Alumni of the Year
Heritage’s 2013 Violet Lumley Rau Outstanding Undergraduate Alumnus is an educator and social entrepreneur serving the small community of San Francisco de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. Joshua Rousculp (B.A., English/ Certification in Secondary Education, 2005) and his wife felt compelled to build the community’s first public library after a chance encounter with a young college student opened their eyes to how difficult it was for people in the Dominican Republic to access books. In this island country, books are expensive and out of reach for much of the population. Where libraries do exist, books typically cannot be checked out and there are few, if any, non-fiction books for children.
“A library is a place where kids fall in love with books. They grow curious. They ask questions,” said Rousculp. “Their parents are taught strategies to help the kids to read, to become more literate and to become better thinkers.”
In 2012, the Rousculps founded Biblioteca Comunitaria Dr. William House (Dr. William House Community Library) with a collection of 600 donated books, toys and puzzles. Using the Internet to reach potential donors globally, the two started a crowd-source fundraising campaign to raise the money needed to open the library in a public facility. By early this spring, the couple had raised enough to officially open the doors at a location just a few blocks from five different schools.
Rousculp’s work building the library as a resource to improve the collective education of an entire community was the inspiration behind his nomination for the Violet Lumley Rau Outstanding Alumni Award.
“Education is not something that is intended to be hoarded or insulated from others; instead, it should be shared and given away in ways that change and improve lives. Joshua is doing just that in taking education to some of the neediest youth in a community that often goes unnoticed,” said Miguel Puente, dean of Admissions. “I consider Joshua the perfect embodiment of what we would like our students to become.”
Heritage’s 2013 graduate recipient of the Violet Lumley Rau Alumni Award is an educator who is dedicated to his profession and the students he serves. Erich Bolz (M.Ed., 1998) is the Assistant Superintendent of Response to Intervention and Special Programs at Richland School District.
Bolz oversees programs that work with some of the district’s most at-risk kids, those with learning disorders or behavioral problems. It was through this lens that he got involved with the project that led to his recognition as an outstanding alumnus, a community based effort called All Children Exceeding Standards (ACES).
“It has been abundantly clear for some time that where kids start academically is where they finish,” he said while emphasizing the importance of early childhood education.
ACES addresses low academic preparedness in kindergarteners entering school for the first time—an issue impacting school districts across the country. Several years ago the Richland School District took steps to tackle the issue by bringing Head Start and ECEAP preschools onto elementary school campuses. The results have been strong, with preparedness rates rising from 40% to 60% in a few short years. But, says Bolz, more work had to be done to reach the goal of 85%.
Bolz and his team recognized that it would take the focus of the entire community to reach the goal. They formed ACES, a community partnership that brings together parents, childcare providers, community stakeholders and the school district. ACES provides training and resources for preschool and childcare providers to help children build their social and academic skills. The group is now expanding to work with pediatricians on a reading development program in an effort to reach even more kids.
For Heritage University students, Bolz’s work brings with it lessons in professionalism and community leadership. He teaches a graduate-level course at Heritage and participates in research through the initiative One Voice.
“Mr. Bolz is an outstanding educational leader in the state of Washington and his many professional contributions have had national implications,” said Dr. Bob Smart, dean of the College of Education and Psychology. “He consistently brings Heritage to the table, sharing his contacts and his creativity to bring meaningful change to the children of Eastern Washington.”