Tag Archive for: Graduation

From Teen Mom to College Grad

Nansi Iniguez holds her daughter during a recent video recording session at Heritage University.


Sometimes the greatest blessings come from moments of uncertainty. It is a truth that recent Heritage graduate Nansi Iniguez knows well. After all, her path from high school student to college graduate wasn’t an easy straight line. It was more like a magical labyrinth where dead ends morphed into doorways as opportunities melted away obstacles that blocked her path.

Iniguez is the second of four siblings. The only sister in a close-knit family. Her parents are farmworkers who immigrated to the United States from Mexico to California before moving to the Yakima Valley. Growing up, Iniguez and her older brother sometimes work alongside her parents in the fields. Her parents would tell them about how they came to America so their children could have a better life and how education was the key to accessing a world of opportunities.

“My brother and I are pretty close in age, and we were very competitive,” said Iniguez. “We both excelled in school. When we thought about our future, there was no question that we would go to college after graduating.”

While college was expected, exactly how the two would get there wasn’t quite as certain. The family’s modest means didn’t leave a lot of money available to pay for tuition and books. A Washington state program that gives high-achieving students the chance to earn college credits for free while completing their high school education was one solution. Iniguez enrolled in the University of Washington’s University in the High School program and completed several credit-bearing math and English courses before graduating.

The second solution was scholarships.

“I still have flashbacks to the conversations we had with my parents encouraging us to get good grades in school so we could get scholarships. They always talked about how tiring their jobs were but that they couldn’t stop because they had to send not one of us to college but both. They wanted to provide us both with the opportunity to thrive and be educated, but they knew it was an expensive route. One thing that they taught us was a strong work ethic and perseverance, so I applied that to the search for scholarships. I spent months planning and preparing scholarship applications.”

Iniguez was doing all she could to set herself up for a successful transition from high school student to college co-ed when she got the news that jeopardized all her plans. The 18-year-old high school senior was going to be a mommy. She hit the first wall in the labyrinth.

“I thought, ‘ok, this is it. No college for me,'” she said. “There is so much pressure on teen moms, so much doubt. I felt like I had failed everyone, my parents, siblings, and community.

“The funny thing is it was around the same time I was breaking the news about my pregnancy to my parents that I got the call that I was being awarded the Sinegal Scholarship.”

Just like that, the roadblock in the labyrinth disappeared, and a new pathway opened.

Nansi Iniguez poses for a picture with Heritage University President Dr. Andrew Sund during the 40th annual Heritage University Commencement held May 14, 2022 at the Yakima Valley SunDome in Yakima, Wash.

One of the scholarships that Iniguez had applied for several months prior was the Sinegal Family Foundation Scholarship. This full-tuition award pays for up to four years of study pursuant to a bachelor’s degree at Heritage.

Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal and his wife Jan established the scholarship in 2018. Iniguez was one of five students selected as part of the second cohort of scholars. Since its foundation, 19 students have attended Heritage on this scholarship. The fifth cohort of Sinegal Scholars is slated to begin their course of study in the fall.

“It was such an overwhelming experience,” said Iniguez. “They saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself at that moment. They were part of the community of people who helped me get back on track to pursue my dream.”

Iniguez enrolled at Heritage and declared psychology as her major. Her daughter Clarissa was born a little more than a month before starting her freshman year. It took a bit of juggling and a lot of support from her family, but when classes began that fall, Iniguez was there. She enrolled full- time taking five classes that semester, and earned an A in every one of them. In January, when spring semester started, Iniguez was back in the classroom.

Then in March, the labyrinth shifted again when COVID brought in-person learning to a screeching halt, and everything moved online. The change was more of a blessing than a curse for Iniguez. She was in the middle of the tug- a-war that plays on every working mother’s heart—dividing her attention between caring for her baby and taking care of business, or in her case, going to school.

“Most of the time, sacrificed time with my daughter to focus on exams, studying and homework. I would put her to bed and stay up until 2:00 in the morning to work. Or, I would wake up at 5:00 a.m. to get ahead on work,” said Iniguez. “The advantage of being online was that most of the time, the course work was already posted. We just had to learn, apply and work through it on our own schedule. I would wake up earlier than Clarissa and do hours of work. Then, I could make time for her during the day.”

Iniguez thrived in this online environment. She earned a perfect 4.0-grade-point average every semester. When she graduated in May, she was one of 19 students to receive the Board of Director’s Excellence Award, which is presented to undergraduates who earned a 4.0 every semester throughout their study at Heritage.

During the summers, when she wasn’t in school, Iniguez worked in the fields to earn and save money to help her and her husband make it through the rest of the year. The work is hard—it’s physically grueling laboring for long hours in the Central Washington heat. Before the summer between her junior and senior years, she decided she needed to find another option. She sent a message to her professor, Amy Nusbaum, to see if she knew of anyone who was hiring. Nusbaum sent her several leads; among them was a position working as a bilingual screener with the Northwest Justice Project. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Iniguez’s career goal at that time was to become an attorney. The job would give her some experience in the legal field.

Moreover, the position required the employee to work remotely from home. Iniguez could work and be home with her child, plus she could work her class schedule around her job schedule. She applied for the position, was hired and started the job in June 2021.

The blessing of the job led to yet another shift in her pathway. Hearing the stories from the people who called the eviction hotline she worked, plus the insight that comes from being a mother, got her thinking about how she can make a bigger impact on her community.

“I want to be more hands-on with people and have a more direct impact. Perhaps working with children in the schools as a psychologist,” said Iniguez.

For now, she said, that decision can wait. The number of calls on the eviction hotline she monitors is so high that her temporary position is now permanent. She plans to stay with the Northwest Justice Project for a few more years until her daughter starts school. Then she wants to return to school to earn a master’s degree.

If there is one thing that Iniguez’s journey through college taught her, it’s that no matter what surprises life has in store, the path she is on will inevitably shift. The opportunities that come from the twists and turns will be magical and take her exactly where she is meant to be. page17image35220448

Congratulations Class of 2022



Social Science
Jacqueline Garcia-Hernandez


American Indian Studies
Ida Velvet Shock •

Amarilis Mariflor Santiago

Business Administration
Gissell Aguilar
Juan Diego Aguilar
Maritza Alvarez Herrera
Latonia Andy ‘Káyx Wawkikuk’
Alonso Anthony Arroyo
Arturo Ayala
Diana Borges
Leslie Castillo
Joseph Cochran
Sandra Feria
Gissel Garcia Silva
Roman Garcia
Raul Gurrola
Alondra Belen Guzman
Jalisa Lopez
Tania Lopez
Edgar Maranon
Victor Manuel Monreal
Priscilla Montiel Sanchez
Tanya Rae Peters
Juan Manuel Quintero Macias, Jr.
Fatima V. Regla
Pablo Gerardo Vera Rivera

Criminal Justice
Emillo C. Avila
Raven Curtis Bolen
Briseida Carbajal-Prudencio
Dalia Chavez
Artemio Flores
Francisco Juan Gonzalez
Alejandra Gonzalez Herrera
Richard Henry Hazenberg
Sydney Lee Hill
Alicia G. Ibarra
Karina Padilla
Oscar Ponce
Jennifer Ramos
Kayla Hope Renschen
Dustin Michael Rogers
Yenifer Samantha Ruelas
Abigail Santos
Jerrilyn Stevens
Thalia Crystal Zamora

Yosi Barajas
Shannon M. Ozog
Lupe Rosales

Environmental Studies
Alexander Martinez Chavez
Dehlia Darlene Wolftail

Jami Lynn Hanks
Hunter Michael Jacob
Shaina Marie Longee
Elena Danielle Maltos
Carolina Moran

Information Technology
Manuel Anaya

Interdisciplinary Contract
April Cristine Wimble

Nelson R. Avila-Mendoza
Heather Kay Chronister
Sonia Guerrero
Audrey Igiraneza
Nansi Banessa Iniguez
Norma Imelda Manzanarez
Liliana Marquez
Elizabeth Orozco
Fredis C. Ramirez
Katia Sanchez Gutuerrez
Monserrat Torres-Becerril


Elementary Education
Lorena Alvarez
Andrea G. Barajas
Molly Elizabeth Baylor
Jennifer Bacerra
Faith Linnae Bold
Jasmine Castillo
Salvador Kale Cobar
Gustavo Arturo Contreras
Richard J. Corona
Joliana Alexandria Correa
Oscar Daniel Curiel
Esperanza Arely Delgado
Laura Yetsy Delgado
Mayra Yanet Delgado
Kassandra Lynn Espada
Bianca Lucero Gonzalez Estrada
Denise Guzman
Kyrsten Joelle Harris
Karely Jaime
Janeli Miranda Llamas
Armando Aranda Lopez
Freddy Omar Martinez
Leidy Martinez
Chantal Mejia
Elizabeth Carole Grover
Brenda Guadarrama-Cervantes
Silvia Guendulein Cruz
Angela N. Guerrero
Yazmine Alexiz Guido
Cecilia Joanna Guillen
Yuli Guzman Palacios
Tayler Lee Hill
Tasia Rai Hoptowit
Melissa Sue Kelly
Veronica Lopez
Gabriela Madrigal
Guadalupe Magallan
Kimberly Guadalupe Magana
Edward Martinez
Ariana Annett Martinez-Saldana
Kathleen Marie McIntosh
Angeles Olvera
Fernanda Yaeli Ortiz
Joaquin Padilla
Rebecca Pendell (Guizar)
Julia Faye Polk
Maria Santos Quezada Antunez
Inari Marie Raines
Edith Ramirez
Ramon Razo
Marely Rivera Morales
Andrea Marlene Robertson
Jocelyn Robles
Elizabeth Rachel Rodriguez
Jasmine Nicole Romero
Janele Arianna Rosales
Alondra Ruiz
Sharla M. Sloppy
April Elisa Smith
Diosalen Valdez
Christian Lili Valladares
Citlaly Mairely Villegas-Gil
Ashley Whitefoot-Erickson
Cambrie Ann Nechanicky
Daydrian Noyola
Ana Laura Olivares
Turquesa Paz
Rylee Malyn Pickel
Zaida Editt Ramirez
Yessica Regis-Vega
Ashley Elizabeth Rodriguez
Lidsey Rae Rodriguez
Veronica Rodriguez Mendoza
Nayeli Sabalsa
Laura Sandoval
Katelyn Marie Schell
Dane Craver Small
Alexander Marie Veloz
Eimeeli Yoselin Villa Farias
Nicole Zavala

Middle-Level Education
Jennifer Guadalupe Castaneda
Kely Reyes
Jacqueline Tlatelpa


Ryan M. Akers
Yarizza Alvarez
Sandra Canales
Alexandra Marie Davey
Omar Diaz
Carlos Daniel Iraheta
Tina Marie Janes
Herlinda Yakelin Montemayor
Kendra Jean Nies
Pdeh Wah Paw
Joanna Perez Espinoza
Mitzi Doraly Ramirez Deniz
Diana Iris Rios
Sara Gabriela Sanchez
April Renee Shelden

Antonio Franco
Reina Margarita Luna
Marissa Mendoza
Stephanie Rabanales
Alfredo Reyes
Karly Beth Serrano
Daniela Alejandra Solis
Yoana Torres
Rudy Velasquez
Alondra Zaragoza-Mendoza

Computer Science
Alvaro Diaz
Enrique Martinez

Environmental Science
Xavier Martinez Chavez
Orlando Pelcastre


Brisel Aurora Acuna
Jennifer Rose Cantu
Roma Galitea Cantu
Marlene Castillo
Quincey Marie Christenson
Heather Sue DeLozier
McKenzie Danielle Durand
Taylor Nicole Ebbelaar
Leticia Garcia
Luis Fernando Garcia
Tashae J. Gomez-Jones
Kaylyn E. Gunnier
Elisa Mariscal
Andrea Martinez-Santiago
Kailyn McKenzie Mendez
Payton Angelica Moore
Camryn Elise Newell
Dennise Quebrado Martin
Viviana Belen Rico
Alayna Faith Vanover
Alexis N. Wolfley


Social Work
Valerie Aispuro
Carina Alvarez Barajas
Brissi Alvarez Delgado
Yamilet Aquino Prado
Victoria Barajas
Tiffany Ann Barney
Crystal Bednarski
Elizabeth Desiree Belieu
Lynette Renee Brewer
Amanda Marie Brown
Yesenia Cardenas
Bianca Elizabeth De Trinidad Chavez
Elida Alejandra Chavez
Deanna Candice Chief
Elizabeth Cisneros
Erica Gabriela Diaz
Tania Dominguez Hernandez
Sophie Larraine Elwell
Alejandra Estrada
Zinai Farias
Sylvia Angelica Flores
Rachael Marie Gale
Javier Manuel Galindo
Yunuenn Jimena Garcia
Dominic Garza
Briseida Gonzalez
Gladys Leslie Gonzalez Lopez
Veronica Gonzalez
Elizabeth Carole Grover
Brenda Guadarrama-Cervantes
Silvia Guendulein Cruz
Angela N. Guerrero
Yazmine Alexiz Guido
Cecilia Joanna Guillen
Yuri Guzman Palacios
Tayler Lee Hill
Tasia Rai Hoptowit
Melissa Sue Kelly
Veronica Lopez
Gabriela Madrigal
Guadalupe Magallan
Kimberly Guadalupe Magana
Edward Martinez
Ariana Annett Martinez-Saldana
Kathleen Marie McIntosh
Angeles Olvera
Fernanda Yaeli Ortiz
Joaquin Padilla
Rebecca Pendell (Guizar)
Julia Faye Polk
Maria Santos Quezada Antunez
Inari Marie Raines
Edith Ramirez
Ramon Razo
Marely Rivera Morales
Andrea Marlene Robertson
Jocelyn Robles
Elizabeth Rachel Rodriguez
Jasmine Nicole Romero
Janele Arianna Rosales
Alondra Ruiz
Sharla M. Sloppy
April Elisa Smith
Diosalen Valdez
Christian Lili Valladares
Citlaly Mairely Villegas-Gil
Ashley Whitefoot-Erickson


Elementary Education
Sina Ari Bigelow
Jeremiah Lee Jordan
Steffanie Cecilia Mata
Cassandra Marie Rodriguez

Elementary Education Specialization in Bilingual Education
Cecilia Cardenas-Tellez
Zane Tyler Dellinger
Ingrid Adelaida Gallegos
Yaritza Morales Erika Sanchez

Elementary Education Specialization in English Language Learners
Christopher James Howell
Joyce M. Johnson
Rosalina Guadalupe Martinez
Monica Selene Neri
Melissa Ramirez

Elementary Education Specialization in Special Education
Saul Anton Arambul
Savanna M. Barrera
Grace Jessica Brewer
Jessica Maria Caballero
Antonio Camposeco
Gabriela Clara
Kody Levi Dotson
Karla Jean Flores
Rita Isabel Gonzalez
Lisa Marie Henson
Daicee Raylene Humphrey
Kayla Christine Johnson
Kylie Desiree Salgado Lopez
Shaina Mumtaz Mirza
Rachel Marie Pinkerton
Jasmin T. RiveraMaricruz Sauceda
Cassandra Saucedo
Shawn Leonard Scabby Robe
Laura Mae Smith


Multicultural English Literature & Language
Marla Allsopp
Debra Ann Hall
SaraBecca Martin
Michael McNeill-Martinez
Trenton Carl Mendelson


Educational Administration (Principal)
Guadalupe Garibay
Mary JoAnn Nelson

Inclusive Education
Josefina Martinez Chavez
Marinella Alexis Chvatal
Noemi Reyes Tule page15image35206144

Simply Unstoppable!

Commencement is always a joyous occasion for Heritage University students and their families. This year it was doubly so. It was the first time in three years that the event took place in person and as scheduled.

All totaled, 274 students graduated with bachelor’s or master’s degrees from Heritage during the 2021/22 academic year. The majority of these graduates celebrated their accomplishments with friends and families at the 40th Annual Commencement held at the Yakima Valley SunDome.

“Our students displayed remarkable grit and dedication to their education during unprecedented difficulties,” said Dr. Kazuhiro Sonoda, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “They could have given up or said they would take time off from school until things got back to normal, but they didn’t. They shifted gears and doubled down on their studies because their education was a priority. Their work ethic and tenacity is an inspiration to us all.”

This year’s keynote address was presented by Washington state Representative Debra Lekanoff of the 40th legislative district, which includes parts of Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan counties. Sworn into the Washington State House of Representatives in January 2019, Rep. Lekanoff is the only Native American woman currently serving in the Legislature. She is Vice-Chair of the House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee and sits on the Appropriations Committee and the Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.

In addition to Lekanoff’s address, two graduating students gave their remarks. Ashley Whitefoot-Erickson (B.S.W., Social Work) presented the baccalaureate student address and Monica Neri (M.I.T., Elementary Education) gave the master’s degree student address.

Twenty students and one alumna were recognized with special awards during the event. Courtney Hernandez (M.I.T., 2018) received the Violet Lumley Rau Alumna of the Year award. Karly Beth Serrano, Biology, received the President’s Council Award of Distinction, which is presented to a graduate with both an exceptional academic record as well as a history of service to the campus community. The Board of Directors Academic Excellence Award, which goes to students who graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA, was presented to 19 graduates. This year’s recipients were: Sandra Feria, Business Administration; Shannon Ozog, English; Nansi Iniguez, Psychology; Norma Manzanarez, Psychology; Mayra Delgado, Education; Richard Corona, Education; Turquesa Paz, Education; Faith Bold, Education; Valerie Aispuro, Social Work; Joaquin Padilla, Social Work; Melissa Kelly, Social Work; Silvia Guendulein, Social Work; Crystal Bednarski, Social Work; Kathleen McIntosh, Social Work; Rachael Gale, Social Work; Yamilet Aquino, Social Work; Veronica Lopez, Social Work; Angela Guerrero, Social Work; and Elizabeth Rodriguez, Social Work. page15image35206144


MLS program graduates 12 new MLS professionals

The Heritage University Medical Laboratory Sciences Program celebrated the accomplishments of the Class of 2018 graduates during a ceremony at HU on August 17, 2018. HU President  Andrew Sund, PhD. congratulated each graduate as their names were called. The graduates welcomed the incoming cohort before the ceremony.

Check out pictures from the ceremony on Facebook.