Heritage University founding president Sister Kathleen Ross and several student groups were among those representing Heritage during the Toppenish Peace March on January 21, 2019. The annual event, now in its ninth year, honored Martin Luther King, Jr. and featured a march, which started in downtown Toppenish and ended at Toppenish Middle School. There, Dr. Ross delivered a keynote speech where she reminded the marchers of Dr. King’s continual efforts to create a just society and the responsibility we each have to do the same. HU student organizations including Student Life, Student Government Association, and MEChA participated in the march.
Sister Kathleen Ross delivers keynote speech at Toppenish MLK event
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Science Olympiad Event Returns to YVC to Test Young Minds’ Collaborative, Competitive Skills
Yakima, WA – Middle school students from throughout Central Washington will once again show off their scientific skills during the 7th annual South Central Washington Science Olympiad (SCWSO) Regional Tournament on Saturday, January 26, 2019.
This isn’t the typical science fair where kids create and show their own separate projects; instead, the Science Olympiad brings together teams of students for group competition. Each team has 15 competing members and will form small groups for each of the 23 competition events. These events include building and testing battery-powered buggies and elastic launched gliders and conducting experiments in chemistry, anatomy and herpetology. The teams with the top overall score will move onto the state competition in April; with the winner of that competition moving on to the national event in May.
“This is an event that teaches kids to collaborate and compete in science projects at the same time,” says Cresanna Zintzun, tournament co-director and adjunct faculty at Heritage University. “It also fosters the study of and engagement in science throughout the year.”
The Science Olympiad is a national program that started more than 30 years ago, and has been held in Washington state for more than two decades. Before 2013, teams from Central Washington had to travel to Spokane or Western Washington to compete. The event is being presented jointly by the three Yakima Valley colleges and universities: Heritage University, Yakima Valley College (YVC) and Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences (PNWU).
“In more than 20 STEM-related events, middle school students from central WA will test their creativity, preparation and knowledge at the 7th annual SCWSO tournament. We expect a day of big achievements for small scientists in the making,” said Matthew Loeser, president of the SCWSO board of directors and a YVC biology instructor.
The Science Olympiad State Organization awarded $1,000 towards the regional tournament at YVC, which will be held in Glenn Anthon Hall from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Teams from schools in the Yakima, West Valley and Kennewick school districts as well as a private school in Yakima are expected to participate.
You can learn more about Science Olympiad online at www.washingtonscienceolympiad.com.
For more information, contact:
Matthew Loeser, (509) 574-4858 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Diana Rhodes, (509) 249-7737 or email@example.com
Cresanna Zintzun, (509) 865-8558 or Zintzun_C@heritage.edu
# # #
Toppenish, Wash. – The following are students who earned a place on the Heritage University Dean’s List for the fall 2018 semester. To qualify for the Dean’s List, students must be full-time, matriculated undergraduates who have earned semester grade point averages of 3.5 or better.
|Marixa Abacara-Perez, Kennewick||Josue Aguilar, Yakima||Gissell Aguilar, Sunnyside|
|Amalia Akagi, yakima||Clarisa Alcala, Buena||Paulina Alcala, Yakima|
|Sonia Allende, Pasco||Danielle Almanza, Granger||Lorena Alvarez, Wapato|
|Yessyca Alvarez, Grandview||Yanett Alvarez, Yakima||Eilee Andujo, Prosser|
|Elizabeth Arellano, Toppenish||Rosalinda Arreola, Toppenish||Alonso Arroyo, Wapato|
|Alejandra Arteaga, Yakima||Emma Avalos, Yakima||Marisol Avila, Toppenish|
|Alexys Ayala, Buena||Maria Ayala, Toppenish||Jeremiah Baker, Toppenish|
|Regina Baker, Toppenish||Michelle Barba, Yakima||Nadine Bare, Kennewick|
|Sabrina Bare, Kennewick||Teresa Barnes, Richland||Elizabeth Benitez, Kennewick|
|Esther Bermudez, Kennewick||Jeanne Blakeman, Pasco||Cristina Blanco, Sunnyside|
|Zaireth Borges Zamora, Yakima||Justin Burke, Yakima||Daisy Bustamante Orduno, Granger|
|Juan Cabrera-Santos, Buena||Jennifer Cantu, Prosser||Roma Cantu, Toppenish|
|Alexandra Cardenas, Toppenish||Brenda Cardona, Mattawa||Janette Cardona, Mattawa|
|Jenny Careaga, West Richland||Delia Castanon, Wapato||Leslie Castillo, Sunnyside|
|Erica Castro, Wapato||Zachary Catron, Wapato||Noelia Causor, Yakima|
|Rosalinda Ceja Navarro, Sunnyside||Jocelyn Celis Torres, Wapato||Jennifer Cervantes, Toppenish|
|Kevin Cervantes, Pasco||Lizbeth Chavez, Pasco||Diana Chavez Cerda, Yakima|
|Ruben Chino Bustamante, Toppenish||Heather Christensen, Richland||Ana Cisneros Chavez, Outlook|
|Shelby Clark, White Swan||Heather Collins, Zillah||Gardenia Contreras-Vazquez, Sunnyside|
|Grace Corning, Benton City||Melissa Correa, Pasco||Esmeralda Correa, Pasco|
|Guadalupe Cortes, Wapato||Kristina Cortez, Moxee||Almarosa Cortez, Wapato|
|Veronica Cruz, Sunnyside||Estefani Cruz, Wapato||Stefany Cuaspud Guevara, Kennewick|
|Kathryn Curtiss, Toppenish||Ashley Davis, Naches||Xavier Day, Toppenish|
|Connie Delacruz, Yakima||Cynthia Deleon, Toppenish||Fatima Delgado, Toppenish|
|Esperanza Delgado, Toppenish||Paige Delp, Yakima||Jesus Diaz, Zillah|
|Keila Diaz, Granger||Irvin Diaz, Yakima||Josue Diaz, Mesa|
|Maria Diaz, Zillah||Rylie Dixon, Kennewick||Amanda Donelson, Kennewick|
|Sara Duran, Wapato||Crecenciana Espinoza, Pasco||Jocelyne Espinoza, Wapato|
|Kaylyn Fairchild, Pasco||Krisana Fernandez, Sunnyside||Flor Fernandez-Mendoza, Mattawa|
|Cristy Fiander, Wapato||Jose Figueroa-Orduno, Grandview||Spencer Fisher, Richland|
|Artemio Flores, Toppenish||Stephanie Flores-landin, Yakima||Hector Franco Velazquez, Granger|
|Anabel Garcia, Pasco||Evelyn Garcia, Wapato||Leticia Garcia, Granger|
|Esmeralda Garcia, Wapato||Rosa Garcia, Kennewick||Victoria Garcia, Pasco|
|Marlenne Garibay, Sunnyside||Anali Garibay, Pasco||Kimberling Garibay, Sunnyside|
|Kimberly Garibay Zapien, Toppenish||Dorothy Garwood, Prosser||Anahi Garza, Richland|
|Delia Garza, Pasco||Lindsy Gatewood, Pasco||Nicole Glatt, Burbank|
|Lesly Gomez, Yakima||Tania Gomez, Pasco||Rhiannon Gonzales, Yakima|
|Diana Gonzalez, Kennewick||Noe Gonzalez, Toppenish||Alfonso Gonzalez-Colin, Yakima|
|Amanda Goodman, Pasco||Heidy Granados Lopez, Kennewick||Ashley Grego, Richland|
|Shelby Groth, Selah||Brenda Guadarrama, Granger||Isaias Guerrero, Outlook|
|Estefania Guerrero Angel, Granger||Yazmine Guido, Yakima||Eva Guizar, Kennewick|
|Alissa Gutierrez, Yakima||Melissa Gutierrez, Granger||Melissa Guzman, Pasco|
|Alexis Guzman, Pasco||Martha Guzman, Yakima||Yuli Guzman, Yakima|
|Kori Haubrich, Sunnyside||Anna Hempel, Kennewick||Mayra Hermosillo, Prosser|
|Elena Hernandez, Wapato||Lizbeth Hernandez, Yakima||Xochitl Hernandez, Pasco|
|Tracie Hicks, Kennewick||Savannah Hill, Wapato||Christina Holland, Kennewick|
|Chaelee Hudson, Yakima||Kasey Hutto, Kennewick||Ricardo Iriarte, Yakima|
|Yasmin Islas Martinez, Yakima||Jason Janovitch, Pasco||Kaneeta Jeffery- Zack, Zillah|
|Samanta Jimenez, Pasco||Miguel Juarez, Yakima||Alondra Juarez, Wapato|
|Ekman Kaur, Kennewick||April Kent, Toppenish||Wendy Kleppin, West Richland|
|Valentyn Konko, Kennewick||Viktoriia Konko, Kennewick||Michael Kummer, Kennewick|
|Rachel LaBelle, Benton city||Maria Lara, Pasco||Maria Lechuga, Wapato|
|Shiraz Lefeber, Pasco||Yovana Leyva Carmona, Wapato||Ilse Leyva Manzanarez, Yakima|
|Idalis Licea, Zillah||Andres Lima Elias, Othello||Mark Litka, Richland|
|Brittany Loeken, Yakima||Yesenia Lopez, Wapato||Maria Lopez, Wapato|
|Elvira Lopez, Toppenish||Yezie Lopez Perez, Yakima||Reina Luna, Wapato|
|Daisy Luna, Wapato||Jeffery Lybbert, Toppenish||Jennifer Macias, Toppenish|
|Claudia Madrigal, Pasco||Yareli Madrigal Luna, Pasco||Marlene Magana, Sunnyside|
|Herminia Magdaleno, Yakima||Edgar Maranon, Wapato||Ana Marquez, Grandview|
|Rosalinda Marquez, Toppenish||Cooper Martin, Yakima||Daisy Martinez, Wapato|
|Natalie Martinez, Sunnyside||Dulce Martinez, Sunnyside||Andrea Martinez-Santiago, Toppenish|
|Christina Mattson, Richland||Stephanie Maybee, Selah||Sara McColloch, Pasco|
|Shaunacy McMurray, Yakima||Ashlee Mearns, Kennewick||Judit Medina, Kennewick|
|David Mejia, Yakima||Stephanie Mendoza, Mabton||Yesenia Mendoza, Mattawa|
|Jazmin Mendoza, Pasco||Daniel Mendoza, Toppenish||Karen Mendoza, Prosser|
|Cassandra Mercado, Pasco||Jheymy Mercado-Covarrubias, Yakima||Rebecca Meza, Sunnyside|
|Celine Michael, Yakima||Jennifer Mitchell, Kennewick||Gladys Monroy, Pasco|
|Priscila Montiel, Yakima||Brenda Montoya-Roman, Yakima||Ana Morales, Toppenish|
|Domitila Morales, Pasco||Lizbeth Morales Perez, Toppenish||Gabriela Moreno, Toppenish|
|Eva Morfin, Kennewick||Kaitlin Morris, Richland||James Muggli, Kennewick|
|Guadalupe Navarro, Sunnyside||Thuan-Thien Nguyen, Pasco||Edith Noriega, Sunnyside|
|Arlene Olea, Sunnyside||Meaghan Oliver, Richland||Rosa Olvera, Pasco|
|Lorena Ornelas, Sunnyside||Esther Osorio, Toppenish||Rebecca Ozuna, Toppenish|
|Karina Padilla, Yakima||Carlos Paniagua, Sunnyside||Mary Pantoja, Yakima|
|Seong Park, Yakima||Shane Parkhurst, Kennewick||Yolanda Penaloza, Mabton|
|Marcelo Penaloza, Toppenish||Ana Perez, Pasco||Hunter Perez, Kennewick|
|Carmen Perez, Grandview||Sabrina Persinger, Pasco||Eric Philipp-Petrick, Yakima|
|Kelsey Picard, Seatac||Diana Picazo Villanueva, Outlook||Allison Platsman, Sunnyside|
|Oscar Ponce, Harrah||Carlos Prado, Yakima||Katherine Priddy, Goldendale|
|Daisy Quinones, White Swan||Laura Quintana, Union Gap||Lezly Quintanilla, Yakima|
|Viridiana Ramirez, Pasco||Briceida Ramos, Grandview||Olivia Ramos Alvarez, Kennewick|
|Lazaro Ramos Aragon, Walla Walla||Rosa Rangel, Wapato||Anyssa Rebollero, Yakima|
|Joshua Rein, Wapato||Shealynn Reuther, Wapato||Alfredo Reyes, Granger|
|Gloria Reyes, Granger||Anitramarina Reyna, Yakima||Andrea Rhode, Zillah|
|Amy Richter, Pendleton||Rosa Rios, Moxee||Abigail Rivera, Zillah|
|Candelaria Rivera, Mabton||Maria Rivera, Yakima||Timothy Roa, Wapato|
|Morgan Roberts, Kennewick||Hunter Roberts, Yakima||Ellie Robins, Selah|
|Eileen Rodriguez, Pasco||Adriana Rodriguez, Kennewick||Andrea Rodriguez, Toppenish|
|Heidy Rodriguez, Wapato||Jesus Rodriguez, Granger||Liliana Roman, Grandview|
|Sarah Romano, Richland||Juan Romero, Zillah||Erika Romero-Vargas, Pasco|
|Dalia Romo Pinon, Sunnyside||Leidy Rosales, Pasco||Eva Rosenow, Kennewick|
|Rosario Ruiz, Yakima||Jose Salcedo, Granger||Renee Saldana, Yakima|
|Mayra Sanchez, Kennewick||Danielle Sauceda, Pasco||Johnathan Schab, Prosser|
|Erika Scheel, Meridian||Margaret Sewell, Yakima||Blaine Shearer, Zillah|
|Jeniya Slutskaya, Kennewick||Gerardo Soto, Zillah||Maria Soto-Galvan, Yakima|
|Hunter Strickland, Richland||Christy Taylor, Othello||Autumn Teegarden, Yakima|
|Destiney Theisen, Kennewick||Stephanie Tolley, Othello||LisaLyn Tormey, Yakima|
|Jose Torres, Outlook||Omar Torres, Sunnyside||Jonay Torres, Pasco|
|Yanet Torres, Zillah||Maribel Torres, Kennewick||James Torres, Grandview|
|Alejandra Treece, Zillah||Anthony Tzib, Prosser||Daisy Vaca, Wapato|
|Victoria Valdez, Toppenish||Cecilia Valdivia, Yakima||Maria Valencia, Toppenish|
|Anakaren Valenzuela, Toppenish||Elizabeth Van Corbach, Sunnyside||Brenda Vasquez, Toppenish|
|Veronica Vigil, Yakima||Maurita Villafan, Toppenish||Julia Villagomez, Toppenish|
|Eva Villalba-Arevalo, Prosser||Maria Villanueva, Yakima||Allyssa Villanueva-Guillen, Grandview|
|Citlaly Villegas, Wapato||Arcelia Virgen, Wapato||Cecilia Vizcaino de la Mora, Yakima|
|Dawn Waheneka, Wapato||Kyle Wandling, Pasco||Mette Warnick, Richland|
|Katie Wentz, WhiteSwan||Shelby White, Burbank||Devin Williams, Kennewick|
|Janae Williams, Kennewick||John Williams, Kennewick||Kaitlyn Wormington, Kennewick|
|Jasmine Yellow Owl, Zillah||Valentin Zaragoza, Zillah||Ruby Zarate, Moxee|
In October, Heritage University formally dedicated the Sister Kathleen Ross snmj Legacy Giving Circle mural with an event as special as the woman for whom it is named. The university and its supporters celebrated those who make up the circle with an afternoon high tea.
The Giving Circle is comprised of individuals who have included Heritage in their planned giving. “The tea was more than a dedication of a wonderful piece of art,” said David Wise, vice president for Marketing and Advancement. “It was the first of a planned annual recognition of our many committed supporters and an opportunity to thank them for their ongoing support.”
The mural design was conceptualized by Heritage visual arts major Carlos Prado, who works part-time in the university’s marketing department. Yakima muralist and fabric artist Deborah Ann developed the final design based on Prado’s initial work, and Ellensburg glass artist Julie Prather created the stained glass apples that bear the names of the Giving Circle members.
You can add your name to the Legacy Giving Circle by simply informing Heritage of your plans to include the university in your estate gift. You can bequeath a range of gifts, from stocks and bonds to IRAs, and also name and direct how your funds will be used. For more details, call (509) 865-8587.
Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) alumni from throughout Washington state traveled to Wapato in September to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the MLS program. The event brought together alums and current Heritage MLS students for an evening of gourmet pizza, craft beers and camaraderie at HopTown Wood Fired Pizza.
“It was a nice opportunity to offer inspiration and guidance to new students,” said alumnus Robert Kinkley.
Plans for the reunion were put in motion by the students, faculty and alums in the MLS program who wanted a way to commemorate the anniversary with a bit of a homecoming. Alumni Connections facilitated the event on their behalf.
“Events like these are a great way to reconnect with friends or to make new friends and professional contacts,” said Anne-Marie VanRiper, Heritage alumni relations coordinator. “You don’t have to wait for Alumni Connections to plan an event near you. We love working with groups to build experiences that meet their needs.”
On a crisp fall Saturday, Heritage University was awash in the sights and sounds of Mexico—girls in brightly colored skirts swirling and swishing to the music of the mariachi, children swinging wooden sticks at piñatas filled with goodies, and food vendors selling piping hot churros
and street tacos. It was the university’s first celebration of El Grito de Dolores, an event of cultural significance for those with cultural ties to Mexico.
El Grito de Dolores, translated to Cry of Dolores, is celebrated annually on September 15 to commemorate the start of the Mexican War of Independence. The war broke out in the early morning hours of September 16, 1810, in the town of Dolores when the Roman Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla organized a forced freeing of jailed revolutionaries, rang the church bell to gather his congregation and called upon them to take up arms for the cause of freedom. What followed was ten years of war against Spain, which ended in 1821 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire.
“Respecting and celebrating cultural diversity is a core value at Heritage that goes back to our founding,” said Dr. Melissa Hill, interim vice president for student affairs. “Many of our students have strong ties to the Mexican culture, whether it is through parents or grandparents who immigrated to the United States from Mexico, or perhaps they themselves immigrated here. Events such as El Grito are opportunities to break down barriers and unite us all as we learn about one another and celebrate our common human experience.”
Heritage’s El Grito de Independencia celebration brought roughly 500 people to campus. The family-friendly event featured Folklorical dancers, piñatas and games for the children, performances by the Central Washington University Mariachi Club, food vendors, and a family movie. The event culminated with the traditional delivery of the El Grito proclamation. El Grito was called out by Diana Maria Oliveros Martinez, a visiting dignitary from the Consulate of Mexico in Seattle.
Video from the event can be seen on Heritage’s YouTube channel, HeritageWithinReach.
Most students graduating in May spend the summer looking for their first big job. Not Sandra Benitez (B.A., Business Administration, 2018). When she graduated last spring, she walked right back into the office where she had interned as a student – now as a full-time employee. Over the last two years, ten other people have done the same thing.
They’re participants in a growing Heritage University business internship program that pairs juniors and seniors with companies looking to not only offer experiential learning for students but to potentially hire them.
Fertile soil, lots of sunshine and a long growing season make Yakima County first in the state for value of
crop and livestock products. Agriculture contributes a whopping $1.2 billion to the local economy. It’s a big number, and it’s growing, said Vicky Swank, business administration professor at Heritage.
“Heritage’s business internship program is growing with it.”
Swank oversees the program, placing students with majors in business administration, finance and accounting with companies that want to give them meaningful working world experience.
A job after graduation isn’t guaranteed but, often job offers are extended. Since the summer of 2017, almost half – 10 out of 22 students – were hired by the employer where they interned.
“From Stadelman Fruits to Yakima Chief Hops to Roy Farms, our students are doing meaningful internships and getting hired,” said Swank.
She said Heritage has recognized a perfect fit between its students and area agriculture companies.
“We have young people who attend Heritage and they want to stay in the Valley because of their families. With the human resource needs in the valley creating incredible opportunities, we strive to provide educational resources to meet these needs.”
For some, such as Heritage junior Alfonso Gonzalez-Colin, the opportunity to enter their careers starts long before graduation. He started what was to be a summer work experience with Stadelman Fruit last June. By the end of the summer, the internship turned into a part- time position in the company’s accounting department. By the time Gonzalez-Colin graduates, he will have two years of professional experience with a company that he loves, and in the career he is studying to enter.
PREPARING STUDENTS FOR THE BUSINESS WORLD
Swank considers a significant part of her job to be that of preparing Heritage students for the internships many will pursue.
“Our students often come to us needing to feel more confident in their communication, probably having no experience in the business world,” she said. “This is one of the areas around which we design our curriculum.”
Every business class at Heritage requires students to do at least one oral presentation. It’s those “soft skills,” said Swank that, along with rigorous course requirements, make students better communicators, positioning them for success in an internship and beyond.
A Heritage advisory board consisting of area business leaders makes recommendations that keep Heritage’s curriculum strong. Its members weigh in on experiences that can make Heritage students stand out from the crowd.
John Reeves, an agriculture industry expert and Heritage board member, sees ag industry internships as key in that student experience – and key in making Heritage students most useful in the ag industry.
“There will be 10 billion people on the planet by the year 2050,” said Reeves. “That means developing more and better ways to feed more and more people. For an area that is a true mecca of agriculture, that’s a big opportunity.
“For Heritage and its students, these internships represent a great opportunity to be a significant part of it.”
“We create a better-equipped graduate by always asking how we can better prepare them,” said Swank. “What else can we do to develop a student who is a strong communicator, is collaborative and works with others, and a critical thinker who approaches a problem and comes up with a solution?
“We tell our students, ‘Don’t go to your boss with problems all day long – go in there with solutions.’ We give them experiences in the classroom so that they can improve those skills.”
EAGER AND ENGAGED
Mike Goettl, CEO at Yakima Chief Hops, first heard of Heritage’s professional internship program while on a campus tour.
“He thought it sounded like the perfect way to give young people meaningful work and real-life experience and give us potential new employees,” said Lisa Garcia, Yakima Chief Hops human resources director. “Mike has been a big advocate for partnering with Heritage as part of our search for future employees.”
Garcia works with several educational institutions – Yakima Valley College, Central Washington University and Perry Tech among them. She says Heritage students have a particularly strong work ethic, an eagerness to learn, and a huge desire and determination to do well at their jobs.
“With Heritage, we started out with three really strong interns, and we’re working to expand our program,” said Garcia. “Our goal is to increase our internship program with Heritage to six to 10 students.”
COMFORT LEVEL MEETS THE CHALLENGE
Like most Heritage student interns, Denisse Gutierrez, Business Administration ’18, went into her internship with experience in the agriculture industry. Her dad owns a small orchard, so she was used to helping pick apples.
“The whole thing just feels familiar, so that’s nice, yet I’m working in areas of the company that give me new experiences.”
As an intern at Roy Farms, Gutierrez helped with safety audits, drug and alcohol testing and data input. As the months went on, she had the opportunity to get a sense of the bigger picture at the company.
“Towards the end of the internship, I was attending most of the weekly all- company meetings. Everyone would talk about what they were doing, and I just soaked it all up. I really learned a lot.”
Gutierrez did a second internship at Yakima Chief Hops where she was ultimately hired – and considers both huge personal growth experiences she wouldn’t have had in the classroom.
“In my first internship, initially I kind of kept to myself. But you interact with a lot of different people in the working world. As I kept talking to more and more people in the office and the warehouse and the fields, I just kind of opened up. Your communication skills really develop.
“I had an amazing experience during my internship,” said Sandra Benitez, who feels Swank’s placement of her with Roy Farms matched her with the perfect company.
“I have worked in agriculture my entire life. I had let Vicky know that this was something that I wanted to do in the long run, and I know this is my future.”
LIFTING SELVES, FAMILY, COMMUNITY
Reeves sees big things for Heritage interns.
“First, our students’ work ethic is unquestionable. Nothing’s been handed to them,” he said. “Then there’s this opportunity. With
lots of private equity coming into Washington State and a big bunch of that into Yakima, we’re looking at everything from robots to super high tech irrigation to drones, with big companies and lots of investment.
“And when they receive this education and find meaningful work in this industry, we have provided the opportunity to uplift not only them but their families. These kids lift themselves up, their families, our community, the county and then the nation. That’s what makes America great.”
“I’m in awe every day of our students. What they bring to everything they do and to these companies. The positive outlook, the persistence, tenacity, motivation, eagerness, this can-do attitude,” said Swank. “What employer wouldn’t want an employee like that?”
To learn how your company can partner with Heritage University’s business administration internship program, contact Vicky Swank at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (509) 865-0726.
Financial Aid Guide for Minority Students
Rural America. It’s not just country music and acres upon acres of farmlands. It’s a complex stewpot of people from different cultures and ethnicities. It’s multi-million dollar agribusinesses that communities depend upon for their economic prosperity. And, sadly, it’s communities that struggle to deal with the same social ills that impact larger cities–poverty, crime, violence, substance abuse–but often without the resources necessary to make a difference.
A joint project between Heritage University, Whitman College and Seattle-based PopUPJustice gave students a voice to tell the story of rural America through their eyes. Called Rural American Digital Lab (RADlab) students became filmmakers, producing short documentaries on topics of social justice that impact their communities.
RADLab invited 11 students from Heritage along with 11 students from neighboring Whitman College in Walla Walla, to come together to learn, in person and across campuses, how to leverage digital technology to shine a light on the fabric of
life in rural America. The goal said Aurora Martin, the founder of PopUPJustice, was not just to introduce students to the conferencing from the Whitman power of digital technology and storytelling to affect societal change, but also to build bridges and community across two very diverse student bodies.
For Heritage students, RADLab was an opportunity for many to tell their own stories because they or their family members were the subjects in videos that dealt with compelling topics including domestic violence, gender issues, homelessness and immigration status.
The structure of RADLab was intense–19 days packed with training on advanced digital equipment and audio and video editing software. Every morning, Heritage students, whether in person or through video conferencing from the Whitman campus, heard lectures from subject matter experts about rural issues, ethics in storytelling, podcasting and video log best practices, and more. Every afternoon, the students were let loose to brainstorm, conduct interviews with their subjects or shoot supplemental footage, and edit their project.
Maria Soto, a third-year Heritage student who is double majoring in social work and history, said the quality of the speakers exceeded most students’ expectations. “We did not know there would be such a strong team from all over Washington,” she explained. “We heard from a YouTuber, a Ph.D., and filmmakers who taught us technical skills, like ways to shoot from the back to protect identity. And the importance of moral responsibility and content in storytelling because this is someone’s life.”
FILMS EXPLORE IDENTITY, CHALLENGES IN RURAL AMERICA
The students were broken into groups, and Soto’s group created a project based on the poem, I am Joaquin by Rodolfo Gonzalez. It explores the complexity of Mexican-American identity. Her group filmed the stories of four individuals, and two group members were featured in those stories, which dealt with the challenges of gender identity, undocumented students, farm workers, and a cholo who is giving back to the community.
“I was born in Mexico but have spent the majority of my life here,” explained Soto, noting that she, too, has struggled with issues of Mexican and American identity. “I learned it’s okay to be both. And that we are all part of the same ethnic group, but we can be all of these different things, too.”
Noemi Sanchez is a junior history major who participated in RADLab and also appeared in the video, sharing her experiences as a queer and non- binary student in a conservative rural area.
“For me, one of the skills I further developed was navigating conversations about social justice with people who are not affected by it,” noted Sanchez, who said sharing her story was scary but also liberating. “I didn’t have much experience filming or adjusting audio, but these skills have also helped me produce flyers and short videos for other student organizations and community groups I’m part of.”
This is exactly the vision that Kimberly Bellamy-Thompson, chair of the Social Sciences Department, had for RADLab, which took almost a year of planning and conference calls to put into motion. “Journalists haven’t been paying attention to rural America, and I’m concerned about the repercussions of not having a voice,” said Bellamy-Thompson. “Here we are just two hours from Seattle by car and from San Francisco by plane, and yet, we have such disparity in digital technology in rural America.”
Thompson said RADLab allowed these students to bring attention to their stories while also gaining job skills and showcasing what they could do when given the resources in a hands-on, experiential learning setting.
Martin, whose organization helps to consult and incubate innovation and social connections, saw RADLab’s mission to be two-fold. “At the end of the day, RADLab was a community-building experiment that sought to plant seeds of innovation starting with the stories of why.” Explaining further, Martin said that because they worked with a shoestring budget that required innovative thinking just to launch the program, they were forced to strip away many extraneous factors and focus on those who could best inform solutions – end users who actually live the problem and who benefit from solutions.
“For me, this was a story of grit and grace,” said Martin. “The ideas are there; they just need the resources.”
Blake Slonecker, chair of Humanities at Heritage and a member of the RADLab design team, said one of his goals for his students in any learning experience is that they leave asking different questions than when they started. For one Whitman student, that meant overcoming a fear of the homeless and being willing to see them as a people with a story of their own. For Heritage students, it was transforming the way they saw the power of digital technology to produce words and images that told a story in ways that can impact hearts and minds for change.
“During the very last few days, we got together with the Whitman students, and we watched all of the videos,” said Sanchez. “And even from the people in my small group, I learned so much I didn’t know.”
Getting students interested in science is always a challenge, but HU assistant biology professor Dr. Bob Kao may have developed a new way to pique the curiosity of pupils. He’s developed an innovative assignment called a “quizfolio.” What exactly is a quizfolio? It’s a blend of a quiz and mini-portfolio, and the Yes We Must Coalition ran a story on the concept in its newsletter. Click here to read the full story.