Making strides for health justice – WINGS Summer 2023

Each June, during the semester between their junior and senior years, a dozen Heritage University nursing students leave the Yakima Valley to work at one of the largest specialized care centers for children in the nation.

In an innovative joint effort between Heritage’s nursing department and Seattle Children’s Hospital, the students enter a four-week pediatric care clinical rotation. They tend to patients under the tutelage of veteran nurses and gain a working understanding of the realities and practicalities of caring for sick and chronically ill children and their families.

Each student’s 120 hours at Seattle Children’s represents an important type of diversification in their clinical experience, a full year before graduation – one that expands their consciousness and their experience while enhancing the hospital’s growing commitment to diversity.

Seattle Children’s began hosting small cohorts of Heritage nursing students in 2017, and the program has continuously evolved and grown since.

The hospital provides Heritage and its students with several significant resources: a nursing professional who works as an adjunct faculty member at Heritage during the academic year prior to the students’ rotation, housing in the University of Washington dorms during their clinical rotation at Children’s; the option to return for an intensive 160- to 180-hour senior preceptorship; and upon graduation, guaranteed employment interviews. If hired, relocation to the Seattle area is paid for by Seattle Children’s.


Beginning in their junior year, Heritage nursing students traditionally do multi-week, on- location clinical practice in various disciplines: women’s health and maternity, primary care of children, family health, and hospitalized adults. They work in community health and critical care, at hospitals throughout the Yakima Valley, and even at Heritage’s Early Learning Center.

The experience of Seattle Children’s turns things up a notch. Students gain experience in a highly complex system of care for acutely and chronically ill children and their families who come from a four-state area and include Latinx, indigenous, and undocumented children. Heritage’s student population is demographically similar; 80 percent of students are people of color.

The first steps of the partnership took place when Christina Nyirati, Ph.D., R.N. and Debra Ridling, Ph.D, R.N. first spoke in 2015. Nyirati is the director of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) program and chair of Heritage’s nursing department. Ridling is Associate Chief Nurse and Senior Director of Nursing Practice and Research at Seattle Children’s.

“I knew they were pretty saturated because they host 800 nursing students every year,” said Nyirati. “But we explored whether there could be a relationship that would benefit our students and Seattle Children’s and its patients and families. The arrangement has grown to what we’re doing today.”


Seattle Children’s prospectus on the project included the following statements: “The C.D.C. declared racism a serious public health threat in 2021. The National Academy of Medicine’s ‘Future of Nursing 2020-2030’ report declared action was needed to interrupt disparities that are systemic throughout healthcare.”

“They identify one strategy as increasing the diversity of the nursing workforce to better reflect the population,” said Ridling. “That’s a big part of what this program is about. Heritage students share the same cultures, language and background as many of our families, and that goes a long way in making them feel more comfortable. They see someone they identify with. They converse in their native language.

“They act as cultural brokers for this facility, and that’s a huge benefit to Seattle Children’s.”

Heritage nursing curriculum includes learning about “ethical comportment,” meaning their manner or presence, and that, to practice ethically, they must at times speak up on behalf of patients and families. They are taught to bring their lived experience and knowledge to their practice.

“Our students bring a realness and a humility to the experience of nursing,” said Nyirati. “We make sure they know that their background is rich and important, that they come to us already with that, and we’re there to expand on it. We cultivate their courage to be that presence.”


Ten months before this year’s cohort of Heritage nursing students crossed the Cascade Mountains to Seattle, the nurse who would help provide an early connection from the Yakima Valley to Seattle made her way to Toppenish.

Bilingual and bicultural hospital-based nurse Genevieve Aguilar was selected to join the Heritage staff as interim joint faculty. She contributed to two semesters of clinical practice instruction and helped integrate students’ knowledge of theoretical nursing concepts into clinical practice.

Aguilar developed a unique connection with the students, enhancing it with an open-door policy and a personal touch.

“I think many of the students could easily see themselves in me,” Aguilar said. “I shared a lot about my journey, including in real time, as I applied for my Ph.D. studies. They got a sense of what that might be like for them.

“I think it’s been a mutual understanding from a cultural perspective.”


While at Seattle Children’s, Heritage nursing students do assessments, give medications, listen, watch, ask questions, and absorb it all. When solicited, they share their clinical reasoning.

“Our students are taking care of children with highly complex health problems; they’re not just observing, they’re practicing nursing under close supervision of faculty,” said Ridling. “They tell us they’re treated as professionals and colleagues, that the nurses pull them in and want them to learn.”

Once they graduate, many Heritage nursing school alumni will remain in the Yakima Valley, where their hearts reside, to serve their communities. Some will practice on Yakama land, serving indigenous people whose access to healthcare is limited. Some will take their place at Seattle Children’s. Some will further their education. A graduate may choose to become a certified pediatric nurse, pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree, or get their Ph.D.

As they evolve along their paths, the program they participated in will evolve as well. Development professionals at Seattle Children’s and Heritage are working to provide for its growth.

“We’re talking to people and organizations we both have relationships with about how we can improve health care outcomes in rural communities and at this regional hospital,” said Rueben Mayes, Regional Partnerships and Philanthropy Officer at Seattle Children’s. “This work is something Heritage has been doing successfully with Seattle Children’s for six years now, and it’s growing.”

The housing is costly. Mayes points out the senior preceptorship program will be growing, and the relocation stipend needs to increase.

“We’re looking for sustainable funding for all of it through an endowment.”

Nyirati’s vision for Heritage Nursing and Seattle Children’s extends even further.

“Our dream is to have an endowed chair, someone who is an experienced, doctorally prepared professor of nursing, who would come with years of experience in bridging both the practice and nursing education, that would benefit both organizations,” she said.

“It can leverage both of our organizations to become national leaders in modeling this equitable pathway toward transforming the health of all the nation’s children.

“We can do this not only for the Valley and Washington State, but for the nation.”

A recent report by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) predicted that the United State’s healthcare system will face a number of challenges over the next decade – An aging population with more complex medical needs; an ever-growing shortage of medical professionals, including skilled nurses; and social factors that influence both people’s health and wellness as well as their ability to access quality healthcare. Topping the list of actions needed to adequately address these concerns are educational programs that train nurses to work with diverse populations in community-based healthcare.

With its student body that is more than 75% Latinx and Native American, this area is where Heritage shines. However, continuing to provide high-quality nursing education that meets these standards has its challenges.

“Nursing is an expensive program for colleges,” said David Wise, vice president for Advancement. “When you look at all of the elements within the program: recruiting doctoral-level faculty, the simulators and medical equipment students first learn to use on campus, not to mention the expenses that come from the clinical rotations at medical facilities throughout the region, the costs can be enormous.

However, the implications of this program for the health and welfare of the communities we serve are equally as enormous. That’s why we are building an endowment explicitly dedicated to securing the nursing program’s financial welfare.”

This fall, Heritage and its partner, Seattle Children’s Hospital, are each launching capital campaigns to build endowments to support Heritage nursing education. Funds raised by Seattle Children’s Hospital will defray financial barriers, such as housing and relocation expenses, that Heritage students face while undergoing their four-week practicum. Additionally, it will fund joint-faculty appointments where hospital nursing staff are loaned to Heritage for teaching positions on campus.

Heritage’s endowment will provide the university with the necessary resources to attract and retain distinguished faculty members, who will bring their expertise and experience to enhance the academic programs within the nursing department. These positions will facilitate developing and implementing innovative teaching and learning techniques that will enable students to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in their careers.






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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or

# # #

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please contact Suzy Diaz at (509) 480-9354 or or Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or

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


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

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

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

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

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

For more information, contact Davidson Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or

About the Pacific Power Foundation:

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


# # #

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Yakima Valley SunDome is located at 1301 South Fair Ave. in Yakima. Parking is free. Additional information is available online at

For more information, contact David Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or

# # #

Class Notes

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

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



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



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


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


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

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


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


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