Life After Graduation, Profiles of Five Graduates
For every Heritage graduate, there is a story of perseverance, determination and unlimited possibilities. Here is a sample of where some of the Class of 2014 are going next:
Olivia Marquez, recipient of the 2014 President’s Award of Distinction, B.S., Biomedical Science
When Olivia Marquez started at Heritage, she knew she wanted to do something in the medical field, but becoming a doctor was the farthest thing from her mind. As she moved through her studies, however, the first flicker of that very idea began to formulate.
“I know that there is a great need for bilingual physicians, especially here in the lower Yakima Valley,” she said. “I was working as an interpreter for doctors and saw that there are a lot of things that just get lost in translation.”
In the fall, Marquez will be one step closer to her goal of becoming a doctor. She was accepted into Heritage’s highly competitive Master of Arts in Medical Science program, which is geared toward helping future medical students bolster their applications for admission into medical school. Now finishing its second year, the program has achieved 75% acceptance of its graduates to medical school. Marquez hopes to be one of those students accepted into Pacific Northwest University of Medical Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine in fall 2015.
“Ultimately I want to stay in the Valley,” she said. “This is where I grew up, and I want to serve my community.”
Meadow Rodriguez, Jr., B.S., Computer Science
Meadow Rodriguez, Jr., B.S., Computer Science
As a student studying computer science, Meadow Rodriguez, Jr., took full advantage of all the opportunities given to him for research, internships and professional networking. He spent a summer helping scientists working to save Columbia River salmon by using computer programs to chart complex mathematical data collected about the river.
He traveled across the United States presenting his research at professional science, technology and engineering conferences. And he shared his skills and knowledge with other students as a mentor and tutor.
All his hard work and dedication paid off. Not only did Rodriguez graduate magna cum laude, but he did so with offers for admission into four computer science graduate programs at three universities: University of Washington, Loyola University in Chicago, and Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
“It feels tremendously good having received so many grad school admission offers,” said Rodriguez. “There was a time when I doubted myself, but Heritage prepared me well and helped me build confidence in myself as a person and as a student.”
After careful consideration, Rodriguez chose to accept the offer from the University of Washington. He will start the Master of Science in Information Management program in the fall.
Haydee Navarro, B.A., Business Administration
Less than a month after graduation, Haydee Navarro is moving to Atlanta, Georgia, where she is starting her business career at AT&T. Navarro was recruited by the Fortune 500 company for its leadership development program. She will spend six months in training before being placed in a manager position at one of the company’s retail locations.
“This is a really great opportunity,” said Navarro. “After two to five years working in their retail environment, I’ll have the chance to advance to a top-level management position at their corporate offices.”
Navarro credits her involvement with the student business organization Enactus for connecting her with AT&T. She served on the Enactus presentation team, was president of the Heritage chapter for two years and participated in many other Enactus projects.
Julie Umtuch, B.S.W., Social Work
Umtuch more than made up for lost time while at Heritage. She was, and continues to be, a Mellon Fellow. Her research focused on the oral historical preservation of elders’ stories, particularly as they relate to Indian boarding schools, and the impact those had on native languages. Her work put her in contact with Native American activist Dennis Banks, who founded the American Indian Movement of the 1960s and 70s. Banks recently enlisted her to help with developing a cross-country, all-Nations, motorcycle run to draw attention to the impact of diabetes on Native peoples.
During her senior year, Umtuch completed her social work practicum at the Yakama Nation Area Agency on Aging. A month before graduating, the agency offered her a renewable monthly contract to assist on a variety of special projects.
“I never graduated from high school, so this was a really big deal for me,” she said about her graduation. “I pushed and pushed my way through. I wanted to show my boys and my nieces that, as old as I am, if I can do it, so can they.”
Gabriela Vargus, B.A., Early Childhood Studies
Gabriela Vargus came to Heritage with the goal of one day working with children. While she initially thought that she would like to become a high school teacher and, eventually, a principal, she soon found her niche in early childhood education.
“I was drawn to early childhood education because it is really in those critical early years that we can give children a solid foundation for academic success,” she said.
Vargus plans to continue to work for the Sunnyside School District, where she is the disciplinary and ASB secretary. She is considering graduate schools with the goal of entering into a school counseling program.
“I think about where I want to go a lot, and, really, I want to stay in this area and serve my community,” she said.