The All Nations Student Social Powwow returns to Heritage University




The All Nations Student Social Powwow returns to Heritage University on April 20, 2024

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University’s All Nations Student Social Powwow is returning to Heritage University on Saturday, April 20, 2024. Hosted by the Heritage University Native American Club (HUNAC) and American Indigenous Business Leaders Chapter (AIBL) of HU, the powwow celebrates Indigenous culture. This social gathering is a free event and open to all.

“The powwow is a great way to highlight the rich culture of Native people and share it with the community,” said Kansas Arnoux, HUNAC president. “We are honored to invite the community to celebrate with us and to experience a bit of the cultural traditions that we hold close to our hearts.” “The powwow promotes mental health and wellness for our community by building a connection and an appreciation of our past through song and dance,” said Latrishia Scabbyrobe, AIBL of HU president.

The powwow will highlight dancers and drum groups. Dancers will perform traditional, fancy, jingle, and grass dancing, with youths to seniors participating. The first ten participants in each category will receive bundles of traditional foods and medicines and HUNAC regalia. Tiny tot dance participants will receive Ichishkíin/Sahaptin language resources and other gifts. The first five drum groups to sign up will receive a stipend. Dancer and drummer registrations open at 10:00 a.m. the morning of the event, with the Grand Entry occurring at 11:00 a.m.

The powwow invites vendors to sell food, arts and crafts, and general merchandise during the event. Yakama Nation agencies and non-profit organizations are also invited to participate in a community resource fair. Student clubs from Heritage, area high schools or other colleges and universities are welcome to host informational or fundraising booths. To learn more about vendor requirements or to apply to be a vendor, please visit for more information.

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Heritage University committed to support students in overcoming FAFSA challenges


Heritage University committed to support students in overcoming FAFSA challenges

Toppenish, Wash. – The rollout of the Department of Education’s new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has frustrated many students. Heritage University is committed to helping students overcome these challenges and to ensuring that the cost of going to college is not an obstacle that stands in the way of their higher education goals. HU administrators say that students who are Pell-eligible and meet certain criteria will be able to attend Heritage with little to no out-of-pocket tuition costs.

Several issues and challenges have been reported with the new FAFSA system which has resulted in delays in processing applications. Without this financial information, colleges and universities can’t send out financial aid packages to students, which may impact their decisions to commit to college. That’s why Heritage University administrators want to remind students that Heritage is here to make sure students have access to financial resources for school. “We recognize the importance of timely financial aid information, and we acknowledge the challenge posed by the delays in this year’s FAFSA processing and the impact it has on students’ commitment to college,” said HU President Andrew Sund, Ph.D. “As soon as our financial aid counselors have the information necessary from the Department of Education, they will create a financial aid package for a student’s consideration. We at Heritage are here to assist students, answer their questions and explore additional options to make education affordable,” said Dr. Sund.

Even if a student’s federal award is not high, at Heritage it does not mean there isn’t financial help available. “We are committed to supporting all students in securing every available dollar of scholarship and financial aid they deserve. Rest assured that we will do everything within our power to provide the necessary resources to make college accessible to students,” said Sund. “Assistance with FAFSA is just another way of us staying true to our mission of making education accessible to anyone with the talent and drive to pursue a degree, regardless of culture, geographic location, or in this case, economics.”

Students and families are encouraged to reach out to the university Admissions department at (509) 865-8500 for assistance with FAFSA navigation. For more information or to schedule a media interview please contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or

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Deadline approaching to apply for law school pipeline program at Heritage University



Deadline approaching to apply for law school pipeline program at Heritage University

Toppenish, Wash. – The deadline to apply for a law school pipeline program offered at Heritage University is approaching. Applications for the third year of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program at Heritage University must be in by Monday, April 15, 2024. The program is open to freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and alumni of Heritage and other colleges and universities.

The LSAC PLUS Program is an innovative partnership between the law schools at Seattle University, the University of Washington and Gonzaga University, and Heritage with the goal of making a law degree more accessible to diverse students in central Washington, especially Latino and Indigenous students. Funded by a grant from the LSAC, the program’s primary objective is to create a pipeline for these students to enroll in law school and then return home to practice.

The LSAC PLUS Program kicks off a three-week session on Friday, June 14, 2024, with in-person classes at Heritage twice a week. The program will expand the students’ knowledge and understanding of the legal field and help them envision themselves as lawyers. Its key aspects include: 1) a visit by several Washington Supreme Court justices; 2) a mock law school class; 3) roundtable discussions with leaders of minority bar associations; 4) mentoring by community lawyers and judges; and 5) modules that provide helpful information to demystify the application process and the law school experience. Students can also choose to visit one of the Washington law schools. A shorter, follow-up program will take place in September. Students who successfully complete the program will receive a $1,000 stiped and a certificate of completion.

Marthy Hernandez, an attorney with Stokes Lawrence in Yakima, Wash. will serve as the director of the LSAC PLUS Program. Hernandez assists clients with business disputes and litigation involving employment matters and contract law. Hernandez interned for the Gonzaga Public Interest and Indian Law Clinic and worked for the Child Youth Advocacy Program for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP).

The application period for the LSAC PLUS Program is being extended, and the deadline to apply is Monday, April 15, 2024. Students wanting more information on the LSAC PLUS Program at Heritage can visit For more information, please contact Kim Bellamy-Thompson at or Marthy Hernandez at For help with media interviews, please contact Davidson Mance, Heritage University media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or

Heritage University receives $1.4 million grant from Biden-Harris Administration to tackle critical nurse shortage in central Washington


Heritage University receives a $1.4 million grant from Biden-Harris Administration to tackle critical nurse shortage in central Washington

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University announced it has received a three-year $1.4 million grant from the Biden-Harris Administration to launch an innovative program addressing the critical shortage of nurses in our rural communities. This strategic initiative called “Pathways to Opportunity” is designed to boost the number of skilled and diverse nurses, implementing a Grow Your Own model to engage local high school students, guide them through college preparation, recruit them into the university’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, and assist with their entry into the high-wage, high-demand local nursing workforce.

These funds originate from the Rural Postsecondary and Economic Development (RPED) grant program that promotes the development of high-quality career pathways aligned to high school, high-wage and in-demand industry sectors and occupations in any given region. In America’s rural communities, only 29% of people between 18-24 are in higher education, compared to almost 48% in urban areas and 42% in the suburbs. Rural students face challenges with accessing, paying for, and completing college. They also face barriers to having reliable transportation, access to health care and high-speed internet, and may suffer from food and housing insecurity.

Heritage University recognizes the urgent need to bridge the gap in healthcare professionals and is committed to developing a comprehensive career and college readiness pathway. The Grow Your Own model includes outreach efforts in the high schools to identify and support students interested in becoming nurses and guide and prepare them for college. Essential services offered using the Grow Your Own model will include dual enrollment, SAT/ACT preparation, tutoring, workshops, financial aid guidance, mentoring, advising and STEM summer bridge programs. Heritage will work closely with the University of Washington GEAR UP and workforce partners on developing these services. At the university, BSN students will receive support from two case managers who offer National Council Licensure Examination (or NCLEX, one of two standardized tests for licensing nurses) preparation, advising, coaching, mentoring, career guidance, internships, and other support programs to ensure retention and graduation.

Heritage University Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Melissa Hill, Ph.D. stated that Heritage nursing is perfectly positioned positively impact the healthcare landscape by educating a new generation of skilled and diverse nurses to meet the growing needs of our local communities. “This substantial investment from the Biden-Harris administration underscores the importance of addressing the critical shortage of nurses in rural communities and Heritage University’s role in helping to fill those gaps,” said Dr. Hill.

Heritage University partnered with Research, Grants, and Information (RGI) Corporation of Sunnyside, Wash. to secure RPED funds for this Pathway to Opportunities initiative. RGI Corporation’s mission shares the Heritage University mission of impacting underrepresented and underserved communities socially, educationally, and economically for more than twenty years, and assisted in developing the successful grant application that was awarded. “RGI Corporation is pleased that Heritage University was awarded this highly competitive grant to train more nurses in addressing the workforce shortages in our rural communities,” said RGI Corporation CEO Robert Ozuna.

Pathways to Opportunity will focus on Native American, Hispanic, low-income, and first-generation high school and college students. Outreach will target students in the eight high schools and one tribally controlled school. For more information, please contact Melissa Hill at (509) 865-8584 or For help with media interviews, please contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or

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Heritage University to offer help filling out FAFSA forms during “Financial Aid Nights”



Heritage University to offer help filling out FAFSA forms during “Financial Aid Nights”

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is spearheading efforts to help students and their parents navigate the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Heritage will be hosting “Financial Aid Nights,” a series of upcoming events dedicated to help students and their families in completing the FAFSA.

The U.S. Department of Education launched the new FAFSA for 2024-25 on December 30, 2023, after a three month delay due to the FAFSA Simplification Act. Heritage University Admissions Director Rebecca Garza says “Financial Aid Nights” will provide valuable support and guidance to ensure a smooth FAFSA process, making higher education more accessible to all. “Since 85% of our students are the first in their families to attend college, it’s important to us to make sure students feel empowered and know what steps to take,” said Garza. “Our hope is to create events where students and their families have access to financial aid information. Our team members will be on hand to walk them through the FAFSA/WASFA process, and the information provide will be in English and Spanish.”

Heritage University will host “Financial Aid Nights” at Heritage in Toppenish, Wash. on January 24, 2024, and on February 21, 2024, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on both nights. Additionally, Grandview High School will host “Financial Aid Nights” in Grandview, Wash. on February 7, 2024, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Dinner will be served at all three events. For more information, please contact Rebecca Garza at (509) 865-0734 or or Davidson Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or



Heritage University receives $250,000 gift from the Directors of the Bezos Family Foundation to support DACA and DREAMER students




Heritage University receives $250,000 gift from the Directors of the Bezos Family Foundation to support DACA and DREAMER students

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University announced it has received a $250,000 gift from the directors of the Bezos Family Foundation to support the institution’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Emergency and DREAMER (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Funds. This transformative contribution reflects a commitment to supporting the immediate needs of undocumented students facing unforeseen challenges.

Each year, the Bezos Family Foundation’s Board of Directors choose non-profit organizations that align with the Foundation’s mission. In selecting Heritage, the Foundation’s directors recognize the university’s work to provide equitable opportunities to children and youth in its communities.

Andrew Sund, Ph.D., the President of Heritage University, expressed his gratitude to the Bezos Family Foundation’s directors for their generosity. “This gift underscores the understanding that the foundation directors have of challenges undocumented students face if they wish to pursue a college education. DACA and DREAMER students do not qualify for federal financial aid often creating situations where the cost of attending college is insurmountable,” said. Dr. Sund. “This gift helps level the playing field for students to pursue a college degree regardless of their immigration status.”

For more information, please contact David Wise, VP for Advancement at (509) 865-0717 or For help with media interviews, please contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or

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In Memoriam


Honoring the Heritage University friends and family we’ve lost.


The Heritage family lost a beloved member this summer when Jim Barnhill passed away in August. He was 92. Barnhill’s connection to Heritage and its students went back to the university’s infancy. For 36 years, he and his wife Dee, who preceded him in death last year, provided philanthropic support for student scholarships and campus development. They established the Jim and Dee Barnhill Scholarship in the mid- 1990s, an endowed fund that will support students in perpetuity. Additionally, they were lead supporters of the construction of the Arts and Sciences Center, as well as the construction of five buildings built between 2015 and 2018, one of which houses The Barnhill Fireside Room, named in their honor.

Barnhill was a dedicated friend and advisor who provided his unique insights to the university Advancement team, frequently inviting them to his home to share “mocha moments.”

In addition to his commitment to Heritage, he was a member of the Yakima Rotary and served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce, United Way, New Vision and the Yakima Valley Libraries Board of Trustees. He was a dedicated newspaperman whose career spanned 47 years and ultimately led to serving as the publisher of the Yakima Herald for 16 years until his retirement in 1996.

Well-loved Yakima Valley philanthropist and long-time Heritage University supporter Marie Halverson passed away on October 21. She was 90 years old.

Halverson and her husband of 63 years, Fred, who preceded her in death in 2020, were pillars of the Yakima community who were active volunteers with several organizations and generous contributors to the causes they supported. Marie was a 50-year member of the Florence White Guild, a volunteer with Memorial Hospital, and served on The Burke Museum’s board of directors. Her support of Heritage University goes back 26 years.

She is survived by her four children: Craig Halverson, Korynne Wright (Jeffrey), Kristin Luttinen (Scott), and Kathryne Garland (William III).

In lieu of flowers, the family requested donations be made to Halverson’s favorite charities, including Heritage University.


Tragedy struck the Heritage family on October 15 when student Aspen Hart passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident. She was 18 years old.

Aspen was a junior majoring in Elementary Education who had just started her academic journey at Heritage in the fall. She earned her associate degree from Columbia Basin College while she was still in high school, graduating from both CBC and Kennewick High School in 2023. She grew up in the Tri- Cities area, dancing and cheering competitively, and continued to share her love of dance with others as a coach at Dance Image West.

She is survived by her father, Casey Hart, and her sister, Payten Hart. Her mother, Angel Hart, died in the same accident.


Mary Ellen Hughes passed away on October 14 with her family by her side. She was 89 years old.

Hughes was a long-time Heritage benefactor and philanthropist who supported education, the arts and medical research. In addition to her charitable giving, she was a committed volunteer who served on several boards in the Seattle area, including Seattle Children’s Hospital, the Lakeside School and the Seattle Children’s Theatre.

She is survived by her husband, Pat; her children Lauri Hughes, Kimberly Hughes Moazed (Steve Moazed), Jim Hughes (Heather), and Kevin Hughes (Krista); as well as ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.


News Briefs

Generosity for Health and Education


Gaye and Jim Pigott


The number of lives impacted by Jim and Gaye Pigotts’ philanthropy is immeasurable. Throughout their lifetimes, they’ve supported countless organizations through their charitable giving and volunteer services throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Amidst their broad generosity, two areas top their list of important causes to support–education and healthcare.

So, they were intrigued when David Wise, vice president of Advancement and Marketing at Heritage University, told them about a new partnership with Children’s Hospital of Seattle. “Good health and a good education, without both of these things, individuals will have a tough time,” said Jim.

The Pigotts invited Wise and his counterpart at Children’s Hospital, Ruben Mayes, to visit them on their ranch in Winthrop, Washington, to tell them more. The two pulled together a traveling party from both institutions: Heritage’s current president, Andrew Sund, and its founding president, Sr. Kathleen Ross, and from Children’s, James Policar, senior director of development for pediatric cancer; Doug Picha, a consultant on special projects and relationships; and Bonnie Fryzlewicz, senior vice president and chief nursing officer. The team shared how the partnership not only has an immediate impact on Heritage University nursing students who complete a four-week clinical rotation in pediatrics at one of the country’s top children’s hospitals but also how it is changing the face of nursing in Washington State.

“Heritage is a leader in higher education fostering inclusion and cultural competency,” said Wise. “Children’s Hospital is determined to help build inclusivity, diversity and accessibility within the nursing field. By working together, our students benefit by learning from world-class clinicians, and they contribute to enhanced cultural competency and situational awareness as it relates to diverse populations, which fosters growth within the Seattle Children’s staff.”

Heritage nursing students learn alongside the medical staff at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Those students, many of whom are Latinx or Native American, graduate and enter their careers, diversifying the workforce and bringing with them a broader range of perspectives and experiences, he explained.

The Pigotts were intrigued. They were already familiar with the good work being done by both institutions, having been long-time supporters of each of them. In fact, Jim spent six years serving on the university’s board of directors. Additionally, they understood the critical need in healthcare for more highly trained, skilled practitioners.

“We hear it all the time on the news: hospitals are having a hard time finding nurses, which negatively impacts the quality of care that patients receive,” said Gaye.

The Heritage and Children’s Hospital partnership addresses this need and provides the kind of hands-on training that Jim sees as critical to bridging the school-to-work gap. “This program is timely and relevant; it does a lot of what I’d like to see more of, that is integrating academia with the real world to get students working with real work situations,” said Jim.

Early this fall, the Pigotts officially announced their support for the partnership– a $4 million gift, half of which will go to establishing the Gaye and Jim Pigott Nursing Endowment at Seattle Children’s and the other half funding the Gaye and Jim Pigott Endowed Chair of Nursing at Heritage.

“This extraordinary gift will have a lasting impact on the future of pediatric healthcare,” said Dr. Jeff Sperring, chief executive officer at Seattle Children’s. “By prioritizing equity in nursing, we are taking a crucial step toward better addressing the needs of our diversepatient population.”

“Equity and inclusivity lie at the core of our educational mission,” said Dr. Andrew Sund, president of Heritage University. “This gift will empower us to expand opportunities in the nursing profession, fostering a healthcare workforce that truly represents and serves our communities.”

Both Heritage and Children’s Hospital will use the Pigotts’ gifts as the foundation for ongoing fundraising to support both endowments, which will secure the partnership program for the future.

Honoring Our Elders

Left to right: Arlen Washines, Marlene White, Gene Sutterlict Sr., Iola Totus.

E‌very year Heritage University recognizes Native American elders for their lifetimes of significant contributions to their communities as part of its Native American Heritage Month celebration. Please join us in celebrating these four individuals.


Wahteshaouct/Shxmyah Edward Arlen Washines has lived his life driven by an unwavering commitment to uplifting his community through the development of education, social services, and employment. As an educator and director of Higher Education, he inspired Yakama Nation youth to graduate from high school, pursue college degrees, and return to their homelands to use their skills and talents to benefit their community. His work overseeing Yakama Nation’s Human Services helped ensure holistic well-being and quality of life for individuals and families at all stages of life.

During his service on Tribal Council, he helped build tribal enterprises that bolstered economic prosperity and increased living wage jobs, transforming the prospects of the Yakama Nation and all who live within its homelands.


Marlene Hunt White, YaYamptnikt has spent 50 years supporting the health and well-being of the people in her community. Through her work with Yakama Nation’s Public Works department, she ensured that her community had clean drinking water by helping individuals and tribal entities build and maintain viable wells and septic systems. Outside of her professional career, she channeled her energy into healing herself and her family from the deep scars of historical trauma, and by doing so, was able to help others in her community do the same through extensive volunteer work and the sharing of traditional teachings, bringing about a restored sense of cultural identity and resilience. Her legacy is a testament to the transformative power of dedication and love for one’s people and the land they call home.


Wah-Shu-Lums Gene Sutterlict is passionate about protecting and preserving the forest of the Yakama Nation and the sacred sites that are located within those lands. He’s spent his lifetime walking the fine line between harvesting renewable timber resources and preserving the woodlands.

For almost 40 years, he worked in forestry for the Yakama Nation. The trees harvested brought in revenue that funded tribal services that house, educate, and support the health and well-being of the people of the Yakama Nation. His leadership on Tribal Council provided oversight to the management of these natural resources so that they continue to thrive and provide for the people who depend upon them for generations to come.


Iola Smartlowit Totus “Kwasa” dedicated her life to nurturing and raising nine children. Alongside her six biological children, she selflessly welcomed three more into her home, creating a loving and expansive family. Iola instilled within her children a deep appreciation for the natural world and an unwavering respect for their rich Yakama culture, passing down invaluable traditions. For years, she and her family journeyed across the powwow circuit, bonding and celebrating their heritage as they danced and shared the beauty of their Yakama culture with the world. In her retirement years, she continues to help Yakama elementary school-aged children connect with their culture by teaching them their traditional language.