Called to Serve

Colleen Sheahan in the math class at West Chestnut Academy school in Yakima, Wash.

As Colleen Sheahan moves through the math classroom at West Chestnut Academy (WCA), students bent over their geometry work call out to her. “PC, PC,” they say. “Come look at this.” PC, short for Pastor Colleen, is their affectionate nickname for the founder and head of this private Christian school that serves children from preschool through 12th grade. Sheahan stops, looks over the geometric shapes being formed by Popsicle sticks, gives a few words of encouragement before moving on. She knows each of these kids by name, their families, and their stories behind what brought them to WCA.

By her own admission, Sheahan wasn’t looking to become a teacher, let alone start and run a school when she enrolled in a pilot bachelor’s degree program offered in partnership between Heritage, Central Washington University, and what was then Yakima Valley Community College. It was simply the most convenient way for her to earn a degree—any degree— without leaving home. She was a licensed pastor ministering to children through Westpark United Methodist Church in Yakima, and she figured it could help her in her work there.

Two years of classes and long nights studying, Sheahan graduated, still without any intention of teaching. She went back to her life ministering to children. Then, a year later, something happened. Sheahan went to sleep.

 

“I had the most intense dream that I had started a new school. When I woke up, it stuck with me. Then things around me kept pointing me back towards the idea of this school, that we had to do this,” she said.

That was in the spring. Six months later, the non-profit West Chestnut Academy was born. It opened in 2001 with just 12 students and was housed within the Methodist church. The next year, enrollment grew to 60. Ever since then, it has averaged 80 students annually. Last year the school moved from the church into a larger facility left vacant when St. Paul’s Cathedral School moved from the location they had been housed in since 1914.

“There is a significant need for schools like ours in our community. Smaller schools that
can provide individualized attention to students, that celebrates and meets the needs of the whole child,” she said.

In many ways, the mission and vision of West Chestnut Academy mirror that of Heritage University. It is open to all with the desire to learn and embraces diversity—be that ethnic, socioeconomic, or in learning styles. Tuition is kept as low as possible so that children from all income levels can attend.

“We’ve had single mothers come in and pay their child’s tuition with their tip money,” said Sheahan. “We keep things very bare bones.”

But, she points out, bare bones does not mean lower quality. The school is licensed by the State of Washington. Students participate in art, music, and physical education along with the staples of math, English and science. They flourish in the smaller classes—particularly those who struggled in public schools where they are one in a crowd of hundreds.

“We have kids that come to us in the third or fourth grade who cannot read,” Sheahan said. “Within a year their parents are coming back to us saying ‘I can’t believe my child is reading!’ It is a real accomplishment for the child.”

This June, the academy will send its 59th graduate out into the world. Alumni of this school have gone on to colleges and universities, trade schools and into the workforce. Sheahan beams like any proud parent when talking about her grads.

“It’s a lot of work to care about kids. Here we provide a sanctuary for children where they can feel comfortable and are able to learn,” she said.

“Seeing them be successful as adults when they struggled so much as a child, this is what it is all about.”

Colleen Sheahan’s commitment to children and her focus on providing quality preschool through 12th grade education to students in the Yakima Valley led to her nomination and awarding of the Violet Lumley Rau Outstanding Alumnus(a) Award at Heritage’s 36th annual Heritage University commencement held May 5, 2018 at the SunDome in Yakima, Wash. (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

 

Bountiful Generosity

Money is raised for Heritage University student scholarships at the school’s 32nd annual scholarship dinner held June 2, 2018 in Toppenish, Wash. (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

The Bounty of the Valley Scholarship Dinner, the premier annual event in the Yakima Valley dedicated to raising scholarship funds for Heritage University students, brought in $678,250 in early June.

 

This year marked the 32nd anniversary of the event that celebrates the many talented men and women who are transforming their lives and our communities through higher education.

 

Heritage University students served as hosts for the 250 guests in attendance, welcoming them as they arrived on campus, sharing their Heritage experiences, and expressing their gratitude for their ongoing investment in the university. Heritage mathematics major Brandon Berk, who served as the student speaker during the event, represented the many students like him who excel because of the scholarships they receive.

 

“I had thought of going to college but didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to attend because of money,” he told the audience.

 

“I was very close to joining the military, but then I received the Act Six scholarship, which has led to numerous opportunities including being published in a peer-reviewed journal as an undergraduate; receiving internships at prestigious universities, including the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago; and working with mentors who are guiding me toward my goal of earning a Ph.D. in Mathematics. Without Heritage and the Act Six scholarship, attending college would have been almost impossible.”

 

Virginia Hislop, an organizer of the very first Bounty of the Valley event 32 years ago and who has attended every year since, was overjoyed by the turnout and generosity of longtime donors, new supporters and guests.

 

“The scholarship monies raised at this event level the playing field for our students who are every bit as capable and talented as any student in the country, but who often do not have the same financial resources,“ she said. “By giving to our scholarship fund, our donors are investing in their community because our students go on to become the doctors, nurses, teachers and business leaders who will work here, in the Yakima Valley.”

 

Since its inception, more than $5.7 million has been raised at the event, with every dollar going directly to student scholarships.

 

Senior Director of Donor Development and organizer of the Bounty of the Valley, Dana Eliason, said it’s an amazing experience to watch the donor community and students get together at this event year after year. “Our donors often experience a strong emotional response when they meet the students and hear their stories of accomplishments made possible by their generosity. It’s magical!”

Fall Convocation to recognize Dean’s List students

Please join the faculty, staff and students of Heritage University for the Fall Student Convocation as we welcome in the new academic year. Special recognition will be given to the students who made the Dean’s List for the spring 2018 semester.
Toppenish School District Superintendent John Cerna will deliver the keynote address. Fall Student Convocation will be held Thursday, September 13, 2018 in Smith Family Hall from 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Heritage University welcomes students on first day of fall 2018 semester

The Heritage University campus sprang back to life with the start of the fall 2018 semester. The hallways, walkways and classrooms were alive with activity as students manuvered their way around campus to get to their classes. The Eagle’s Cafe and the Great Lawn right outside Pigott Commons were especially busy during the lunch hour. 
We’ve put together a short video that captured the crowds during lunch today. Heritage University welcomes new and returning students to campus, we are glad you’re here! Watch video.

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.

 

 

 

Costco co-founder meets with Sinegal Family Foundation Scholars

Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal met with the first cohort of Sinegal Scholars at Heritage University last month. The students are the first five to receive full-ride Sinegal Family Foundation Scholarships at Heritage. A total of 20 students will earn their degrees through the scholarship program made possible by a $1.14 million gift from the Sinegal Family Foundation to Heritage last year.

Heritage alumni who now work at Costco headquarters will provide mentoring opportunities over the course of the year inclusive of a trip to meet with Costco executives and Jim Sinegal again next spring.

You can see pictures from the dinner on Facebook.

 

Portraits of Yakama Nation elders are now on display at Heritage

Portraits from three years of honoring Yakama Nation elders are now on display in the Violet Lumley Rau Center conference room at Heritage University. Each fall since 2015, four elders are recognized for their significant contributions to their community. The celebration is part of  the university’s observance of Native American Heritage Month. More portraits are to come as we continue this tradition.

Visit the Rau Center at Heritage University to see them for yourself!

HU classroom dedicated to longtime professor

A classroom at Heritage University is now named in honor of a longtime Heritage faculty member who retired two years ago for health reasons. More than 50 family, friends and supporters gathered for the heartwarming ceremony at Heritage last week  for the dedication of “The Professor Apanakhi Buckley Collaborative Classroom” located in Petrie Hall Room 1112.

Guests, and Apanakhi herself, heard testimonials from many who shared how she positively impacted their lives and the university.  Apanakhi taught at Heritage from 2000 to 2016, and in 2014 began using the room now named in her honor as a classroom. A glass sign outside the room now tells visitors the name of the room. The room is also temporarily decorated with indigenous artwork.

Pictures from the ceremony can be found on the Heritage University Facebook page.

 

Congratulations Class of 2018