Heritage University dedicates new Early Learning Center

The new Heritage University Early Learning Center, December 16, 2022

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Heritage University dedicates new Early Learning Center

Toppenish, Wash. – On Friday, December 16, 2022, Heritage University held a building dedication for the new Heritage University Early Learning Center (ELC) at its Toppenish campus. Around 50 people attended the dedication for the new $4.1 million state-of-the-art facility. Arlen Washines, deputy director of the Yakama Nation Department of Human Services and HU board member and Dr. Kathleen Ross, founding president of Heritage University, each offered a blessing of the building.

Construction began in earnest on the new five-classroom ELC in March of this year by Chervenell Construction, and the work was largely completed by November. Graham Baba Architects of Seattle designed the new facility. While Graham Baba co-founder and co-owner Brett Baba is now based in western Washington, he enjoys working on projects in the Yakima Valley, the region he grew up in. “Over the course of my 44 years as an architect, I can’t think of a better feel-good project to be involved with than Heritage University’s Early Learning Center. The ELC provides a way for student-parents who may not otherwise be able to attend Heritage University, to do so. It continues the legacy of the Plath family (through the Manzana Foundation) to give a boost to kids when they are at an age that is so critical; an age Cliff Plath stated to be ‘the most formative’”, said Baba. “Heritage University is known for giving first-generation college students a path to success, and the Manzana Foundation is committed to providing a jump-start for kids at the most opportune time. The teaming of these two institutions is a phenomenal opportunity. We are humbled and honored to be a part of it.”

The majority of funding for the new ELC was provided by the Manzana Foundation and the Plath Family Charitable Trust. The ELC project also received a grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce.

The ELC is scheduled to open in January and will serve children between the ages of 12 months and kindergarten, providing pre-kindergarten learning known to be invaluable in later years of scholastic achievement. This new facility will allow the ELC to increase its licensed enrollment from 74 to 90 students. To watch a time-lapse video of the construction, please visit this link on the Heritage University website: https://www.heritage.edu/eagle-cam/

For more information contact Claudette Lindquist at (509) 865-0723 or Lindquist_C@heritage.edu or Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@heritage.edu.

Heritage University VP of Advancement and Marketing David Wise, ELC Office Supervisor Sandra Ruiz and ELC preschooler Anahi at the new ELC dedication ceremony December 16, 2022

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Heritage University honors Native American tribal elders as highlight of Native American Heritage Month celebrations

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Heritage University honors Native American tribal elders as highlight of Native American Heritage Month celebrations

Toppenish, Wash. – November is Native American Heritage Month, and Heritage University is celebrating by honoring four Native American elders for their lifetime contributions to the Yakama people and their community. This year’s recipients are Gil Calac, Carrie Schuster, Ted Strong and Tallulah Pinkham.

Chimshowa Gil Calac is a Paiute from Susanville Indian Rancheria in California. As a Bronze Star decorated Vietnam war veteran, he is passionate about helping those whose voices are often unheard. He spent two years working as a case manager for Yakama Nation Behavioral Health Services before moving to Fort Simcoe Job Corp to help at-risk youth. After he retired, Gil turned his attention to advocating for veterans in hospice care. He is a member of the Yakama Warriors, where he led the Washington state effort for establishing March 30 as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, and is a member of the Yakama Nation Tribal Advisory Board. Gil maintains a deep reverence for traditional values, which guides him in everything that he does.

Aiiyuttonmii Carrie Chapman Schuster is the matriarch of the Snake River Palouse Tribe and is a Heritage University alumna. She grew up learning tribal history and culture from family matriarchs on The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She has served as a judge in the Yakama Nation’s courts, as the original news director for the Yakama Nation Review, as an educator working with at-risk middle school kids and preschool children, and as a cultural ambassador connecting the Yakama people with tribal communities globally. At each step, she works to prepare those she serves to find their place in their community, to be rightful stewards over the land and people, and to respect the generational teachings of those who came before.

Taninsh Ted Strong is a 4/4 enrolled Yakama whose life work has helped tribes throughout the United States and indigenous people worldwide strengthen their sovereignty. His lifelong command from elders was, “Fill your heart with compassion and your mind with knowledge.”  In the early 1970s he designed the first computer network linking tribes in Montana, North and South Dakota and Wyoming. Immediately following, he led the restructuring of the Yakama Nation to a centralized administration and financial management system, allowing the tribe to take control of practices formerly run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He advocated and fought for treaty rights, salmon recovery, water rights and environmental management at the state and national levels while serving as the executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. President Clinton appointed Taninsh to the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, where he advocated for social equity, economic vitality, and environmental justice. He counts being Chief Judge for the Yakama Nation as the most challenging yet most rewarding experience of his career.

Cawmit Tallulah Pinkham is a full-blooded, enrolled Yakama who has a heart for helping those who struggle with mental illness, addiction and abuse. She spent 23 years advocating for patients at Indian Health Services, where she met with individuals and families to get to know them on a human level so she could help connect them with the programs and services they needed. She encouraged patients to learn the traditional practices of their culture and family as a way to find connection and purpose in their lives. When she saw the generational destruction that comes from domestic violence and child abuse, she worked behind the scenes through Native Women’s Association to support the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The four elders are being recognized during the eighth annual Honoring Our Elders ceremony at Heritage University on Wednesday, November 9, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. in Smith Family Hall. This event is by invitation only. Also, their stories are featured in a series of full-page ads, each dedicated to a specific elder, that are running in the Yakama Nation Review throughout November.  Framed copies of these ads are being added to the permanent display of honorees at the university in the Violet Lumley Rau Building.

Heritage is holding many other events in November in observance of Native American Heritage Month as designated by President George H. W. Bush in 1990. These include:

November 2, 2022, 8:30 a.m. – Flag-raising Ceremony

Heritage University will raise the flags of the Yakama Nation, the state of Washington and the United States during a ceremony featuring the Yakama Warriors. The ceremony will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will be held at the main campus entrance.

November 30, 2022, All Day – Dr. Virginia Beavert (Tuxámshish) Day at Heritage University

Heritage University recognizes and honors the esteemed Yakama Nation elder and language teacher on her birthday.

Other Native American Heritage Month events at Heritage will include:

Wapaas Basket Weaving (November 8, 14 & 15)
Roc Your Mocs Week (November 13-19)
Frybread Fundraiser (November 21)
Movie Night (November 21)
Yoga Time (November 28 & 29)
De-stress Workshop (November 30)

For more information on these events, contact Maxine Janis at (509) 865-0737 or janis_m@heritage.edu or Julia Polk at (509) 865-8610 or polk_j@heritage.edu.

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Heritage University to hold El Grito de Independencia celebration

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Heritage University to hold El Grito de Independencia celebration

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University will host an El Grito de Independencia celebration on Friday, September 16, 2022 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at its Toppenish campus in recognition of Mexican Independence Day. El Grito de Independencia commemorates the “Cry of Dolores,” a historical event in Mexico that set off the Mexican war of Independence from Spain and will be re-enacted at 7:30 p.m.

The festival will be hosted Manny DJ and feature performances by Group Proyecto 2020 and Raises de Mi Pueblo Folklorico Group. There will be fun for the entire family, including loteria (games), kid crafts, food and beverages, traditional dancers, live music and a resource fair. The El Grito will be performed by the Titular Consul of the Mexican Consulate in Seattle Hector Ivan Goday Priske. The event is free and open to the public.

El Grito de Independencia will have vendor opportunities. For those interested in registering as a vendor, contact Martin Valadez at valadez_m@heritage.edu. For more information, contact Davidson Mance at mance_d@heritage.edu.

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Heritage University to hold Eagle Giving Day and 40th Homecoming Events

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Heritage University to commemorate 40th anniversary with
Eagle Giving Day and Homecoming Event

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is marking its 40th year of providing higher education opportunities to Yakima Valley residents with two events. The first is Eagle Giving Day, a day set aside to raise funds for student scholarships. The second is Homecoming 2022, an event to reunite alumni, faculty and staff past and present and current students.

Eagle Giving Day is scheduled for Friday, September 9, 2022. Friends and alumni are encouraged to help Heritage University continue its mission of making a college education accessible to anyone with the talent and drive to pursue a degree. “As we look back at our 40-year history, one thing is clear. It is our generous donors who have made it possible for more than 10,000 students to graduate and go on to meaningful careers,” said Heritage University president Andrew Sund, Ph.D. “Gifts received on ‘Eagle Giving Day’ will ensure that future generations of Eagles have the same level of support by providing funding for scholarships, programs, internships, technology upgrades and more.”

Heritage University alumni have an exceptional reason to give back to their alma mater on Eagle Giving Day. An anonymous alumni donor has agreed to match every $40 gift from alumni up to the first $5,000, which means that $40 gift instantly becomes $80 for student scholarships. Their generosity will help make it possible for students to achieve their dreams like they did. HU alumna Adriana Villafan, who graduated in 2015 with her B.A. degree in business administration with a concentration in Human Resources, and is now the director of the TRIO program at Heritage. Villafan said she plans to participate in Eagle Giving Day. “Scholarships and mentoring are part of the support I received when I was a student at Heritage,” Villafan said. “Heritage helped me get to where I am today, and now that I am in a position to give back, ‘Eagle Giving Day’ is the perfect opportunity for me and other alumni to return the favor.”  

The giving doesn’t need to wait until Eagle Giving Day. Each gift received before September 9 will count towards the day’s final total. For more information on Eagle Giving Day and to make a gift online, please visit heritage.edu/eaglegivingday.

Homecoming 2022 will be held on the Heritage University campus on September 9 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. It is open to Heritage alumni and current students as well as current and former faculty and staff and friends of the university. People are encouraged to RSVP at heritage.edu/homecoming.

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

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Eagle Giving Day badge over campus image

Pacific Power Foundation gives $5,000 grant to Heritage University for student scholarships

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Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is pleased to announce it has once again been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Pacific Power Foundation. This is the fourth year in a row Heritage has received the grant, which will be used to fund scholarships for students pursuing degrees in the health sciences and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

David Wise, VP of Advancement and Marketing for Heritage, was presented with a grant check from John Hodkinson, area distribution manager for Pacific Power on July 13, 2022. “I am grateful for Pacific Power Foundation’s continued support of Heritage University’s mission of providing educational opportunities for students of the Yakima Valley. This generous grant will help the students who have the drive but not the financial means to obtain the education that prepares them for exciting and rewarding careers in health sciences and STEM, two of the fastest-growing industries today,” said Wise.

Pacific Power Regional Business Manager Toni Petty said Pacific Power Foundation supports Heritage University’s mission of making a college education accessible. “We’ve seen how communities across the nation strive to bolster their ranks of technology and healthcare workers. We are happy to support Heritage and its work to prepare students to thrive in these important fields,” said Petty.

For more information, contact Davidson Mance at (509) 865-0731 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

About the Pacific Power Foundation

The Pacific Power Foundation is part of the PacifiCorp Foundation, one of the largest utility-endowed foundations in the United States. The foundation was created in 1988 by PacifiCorp, an electric utility serving 2 million customers in six Western states as Pacific Power (Oregon, Washington, and California) and Rocky Mountain Power (Utah, Wyoming and Idaho). The foundation’s mission, through charitable investments, is to support the growth and vitality of the communities served by Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power. For more information, visit www.pacificpower.net/foundation.

Heritage University Vice President of Advancement David Wise accepts a check from Pacific Power Area Distribution Manager John Hodkinson at the Heritage University campus in Toppenish, Wash.

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Law school pipeline program for Central Washington students to launch at Heritage University

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Law school pipeline program for Central Washington students to launch at Heritage University

Toppenish, Wash. – Legal educators, lawyers, and judges from across Washington state will lead a program at Heritage University designed to prepare Central Washington students for the rigors of law school and a legal career. 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 that aims to make a law degree more accessible to diverse students, especially Latino/Latina/Latinx and Indigenous students.

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

  • Stephen C. Gonzalez – chief justice, Washington Supreme Court
  • Helen Whitener – justice, Washington Supreme Court
  • Annette Clark – dean and professor of law, Seattle University School of Law.
  • César Torres – executive director, Northwest Justice Project in Yakima, Wash.
  • Sonia Rodriguez-True – Yakima County Superior Court commissioner in Yakima, Wash.
  • Bree Black Horse – senior associate with Seattle law firm Kilpatrick Townsend and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma citizen.
  • Fé LopezGaetke – director, LSAC diversity, equity & inclusion programs & operations.
  • Jaime “Jr.” Cuevas – general council, Ramsey Companies in White Swan, Wash.
  • Lola Velazquez – attorney, Northwest Justice Project.

The LSAC PLUS Program kicks off the three-week program on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, with in-person classes at Heritage three days each week. Key aspects are designed to help the 37 enrolled students envision themselves as lawyers, with a visit by Washington Supreme Court justices, a mock law school class, roundtable discussions with leaders of minority bar associations, and modules that provide helpful information to demystify the application process and the law school experience. Students may also visit one of the Washington law schools. A shorter, follow-up program component will take place in October.

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.

For additional background information, visit: https://law.seattleu.edu/about/newscenter/all-current-stories/partnership-seeks-to-create-a-pipeline-of-latinx-and-indigenous-students-from-heritage-university-to-law-school.html

Media are invited to report on the first day of the LSAC PLUS Program, with opportunities to interview students, instructors and program coordinators during a break scheduled for 4:30 p.m. For more information, contact Davidson Mance, Heritage University media relations coordinator, at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.

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This project received funding from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). The opinions and conclusions contained in this document are the opinions and conclusions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of LSAC.

Heritage University’s Annual Scholarship Fundraiser raises $723,085 in return to in-person event

Heritage University students hold placards to reveal $723,085 as the amount raised during the 36th Annual Bounty of the Valley Gathering for Scholarships and Paddle Raise held at the Heritage University campus in Toppenish, Wash. on June 4, 2022.

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Heritage University’s annual “Bounty of the Valley” Scholarship Dinner returns as an in-person event, raises $723,085 for student scholarships

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University’s 36th annual Bounty of the Valley Gathering for Scholarships, held this past weekend, brought in $723,085 during the event. The premier fundraiser for student scholarships at Heritage returned as an in-person event following two years of being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was also live-streamed for those who wished to attend remotely.

This year the Bounty of the Valley featured hosts, Alex Vera and Gerardo Ruelas, two Heritage alumni and Valley natives who have gone onto much success in their careers at Costco Wholesale in the company’s headquarters in Issaquah, Wash.

Heritage University alumna Yuli Guzman, who recently graduated from Heritage with a B.A. in social work, served as student speaker. Guzman graduated from Davis High School in 2018. She’s completed practicum experiences at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, Comprehensive Healthcare, the Yakima Police Department and the Central Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Her future plans include attending graduate school to earn a Master of Social Work.

This year marks the first time in three years Heritage celebrated its students and generous donors raised their paddles for scholarships on the university’s campus. Heritage University president Andrew Sund, Ph.D. expressed his gratitude for the many donors, longtime and new, who showed unwavering support for Heritage during the pandemic. “When I think back on the many lessons I learned during the COVID times, one of the most endearing is just how blessed this university and our students are to have the unwavering support of all of you,” said Dr. Sund. “Your commitment to ensuring that higher education remains accessible means our students continued their academic pursuits uninterrupted. Moreover, it means that future generations of Heritage Eagles can count on the university being here in the Yakima Valley when they are ready to enter college.”

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

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Heritage University to hold 40th Commencement at Yakima Valley SunDome May 14, 2022

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Heritage University to hold Class of 2022 Commencement at
Yakima Valley SunDome

Yakima, Wash. – Heritage University will celebrate the Class of 2022 during its 40th Commencement Exercise Saturday, May 14 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 the Tri-Cities campus. Overall, 274 students will earn their degrees at Heritage this year. This will be the first Heritage University commencement ceremony held at the SunDome since 2019.

Representative Debra Lekanoff of the 40th legislative district of Washington state, which includes parts of Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan counties, will be the commencement speaker. Sworn into the Washington State House of Representatives in January 2019, Rep. Lekanoff is the only Native American woman to currently serve in the Legislature. She is Vice-Chair of the House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee and also sits on the Appropriations Committee and the Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.

In addition to serving in the Legislature, Lekanoff served as Governmental Affairs Director for the Swinomish Tribe. With over 20 years of government relations experience, she engages on a variety of issues at the international, federal, tribal, state, and local levels.

Heritage University will present the 2022 Violet Lumley Rau Outstanding Alumnus Award to Courtney Hernandez. Hernandez earned her Master’s in Teaching and her English Language Learner endorsement from Heritage University in 2018. She is currently an English teacher at Davis High School in Yakima. At Davis, she and a colleague reinvigorated the Black Student Union.

Hernandez was recently featured in the Yakima Herald-Republic’s special series “39 Under 39” which recognizes community members under the age of 39 who are making a difference in the Yakima Valley. Courtney helped organize Black Lives Matter rallies over the past two years. She is also a co-founder of Selah Alliance For Equality (S.A.F.E.), which was recently involved in a court battle with the city of Selah to ensure the protection of First Amendment Rights for all Selah citizens. According to the Yakima Herald-Republic, the suit was settled with the city agreeing to diversify its workforce, amend its sign ordinance and put a mural on a city-owned retaining wall that sends the message that all are welcome in the city.

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

The Yakima Valley SunDome is located at 1301 South Fair Ave. in Yakima. Parking is free. Additional information is available online at https://heritage.edu/student-resources/commencement-2022/.

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

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Behavioral Health Grant to fund certificate program at Heritage University

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Heritage University receives a $400,000 grant to fund student scholarships for Behavioral Health Aide Education Program

Toppenish, Wash. – Tribal health workers enrolled in a new Heritage University certificate program to expand their skills will receive scholarships for their two years of study thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health (GCACH). The eight students funded by GCACH will be part of the 10 students selected in the first cohort of the Behavioral Health Education Program and will start classes at Heritage in January 2022.

Maxine Janis, Ed.D, president’s liaison for Native American Affairs at Heritage said the award from GCACH very much aligns with the practice transformation initiatives in health care delivery. The funding will support, through scholarship, students seeking to expand their knowledge capacity in health care and provide quality behavioral health services in their tribal communities. These students will participate in innovative holistic and culturally responsive education approaches which are unique to their respective indigenous communities.  “This award will open the door for training tribal members to become Behavioral Health Aides (BHAs) working closely with Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) to address the mental health crisis experienced by many tribal communities.” said Dr. Janis.

The Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) partnered with Heritage University and Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Wash. to provide funding to develop the curriculum and deliver the two-year BHA Education Program, which will prepare students with the knowledge and skills necessary to be a tribal-based health care provider. Students who complete the program at Heritage will earn a Behavioral Health Aide Certificate, identifying them as a BHA-II. Corey Hodge, the chair of the Department of Social Work at Heritage, said the new certification program offers students a pathway to also earn a bachelor’s degree in social work from Heritage. “The curriculum of the Behavioral Health Education Program falls in line with the philosophy of social work ideals in that the degree empowers students to help others thrive and to overcome challenges,” said Hodge.

The students who complete the certificate programs offered by Heritage and Northwest Indian College must pass the Portland area Community Health Aide Program Certification Board (PACCB) exam. When successful, they will continue their careers as BHAs for their respective tribal health programs in the Pacific Northwest region. For more information, contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@heritage.edu.

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Yakima Valley Partners for Education and Save the Children use digital resources to expand reading opportunities for elementary students

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Yakima Valley Partners for Education and Save the Children work to develop enhanced reading habits in third-graders by providing access to digital books library.

Toppenish, Wash.– Yakima Valley Partners for Education (YVPE) and Save the Children are working to grow the reading skills of third-graders in the lower Yakima Valley by connecting them to digital reading. About 400 students in the Sunnyside, Mabton and Grandview School Districts have received access to the “myON” digital library, a resource with more than 6,000 digital books. Also, students can use a public library provided by Unite for Literacy.

This effort started on November 1, 2021 with literacy outreach rallies in each school district, and focused on the importance of children reading at least 20 minutes a day. “We realize this is a challenging task for many families to accomplish,” said YVPE Director Suzy Diaz. “That is why we are making these additional resources available to encourage student reading in the home with language and narration options to meet their individual needs.”

Jared Lind, director of instructional improvement for the Grandview School District in Grandview, Wash., said not only is this initiative an effort to increase the time students read each day, it prepares them for future learning. “With access to a digital library and an extensive choice of books outside of the school day, students will have the opportunity to establish reading habits that will promote essential skills necessary for school and beyond,” said Lind.

YVPE and Save the Children will monitor use of myON in November and December to track student progress. To reduce possible screen fatigue, users can access narration options in both English and Spanish. For more information, contact David Mance at 509-969-6084 or mance_D@heritage.edu.

About Save the Children

Since its founding more than 100 years ago, Save the Children has changed the lives of more than 1 billion children in the United States and around the world, helping ensure children grow up healthy, educated and safe.

Save the Children is a central program partner, with three Early Learning Coordinators placed in the Grandview School District, serving 150 children locally through home visiting, book bag exchanges, and various food, learning materials, and essential resource distributions. They have also provided catalytic financial and technical investments to help launch this work.

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