepare portfolio evidence and pass an objective exam to demonstrate mastery of the associate competencies. You can essentially challenge the requirements.”

In addition to the master’s degree offering, candidates can also take an endorsement-only route. Each endorsement consists of 16 credits.

For more information on this program, visit heritage.edu/inclusive-education.

CONGRATULATIONS Heritage University Graduates Class of 2020!