Yakima Valley Partners for Education joins United Way of Central Washington to increase access to Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefit


Yakima Valley Partners for Education joins United Way of Central Washington to increase access to Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefit

Toppenish, Wash. – United Way of Central Washington and Yakima Valley Partners for Education (YVPE) will use a grant from the Perigee Fund to help families access Washington state’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit. With help from Grandview-based Taxes-Y-Mas, communities in the Lower Yakima Valley will receive information about the benefit and obtain support through the application process. Almost all Washington workers are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for fathers, mothers and guardians to bond with a newborn.

YVPE is a cradle-to-career initiative in Yakima County supported by Heritage University and funded by Save the Children. Suzy Diaz, director of Collective Impact at Heritage University, believes the grant from Perigee will help spread the word about the importance for parents and guardians to use the Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit to bond with their children. “Quality bonding time is essential in the development of healthy families and healthier communities,” said Diaz. “Time to bond and be present with a loved one includes not missing out on precious developmental milestones.”

United Way of Central Washington has a long-standing relationship with employers throughout Yakima County and believes improving employee access to Paid Family and Medical Leave can benefit a company through worker retention and satisfaction. “It is important for individuals to know and utilize Paid Family and Medical Leave because so many families are forced to make impossible choices between their financial stability and their families. Paid Family and Medical Leave gives working individuals the time to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one or recover from one’s serious condition,” said United Way of Central Washington President & CEO Neiri Carrasco.

Olivia Gutierrez and Francisco Vazquez, owners of Taxes Y Mas in Toppenish and Grandview, are long time community and family advocates as well as small business advisors. During this tax season, they will be distributing information about the Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit to thousands of households in the Lower Valley. “Families express relief for the ability to focus on having their newborn, and the excitement they have for the opportunity to bond with their baby,” said Gutierrez.

For more information, contact Jamie Shores at jamie@uwcw.org or Suzy Diaz, director of Collective Impact, at diaz_s@heritage.edu. For complete program information visit www.momentsearned.org.


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Heritage University and Yakima Chief Hops celebrate completion of CHIEF ACADEMY management training program by front-line employees

Chief Academy organizers from left to right:Monica Sanchez, John Reeves, Steve Carpenter, Salvador Benitez, Charles Wheaton Ph.D, Erica Tait, Howard Allred, Cesar Silva, Ryan Hopkins


Heritage University and Yakima Chief Hops celebrate completion of CHIEF ACADEMY management training program by front-line employees

Yakima, Wash. – Heritage University and Yakima Chief Hops (YCH) are celebrating the completion of the first-ever CHIEF ACADEMY management training program by YCH employees. YCH partnered with Heritage@Work, the university’s workforce training and development division to deliver the program that, when completed, earned 16 full time employees a Management Training certification.

CHIEF ACADEMY at YCH consisted of workshops that covered five essential topics determined to be of high importance to the company. They included:

  1. The Art of Communication – a business writing and communication workshop which offered tips on improving existing skills as well as preparing participants for public speaking.
  2. Putting Humanity into Human Resources – a highly-interactive workshop covering the important basics of human resources with role-playing activities.
  3. Data Science – a workshop that helps those in company leadership roles understand the importance of data analytics by identifying, interpreting and summarizing data.
  4. Business Finance – a workshop to help employees understand financial drivers and strategic objectives and realize the connection between strategy and financial success.
  5. The Book of Leadership – a workshop where employees learn the attributes of a leader, the difference between management skills and leadership skills, and what it means to be a leader at YCH.

Experts from each field taught the workshops at the company’s Headquarters in Yakima, Wash. from October through December 2020.  Ryan Hopkins, chief executive officer at YCH, said the curriculum developed by himself, Chief Human Resources Officer Lisa Garcia, and Heritage University will equip participants with the training, skills, knowledge, and tools to enhance some already skilled managers and leaders within the company. “As a company that is 100% grower owned, YCH is built on the philosophies of continuous improvement and empowering employees.  The CHIEF ACADEMY is a proud example of hop growers working with a great local university to empower our employees and in turn empower great leaders within our community.”

John Reeves, director of Heritage@Work, said the curriculum developed for CHIEF ACADEMY is the result of a deep and thorough understanding of the company’s needs. “Our team worked with YCH leaders to learn where they wanted to see their employees grow, and tailored specific curriculum designed to teach those skills,” said Reeves. He went on to explain that companies who “grow their own” as Ryan Hopkins referred to the training, have one of the best ways to hold onto great employees. “It is an investment, but businesses who empower their employees to grow their careers, get to hold onto good people.”

For more information, please contact Heritage University Media Relations Coordinator Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu or Yakima Chief Hops Global Communications Manager Cait Schut at (916) 690-4379 or cait.schut@yakimachief.com.

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Heritage University names new director of Student Life and Engagement


Heritage University names a new director of Student Life and Engagement

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is proud to announce the selection of Isaias Guerrero as the university’s new director of Student Life and Engagement. Guerrero, who was already a staff member at Heritage, and who is a graduate of Heritage, moves to Student Life from the TRIO/Student Support Services department following an exhaustive search which determined the best candidate for the role was already close to home.

Isaias Guerrero, director of Student Life and Engagement at Heritage University

As director of Student Life and Engagement, Guerrero will be responsible for providing support services for the campus student community through events and group activities designed to engage students by promoting participation, service and leadership.

Dr. Melissa Hill, vice president for Student Affairs at Heritage, is thrilled with the committee’s selection of Guerrero. “Isaias brings a wealth of knowledge to the Student Life department, not only with his work through TRIO but his firsthand experience as an alumnus,” said Hill. “He’s been there as a student and knows what it takes to engage students and create positive experiences for students during their time at Heritage.”

Guerrero said the mentorship and guidance he received at Heritage University helped him succeed as a first-generation college student. “The guidance I received in navigating college was so important to my success because I had no one to relate to at home,” he said. “Heritage became a sanctuary of learning for me. Every day I stepped onto campus was a new adventure. I was excited to see my friends and challenge myself in the classroom. This was possible through my involvement with various campus activities. I want to provide these same opportunities to other students.”

As a student, Guerrero was selected to participate in the Act Six scholarship and leadership program which prepares students to become community leaders. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from the university in 2019 and began working for TRIO at Heritage as a retention specialist that same year. Guerrero started his new role as director of Student Life and Engagement on January 21, 2021. Guerrero is studying for his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership with a focus in Student Affairs.

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

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Yakima Valley Partners for Education receive grants to help families impacted by food insecurity


Yakima Valley Partners for Education receives grants to help Lower Valley families struggling with food insecurity

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University’s collective impact initiative known as Yakima Valley Partners for Education (YVPE) has received $34,000 in grants to help Lower Yakima Valley families struggling with food insecurity due to the ongoing pandemic.

Eva Lujan of Latino Community Fund, Forbes Mercy of Washington Broadband and Micaela Razo, also of Latino Community Fund, hold check donations.

YVPE received a $15,000 grant from Save the Children to purchase grocery gift cards for families struggling with food insecurity, and this grant was matched by Latino Community Fund at $15,000. YVPE also partnered with Fiesta Foods which provided $3,000 and grocery cards, with Washington Broadband’s Forbes Mercy also contributing $1,000. These grants allowed YVPE to provide more than 600 grocery gift cards for families in need.

Bryan Ketcham, director of Catholic Charities Housing Services in Yakima, says nearly 90 families living in their housing sites in Wapato and Sunnyside are able to feed their loved ones because of YVPE’s efforts. “During this time of the year and with the current pandemic we have seen a significant increase in the level of need amongst our residents,” said Ketcham. “Paying for their rent, utilities and access to food and other emergency services have been among the highest of priorities and needs that our staff has been helping our residents to access. We are grateful for YVPE’s generosity.”

Luis Alberto Moreno, of Fiesta Foods, Eva Lujan and Micaela Razo of Latino Community Fund, and Alexis Magallon, also of Fiesta Foods, hold grocery gift cards.

Micaela Razo, program director at Latino Community Fund says she is humbled to work within the community to be a voice and resource to the most in need during the pandemic. “We continue to hear the need and work effectively to network with multiple organizations, school districts and businesses to bring relief to the families in need,” said Razo, “Our goal is to make sure we can be a beacon of light in time of darkness to our community. Together we can do more for each other.”

Distribution of the grocery gift cards made possible through these grants began last month in time to help families during the holidays, and will wrap up later this month. For more information, contact Suzy Diaz, Heritage University Collective Impact director at diaz_s@heritage.edu or (509) 480-9354.



Heritage University and Behavior & Law Corp. sign collaboration agreement to deliver behavioral sciences training courses in the United States

Heritage University and Behavior & Law Corp. sign collaboration agreement to deliver behavioral sciences training courses in the United States


Heritage University and Behavior & Law Corp., one of the leading online training companies in Europe and Latin America, have signed a collaboration agreement to expand Behavior & Law training courses in the United States.

Heritage, an accredited, private, nonprofit university, located in Toppenish, Washington, was founded in 1982 to improve societal progress through education; empowering a multi-cultural and inclusive student body to overcome the social, cultural, economic, and geographic barriers that limit access to higher education.  Located on the homelands of Yakama Nation, the University embraces transformational student-centered education that cultivates leadership and a commitment to the promotion of a more just society.  Heritage offers more than 40 undergraduate and graduate degree programs and boasts more than 10,000 alumni.

Behavior & Law was created in 2010 as an entity specializing in the training, scientific research, and dissemination of Behavioral and Forensic Sciences. Behavior & Law utilizes participative and innovative teaching methodology to ensure student learning in a virtual setting.

With headquarters in Florida (USA) and Madrid (Spain), Behavior & Law collaborates with various public and private entities around the world, including universities and different state security forces to develop the most up-to-date curricula and effective teaching methods. They are experts in Behavioral Science Training (Profiling and Forensic Science, Negotiation, Non-Verbal Communication, and Behavioral Economics) and its application. Their goal is to train qualified professionals that lead to improved working conditions and overall job satisfaction in their professional environments.

Behavior & Law, like Heritage, has a marked social justice mission, dedicated to a more just and safe society.  Their work is guided by three main pillars: scientific research, training, and dissemination of behavioral sciences.

Heritage and Behavior & Law are beginning their collaboration to provide continuing education in behavioral sciences. They are currently working on the implementation of online training programs that will be offered in both Spanish and English in the United States through the Heritage Workforce Development unit.

For more information, please contact David Wise at (414) 788-0686 or wise_d@heritage.edu or Silvestre Cabezas, Marketing and Communication Manager at  (786) 533-3069 or cabezas@behaviorandlaw.com

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Heritage University to safely reopen campus for classes for the fall 2020 semester


Heritage University to partially reopen campus for classes for the fall 2020 semester

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University President Dr. Andrew Sund announced a plan to partially reopen campus for fall 2020 semester classes, at the main campus in Toppenish and its regional site at Columbia Basin College (CBC) in the Tri-Cities. Dr. Sund said one of the developments that led to this decision is Washington State governor Jay Inslee’s proclamation allowing colleges and universities to reopen. Sund also said Yakima County’s recent progress in containing the spread of the virus, resulting in its classification in Phase 1.5, is another reason for the partial reopening.

Dr. Sund said there is another set of circumstances for Heritage students that require a campus presence. “Heritage exists to serve students who face difficulties accessing higher education for various reasons, one of which is that they want to stay in this wonderful valley we call home. However, many students do not have the conditions in their homes to conduct significant academic work. Internet connectivity is unreliable and space is limited – especially if they have siblings in the home all of whom need quiet study space and access to high-speed Internet,” Sund said. “For them, access to higher education means coming to campus.”

Under Heritage’s safe reopening plan approved by the Yakima Health District, many courses will offer a combination of face-to-face instruction as well as remote learning. When on campus, steps will be taken to ensure that class sizes are kept small to allow for safe social distancing. In many cases, classes will be divided into subsections where one group comes to class and the other learns online one day, and then the groups switch for the next day. Students will also determine their ability to come to campus based on health-related concerns for themselves and their family members.

The majority of student support activities will be offered online. However, students who want in-person tutoring at the university’s Academic Skills Center will be accommodated by setting up Plexiglas dividers between the tutor and student.

Dr. Sund said every precaution will be taken to ensure the safety of all students, faculty and staff while on campus. “While we recognize that it is important to open our campus for instruction because of the needs of our students, we must do so while following the strictest safety protocols,” Sund said. Other protocols include the requiring of wearing facemasks at all times and the constant cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing of classrooms and other locations in use.

“Above all else, we must continue to lead with our mission, always acting in the best interest of our students across all aspects of their beings, their health and safety and their determination to continue to move forward with their lives and education,” said Sund.

More details on the safe opening plan can be found at heritage.edu/coronavirus.

To request an interview, please contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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Mabton School District receives $5,000 grant from Yakima Valley Partners for Education to help students impacted by Covid-19

Mabton School District receives $5,000 grant from Yakima Valley Partners for Education to help students impacted by Covid-19

Toppenish, Wash. – The Mabton School District has received a $5,000 grant from Yakima Valley Partners for Education (YVPE) to help 850 students impacted by the coronavirus. The district will use the money for school supply kits that will be distributed to students through its school meal distribution program which delivers more than 6,000 meals to kids at 73 locations across the district.

Dr. Joey Castilleja, the superintendent of the Mabton School District said his district was hard hit by school closures due to the virus. “Without a lot of notice, we were all suddenly expected to attend and teach school online. Families were just not ready for such an endeavor. Things as simple as scissors and glue sticks are basic school supplies that kids now need at home. These supplies mean a lot to our kids,” said Castilleja. “By providing students with the tools they need to complete their school assignments, they have one less barrier to overcome due to Covid-19.”

Save the Children secured $2,500 and obtained a matching grant from First Book, a non-profit based in Washington D.C. for a total of $5,000 for the kits. Save the Children is one of the more than a dozen partners of YVPE, a coalition formed by Heritage University to address the challenges of educational attainment faced by communities in Yakima County across the cradle-to-career continuum. This collaborative approach is known as Collective Impact and is already showing promise in the lower Yakima Valley.

Save the Children, which operates in more than 200 rural communities across 13 states, joined YVPE through its partnership with the Grandview School District. In Grandview, Save the Children offers its “Early Steps to School Success” home-visiting program to children ages three years old and younger and their parents. Save the Children, a national leader in early childhood education, has leveraged its resources in support of children and families throughout the lower Yakima Valley.

For more information, contact Suzy Diaz, Heritage University – Collective Impact Director at Diaz_S@Heritage.edu or (509) 480-9354.

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