Class Notes – Updates on Heritage University Alumni

1985

Lisa Still (B.A., Business Management) is a volunteer with RESULTS, an organization that advocates for domestic and global poverty issues through face-to-face lobbying with members of Congress as well as through letter-writing campaigns to Congress and the news media. She was part of a recent campaign that successfully lobbied against cuts to food stamps and is now working on housing issues.

1988

Judy Lefors (M.A.Ed., Professional Development) opened Oakridge Montessori School, Inc. in Yakima, Washington after earning her master’s degree from Heritage. The school serves children from 18 months through ninth grade and has been in operation for more than 25 years.

1993

Ken Harper (B.A.Ed., Secondary Education) is an adjunct professor at Northwest Nazarene University and teaches high school and college credit courses in English at Liberty Christian School in Richland, Washington.

1995

Georgia Ramos-Brown (B.S.W., Social Work) retired after working in social work in the Yakima Valley for close to 18 years. Ramos-Brown earned a master’s degree in social work from Walla Walla University after graduating from Heritage. She worked at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic as an outpatient clinician serving high-risk youth and their families. In addition, she conducted crisis work for Yakima County through the Farm Workers Clinic, where she assessed children and teens who were at risk for suicidal and/or homicidal actions for possible hospitalization for mental health care.

2002

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Kenneth Mitchell (M.Ed., Educational Administration) received the 2019 Crystal Apple Award from the Yakima School District. He is the principal of Ridgeview Elementary School. The award is given annually to educators who use creative and quality instruction approaches, develop a positive learning environment, and advance education in the district.

2005

Leah Smartlowit (B.A.Ed., Elementary Education, M.Ed., Special Education) works as a special education coordinator for the Yakama Nation Tribal School and is a pastor of the Wilderness Full Gospel Church in Wapato, Washington. She is applying for doctoral studies through Abilene Christian University.

2006

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Debbie McLean (M.A.Ed., Professional Development in English as a Second Language) received the 2019 Crystal Apple Award from the Yakima School District. McLean teaches kindergarten at Roosevelt Elementary School. The award is given annually to educators who use creative and quality instruction approaches, develop a positive learning environment, and advance education in the district.

2007

Kristina Rawlins Brown (B.A.Ed., Elementary Education) is the principal of the Dayton School District joint middle and high school. She was hired for this position last July.

2008

Valerie Feth (B.A., English/ Language Arts) earned a master’s degree in instruction and curriculum from Western Governors University.

2009

Edith Diaz (B.A., Business Administration) is certified in disability management. She was recently hired by Advanced Vocational Solutions where she works as a vocational rehabilitation counselor.

2015

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Sarah Cook (M.A. Medical Sciences) earned a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from Pacific Northwest University of Medical Sciences and entered into her residency at Central Washington Family Medicine in Yakima, Washington.

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Denice Laws (M.A., Multicultural English Literature and Language) was named Department Chair at New Horizons High School in Pasco, Washington. New Horizons is a trauma-informed school where a growth mindset is taught. In addition, she is the school’s drama club and literary journal advisor.

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Artemio Madrigal (B.A., Business Administration) earned a Master of Organization Leadership from Gonzaga University and a Professional in Human Resources certificate. In 2017 he received both the Community Leader Award from Central Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Mason Role Model Award. Madrigal is involved in numerous organizations, including Yakima Craft Beverage Association, the Central Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Yakima Morelia Sister Cities Association. He recently moved to Seattle and is working as a training and on-boarding consultant for the University of Washington.

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Brooke Steadman (M.A. Medical Sciences) earned a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from Pacific Northwest University of Medical Sciences and entered into her residency at Central Washington Family Medicine in Yakima, Washington.

2016

Jessica Sadler (M.A.Ed., Elementary Education) was named the 2019 Washington State Outstanding Young Educator by the Washington ASCD, formerly known as the Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Sadler teaches at Leona Libby Middle School in West Richland, Washington. She organized the school’s first science, technology, engineering, arts and math night and is the advisor for the school’s science club and Science Bowl team.

2017

Laura Rebecca Cole (M.I.T., Elementary Education) passed away unexpectedly on October 31, 2018. Cole completed her master’s degree through Heritage’s Tri-Cities regional site. She taught special education at Whittier Elementary School and was an author of 10 fantasy books for young adults. Additionally, she was a craftswoman who enjoyed making soap, leatherworking and art and had a special love of animals and vulnerable people.

Cole is survived by her parents, Thomas and Ellen Cole of Essex Junction, Vermont; by her two sisters and their families (Michelle Connor/Aaron Goodell with their son Brendan Goodell of Essex, Vermont; and Kimberly and Peter Connors of Bothell, Washington); her grandfather Herbert Cole, as well as uncles, aunts, cousins and friends.

The family created a memorial scholarship fund in her name to support the Pasco School District Special Needs Program.

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Virginia Marie Valdovinos (B.S.W., Social Work) earned a Master in Social Work from the University of Southern California in May. She is a part- time faculty member at Yakima Valley College teaching adult basic education courses at their Toppenish and Grandview locations.

Submit Your Class Notes

Did you get married? Have a baby? Get your dream job, an award or even a promotion? If you have good news to share with your fellow alums, let us help.

Send us your submission for Class Notes. It’s easy. Just visit heritage.edu/alumni, complete the submission form and upload your picture. Be sure to include a valid email address so we can contact you if we have any questions.

27 new Eagles coming to Heritage on full-ride scholarships

More than a two dozen of the Yakima Valley’s best and brightest students will be coming to Heritage this fall on full-ride scholarships. The future Eagles are each recipients of one of Heritage’s highly competitive Act Six, HU Soar, Moccasin Lake Foundation, or Sinegal Family Foundation Scholarships.

“I am always impressed by the caliber of students who come from our communities,” said David Wise, vice president for Advancement and Marketing. “We receive hundreds of applications for these scholarships. These students stood out from the crowd. They are all extremely talented, focused on their goals and are truly leaders among their peers. I know we will see great things from each of them.”

Sunnyside High School students who received full-ride scholarships to Heritage pose with their scholarship announcement checks.

This year’s recipients are:

ACT SIX SCHOLARSHIP

Sulem Bernal-Sunnyside High School
Brenda Lustre Cruz-Toppenish High School Andrea Ceja-Toppenish High School
Jesus “Lizbeth” Cervantes-AC Davis High School Isaiah Cisneros-Toppenish High School
Karina Colin Corona-Sunnyside High School Maryedith Dominguez Najera- Grandview High

School
Zahira Flores Gaona- AC Davis High School Miranda Yale- White Swan High School
Juan Carlos Reyes Francisco- Granger High School

HU SOAR SCHOLARSHIP

Abigail Bravo-Sunnyside Christian High School Zuzeth Jimenez- Toppenish High School Guadalupe Iniguez-Toppenish High School Wendy Cruz- AC Davis High School

Anjuli Barragan-Toppenish High School Aiyh Sarama-Sunnyside High School Andrea Tovar Lopez-Sunnyside High School

MOCCASIN LAKE FOUNDATION SCHOLARSHIP

Elian Coria Brito – Granger High School Heidy Lemus – Sunnyside High School Arely Padilla – West Valley High School Paola Villanueva – Sunnyside High School Alejandra Morales –Heritage University HEP

Program

SINEGAL FAMILY FOUNDATION SCHOLARSHIP

Jason Grajales-White Swan High School Nansi Iniguez-Toppenish High School Miguel Mendoza-Toppenish High School Kareli Mora-Granger High School Rebecca Gomez-AC Davis High School.

Congratulations to all of our scholarship recipients!

Toppenish High School students who received full-ride scholarships to Heritage pose with their scholarship announcement checks.

Bountiful Giving and Grateful Hearts

Nearly three-quarters of a million dollars! That is what Heritage’s generous donors contributed to support student scholarships in a single night at the 33rd annual Bounty of the Valley Scholarship Dinner.

“Scholarship Dinner is one of the most magical evenings of the year,” said David Wise, vice president for Advancement. “I say this all the time; Heritage is truly blessed with some of the most gracious and generous friends and donors. The work we do here at this university simply would not be possible without their continued commitment. Some of our most ardent supporters come year-after-year, for 10, 20 even 30 years in a row, to be part of this great event that celebrates our students and ensures that they, and future generations of students, can access a quality college education here in the Yakima Valley. Their commitment to this institution and our students is truly heartwarming and humbling.”

The event brought 250 people to the university campus on the first day of June, and raised a total of $742,275 in gifts that came in through a combination of sponsorships, table sales and paddle raises. This brings to the total raised since its inception to more than $7-million.

“One of the things that makes this so beautiful is who is giving,” said Wise. “Most universities have a deep alumni base that stretches over many generations, and their alums are by far their greatest source of contributions. Heritage is a young institution. We do not have that same luxury. Our donors are, for the most part, complete strangers to the students in whom they are investing. They give to Heritage, to our students, because they believe in the power of education, in the ability of Heritage to deliver that education, and in our students’ capability to succeed, graduate and make a real difference in the world.”

The event, with its gourmet meals, fine wines and attention to details, has a reputation for being one of the premier dinners of its kind in the Yakima Valley. Local favorite Gasperetti’s Gourmet Restaurant catered the four-course meal, and O Wines and Columbia Crest provided the wine. An original piece of artwork by Central Washington artist Rich Kimura—a work created from folded vintage fruit labels that is a cross between origami and a kaleidoscope image—set the feel for the evening. And of course, the students themselves take the starring role, hosting the evening and sharing their stories with the guests.

 

Board members Rick Linneweh and John Reeves.

The night’s grand total: $742,275 raised!

Guests raise their numbers high to make their gifts during the paddle raise at the end of the evening.

Recent graduate Shelby Clark, B.S.N., Nursing, shared a bit about her journey and the importance of scholarships.

Vice President for Advancement David Wise leads the paddle raise.

Dr. Andrew Sund and his wife, Norma Chaidez raise their paddles to support scholarships.

Bertha Ortega, Senator Curtis King, Ester Huey

Jim Barnhill sports his Heritage jersey emblazoned with his Boy Scouts number and Scholarship Dinner paddle raise number.

Retired Rep. Norm Johnson and Sharon Young

All Nations Student Powwow

Heritage freshman Candice Chief Scabbyrobe dances in the women’s jingle competition.

The gloom of an early spring storm couldn’t keep away serious powwow dancers and singers who came out for Heritage’s 3rd annual All Nations Student Powwow in April. More than 500 people came to the campus for the one-day event, which featured drumming, singing and dance competitions, as well as storytelling, a stick game and wápaas (basket) weaving demonstrations. And of course, vendors selling everything from Indian fry bread tacos to hand-crafted jewelry to blankets and t-shirts filled the grounds.

This is the third year that Silas Martinez has competed at the Heritage powwow. Here he is dancing in the boys junior traditional competition.

The powwow is hosted by the university’s two Native American student organizations, the American Indigenous Business Leaders of Heritage University (AIBL) and the Heritage University Native American Club (HUNAC). Student volunteers plan, organize and host the event.

“The powwow affirms our community’s place on our campus. We can celebrate our culture while also sharing it with our larger Central Washington community,” said Keegan Livermore, HUNAC president and powwow organizer.

Chris Paul Jr. was one of the many who entered the hand drum singing competition.

Dancers of all ages competed in men’s and women’s traditional, fancy, grass and jingle dance competitions—from tiny tots (children who are under five years old) to adults over 55. Kids 17 and under competed in the Stan Strong Special, which was hosted to bring awareness to suicide prevention. During one particularly meaningful special dance, a crowd of men, women and children — some in regalia and some in street clothes — danced around three featureless mannequins dressed in red. The REDgalia blanket dance raised money and awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women in the Yakima Valley and beyond.

Competitors in full regalia joined the grand entry into the arena to start the day.

The drum group Chute #8 served as head drum for the powwow. Heritage University board member and long-time supporter Arlen Washines, deputy director for Yakama Nation Human Services, was the master of ceremonies for the third year running. Karen Umtuch was the whip woman for the second year in a row. Caseymac Wallahee served as the arena director. Toppenish Longhouse catered the evening meal. The event was sponsored by Yakama Legends Hotel and the CIA Recruiting Program.

Ashley Crossing-Horse competes in the women’s traditional category.

 

Jason John dances during one of the inter- tribal dances between competitions.

 

 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go

“You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So…get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss

For every Heritage University graduate, there is a book of stories— stories of challenges met, obstacles overcome, victories celebrated, and paths yet to be traveled. For some, Heritage is the launching pad into the job that will build into a rewarding career. For others, it is the start of an academic journey that will take them into graduate and doctoral studies.

Here’s where five of our Class of 2019 are heading now that this chapter of their life has ended. Oh, the places they’ll go!

 

MARIA VILLANEUVA

B.S., Chemistry

Throughout her undergraduate studies at Heritage, Maria took full advantage of the research opportunities that were offered to her. She studied human diseases at the University of Virginia and at Montana State University and plant diseases with the USDA in Wapato. What her experiences taught her was that she wanted to be on the patient care side of things in the health care field. Maria applied to the Washington State University Doctor of Pharmacy program and was one of only a handful of applicants accepted. She will start in the four-year program this fall.

 

 

SHELBY CLARK

B.S.N, Nursing

Ever since she was 10 years old, Shelby wanted to be a nurse, just like her aunt who served as a nurse in the Army. When she started at Heritage, her goal was to graduate and start a career as a flight nurse. However, after two rotations at Indian Health Services, she developed a passion for public health. Her advisor, Dr. Christine Nyirati suggested she apply to the University of Washington’s Doctor of Nursing Practice, Population Health Track. Much to her surprise, Shelby was admitted and will start in the program this fall. Her goal is to return to the Yakama Nation to work for her tribe to help improve the healthcare system.

 

 

JOHNATHAN SCHAB

B.A., Business Administration

Johnathan entered Heritage with the goal of graduating in just three years. Not only did he accomplish this goal, he did so with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

As part of his degree requirements, Johnathan completed a summer internship with Ramsey Companies, a family-owned conglomerate in the lower Yakima Valley. They were so impressed with him that they offered him a full-time position as a financial analyst after graduation. He started his career early this summer.

 

 

CASSANDRA GARCIA

B.S., Biology

Cassandra entered Heritage set on becoming a teacher. However, partway through her education she had a change of heart and decided to work towards a career where she could work with the animals that she loves. With her advisor’s help, she became a science major and created a plan to become a veterinarian.

Admission into veterinary school is notoriously competitive, with nearly 1,500 students clamoring for 133 seats at Washington State University alone. Starting this fall, Cassandra will be one of those lucky few who are joining the Doctor of Veterinary Science Class of 2022.

 

 

JHEYMY MERCADO

B.S.W., Social Work

Jheymy is passionate about helping people suffering from mental illness to live their best life. She completed her practicum working at Comprehensive Health Care and was hired by the company shortly thereafter. She is a case manager who works with incarcerated men who have been found to be unfit to stand trial, helping them to prepare for their legal proceedings. In addition to entering her career, Jheymy was accepted into the social work graduate program at Eastern Washington University. She will be a full-time grad student, and full-time employee starting this fall.

 

 

To see a special message from Johnathan, Cassandra and Jheymy about their time at Heritage and the importance of scholarships, go to heritage.edu/sdvideo.

Class of 2019 SIMPLY UNSTOPPABLE!

Ida Moses-Hyipeer, B.A. Business Administration, celebrates walking across the stage after getting her diploma.

All totaled, 363 men and women earned their undergraduate and graduate degrees at Heritage this academic year.

“Commencement is always a special moment,” said Dr. Kazuhiro Sonoda, provost. “We are all honored to share this moment with them.”

Commencement speaker Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez

This year’s commencement address was given by Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steve González. He was appointed to the State Supreme Court in January 2012 and subsequently won two contested races for six-year terms starting in 2013 and 2019. Prior to his appointment, González had served as a trial judge on the King County Superior Court.

In addition to González’s address, two graduating students gave their remarks. Cristy Fiander (B.A., Environmental Studies) presented the baccalaureate student address and George Pope, (M.A., Medical Sciences) gave the master’s degree student address.

Heritage V.P. for Student Affairs Melissa Hill introduces Cristy Fiander (B.A., Environmental Studies.)

Fourteen graduates received the Board of Directors Academic Excellence Award, which is given to undergraduates who completed their degree with a perfect 4.0-grade point average. This year’s recipients were: Brenda Cardona, Social Work; Janette Cardona, Social Work; Fatima  Delgado, Social Work; Rylie Dixon, Social Work; Kimberling Garibay, Social Work; Delia Garza, Elementary Education; Amanda Goodman, Social Work; Rachel LaBelle, Psychology; Domitila Morales, Social Work; Jennifer Mitchell, Elementary Education; Kelsey Picard, Nursing; Johnathan Schab, Business Administration; Kyle Wandling, Accounting; and Mette Warnick, Accounting.

Naomi Leon Guerrero and Matthew Braun, both M.A., Medical Science

Yesenia Lopez, B.A., Business Administration

 

The President’s Student Award of Distinction, which is given to an undergraduate with a distinguished record of academic excellence and service to the university, was awarded to Shelby Clark, nursing.

 

 

 

 

David Wise and Maria Villalobos-Bevins

 

 

Honoring a Role Model

Every year, Heritage honors an alum whose service and professionalism embody the teachings of the university. This year’s Violet Lumley Rau Alumnus of the Year award recipient was Maria Villalobos-Bevins (M.Ed., 1986)

Villalobos-Bevins was one of the university’s earliest students. After earning her education degree, she went on to a 26-year career as a teacher in the Yakima Valley. Additionally, she is active in her community, volunteering as a translator for physicians at the Union Gospel Mission and serving as a visiting preacher working with incarcerated women in the Yakima County Jail. Villalobos-Bevins is also part owner of Hispanavision and leads a weekly television program that airs on several of the station’s channels.

Growing Our Own

Workforce Development Program Introduced to Fill Skills Gaps

Martín Valadez was having lunch with a business acquaintance several months ago, casually sharing that he was taking a job with a new workforce development program called Heritage@Work being developed by Heritage University. He wasn’t trying to drum up business… not yet. He hadn’t even started his new job as the program director! But the response to his announcement, which was repeated at subsequent lunches with additional business contacts, was always the same – “Wow, I think we need that!”

What he quickly discovered is the workforce development program, while originally developed by Heritage to address a need in the agricultural industry, touched on an unmet need throughout the Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities.

David Wise, Vice President of Advancement and Marketing, said Heritage learned, through conversations with local growers and others that a skills gap existed in the region. “There was a need for short- term training programs first in agricultural companies,” said Wise. “The labor market is tight, and these companies are evolving and becoming more high-tech, so they need additional workforce skills that can also lead to greater, more challenging positions for their employees.”

However, what they learned, said Wise, is that the need for up-skills was more widespread than just farm workers… it cuts across all industries, from financial institutions to municipalities to health care. “There is an education gap between high school and college that we discovered,” confirmed Wise. “Businesses who empower their employees find they are more likely to stay and grow their careers and, as a result, their earning potential. Through Heritage@Work, the employer retains good people, and our university provides a much-needed service.”

Martin Valadez

CUSTOMIZED TRAINING MODULES UPSKILL EXISTING WORKFORCE

Heritage@Work is about meeting practical and specific skills deficiencies within companies. The training provided is different for each organization, customized tothe workforce and the goals of the business. Topics like supervisor training, professional writing, leadership, ethics, and accounting basics are common requests across organizations said Valadez. But there are also niche areas like governmental accounting or human resources practices in unionized workplaces, that apply directly to one company.

“Heritage@Work is driven by the customers, so it’s very focused on how to meet their needs,” said Valadez. “We developed it not to compete, but to meet a need that no other organization is structured to meet. We don’t want to reproduce what anyone else is doing.”

Valadez was the perfect candidate to lead this charge. He brings years of experience in instruction and curriculum development as a former college professor of history and ethnic studies. Later, he moved into a career in business development and served as the president of the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. This dual perspective helps him see both sides of the partnership clearly. He can relate to the concerns of a business while also leveraging his expertise in higher education to find solutions.

NEEDS ASSESSMENT DETERMINES PRIORITIES AND GOALS

This partnership, regardless of the company or industry, begins the same – with a thorough needs assessment. “Many customers already know what they want,” explained Valadez. “With others, we meet with a number of people in the organization and put together recommendations based on what we’ve heard, confirming their priorities.”

Valadez has a full plate, managing the logistics of the curriculum, the instructors and the venues. Some are one-off training sessions while others are comprehensive courses that run for many months. He writes some of the curriculum and recruits experts, from higher education or the business world, to write other parts and then conduct the training. The perfect candidates are subject matter experts who are also engaging in the classroom. His connections in both higher education and the community have helped.

“I may use current or retired professors or current or retired professionals in a specific field or industry,” he said.

TRAINING MODULES MAY DOUBLE AS CONTINUING EDUCATION OR COLLEGE COURSEWORK

The name of the game is providing businesses with custom skills training, in which they get exactly what they are paying for. Some want the classes to count toward continuing education credits for their employees while others ask about making the trainings available for college credit so an employee can pursue a degree at Heritage. All of those moving parts fall under Valdez’s auspice.

In a recent example, he sought out faculty in the English department to determine whether a 16-hour workforce-training curriculum might transfer to Heritage as a one-credit class. Valadez said the curriculum is rigorous and more application than academically focused. “Everything in the workforce training modules is practical. There’s a lot of continuous conversation and a lot of feedback from organizations.”

To ensure the training is delivering and equipping the employees as it was designed, Heritage@Work asks participants to complete assessments and provide feedback at the beginning and the end of the training. “We need to demonstrate there is growth and learning,” said Valadez.

Heritage@Work was championed by President Andrew Sund, Ph.D., who oversaw a highly-successful program like it at his previous institution and “lit the fire” at Heritage, said Wise, who was tasked with researching the demand before the program was introduced. Heritage board member John Reeves was another strong proponent, focused especially on how it would benefit farm workers and the agricultural industry. He was instrumental in collecting stakeholders and holding focus groups to make the idea a reality.

Just twelve months later, Heritage@Work is up and running, and generating a lot of excitement, all without a dollar spent on formal marketing! “It’s been gratifying,” said Wise. “It’s a unique opportunity for us – to help those who are already employed contribute more while also providing a diversified revenue stream that contributes to the overall financial health of our university.”

To learn more about Heritage@WORK, visit heritage.edu/workforce.

Legal Eagles

Legal Internships Give Students Opportunities to Serve Their Communities

Last semester, two Heritage students took a different route to work than normal. In January, they began six-month fellowships at two local organizations, working with attorneys to get a sneak peek at what a law career might look like. The program is called The American Rural Communities (ARC) Law & Policy Fellowship, and it was launched last year as a collaborative between Heritage, Columbia Legal Services (CLS), Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and PopUp Justice.

HANDS-ON, REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE BUILDS STUDENT SKILLS AND CONFIDENCE

Senior Noemi Sanchez, a history major, joined Columbia Legal Services as an intern-fellow and junior Maria Rivera, who is studying criminal justice and history, joined the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. The non-profits provide legal services to underrepresented populations in the community. CLS advocates for laws that promote social, economic and racial equity for those in poverty, often through class action litigation. Northwest Immigrant Rights Project devotes itself to supporting immigrants through advocacy, legal services and education.

Maria Rivera at the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project in Granger, Wash.

During these internships, the students were mentored by practicing attorneys and gained practical, professional skills as well as learned about experiences other attorneys had in law school and in their careers – especially as people of color. In addition, the students promoted and were guests at a set of workshops called the Lunchbox Series. The series brought together experts in law and social justice who are advocates versed in the diversity and unique aspects of rural communities to share thoughts, provide guidance and answer questions.

The organizations maximized the students’ skills and their enthusiasm to dive in, introducing them to cases and tasking them with projects like conducting client interviews; gathering, organizing and cataloging research; and distributing information about resources through community outreach.

LIVED EXPERIENCE LEADS STUDENTS DOWN DIFFERENT LEGAL PATHS

Sanchez and Rivera learned about the fellowships from Kim Bellamy-Thompson, who is chair of the Social Sciences department at Heritage. “Both students see the need for social change in the community,” said Thompson. “I knew they would be interested in the fellowship.”

Thompson said she looked for juniors or seniors who have strong writing skills and even more so, have a fire in them, believing that action for these causes can lead to a change.

PIPELINE TO LEAD MORE LOCAL STUDENTS TO RETURN TO THE COMMUNITY

For her part, Sanchez was trying to figure out if law school was a must for her real career passion, public policy, which propels social justice through legislation. Rivera was certain law school was her next step, but she wanted more exposure to daily life as an attorney as well as more direction about proceeding to law school.

Senior Noemi Sanchez at Columbia Legal Services in Yakima.

Lori Isley, a directing attorney at CLS, said students like Sanchez are an asset to her organization and the community.

“This has been a very exciting collaboration,” said Isley, who was one of Sanchez’s supervisors and mentors. “One exciting part for me is developing a pipeline from our community into law school by providing context and connection and then having them come back and serve our community.”

Sanchez has been working on the organization’s Working Family Project, which focuses on the undocumented community and farm workers. This is a special interest for Sanchez because she grew up in a family of farm workers and she saw workers with untreated injuries or wage issues who were afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. As a student who identifies as a queer and non-binary student, Sanchez is also passionate about advocating for LGBTQ inclusion in the schools.

“So many Heritage students bring lived experiences of the challenges faced by many in our community,” confirmed Isley. “Having them makes our work more effective. Their own stories are a source of power, and it helps them connect with others on the journey.”

Isley said Sanchez organized research and cataloged information requests so litigation could proceed more quickly and smoothly. She also helped elevate the organization’s community outreach by assisting Insley with visits to camps of H2A workers, using social media to locate and reach out creatively to people in Mexico for a case, and even recorded a Facebook video to explain a settlement in layperson’s terms. Community outreach actually proved to be one of Sanchez’s favorite aspects of the work.

“It’s been really exciting,” said Sanchez about their visits to the camps. “I love to connect with people and show them they are not alone. This means a lot to me because my parents and grandparents didn’t have access to these things.”

Sanchez is still planning to work in public policy, but she has decided that law school can equip her to do that, first at the city and county level, and later, she hopes, at the state level. “When I first came here, I was unsure about law school, because I’m so policy driven,” she said. “What I learned is policy changes can come out of litigation, so even as an attorney, I can still create change.”

NON-PROFIT ENVIRONMENT, CLIENT STORIES IMPACT RIVERA

While Sanchez was pondering the value of law school, Rivera needed no such confirmation. She had been single-mindedly pursuing the goal of earning a Juris Doctorate from the minute she set foot on the Heritage campus. She had taken two years off after high school and had worked for a law firm during that time, so she knew it was what she wanted. When she joined the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, however, she was surprised by how much she enjoyed the non-profit environment, something she admits she had never considered.

“There are four attorneys here working 100 cases, and they all have pretty big hearts,” said Rivera, who described the all-female office staff she worked with as nurturing, strong and persistent.

The fellowship dovetailed with Rivera’s long-term goal to practice immigration or criminal law in the Valley. She has a curiosity to know what makes people do what they do and for uncovering details that may prove someone’s innocence.

Rivera said her daily tasks were similar to a paralegal’s. She took notes, researched background information on immigrants’ countries of origin to document facts that could strengthen their cases for remaining in the U.S. Many clients had difficult lives before arriving in the Valley.

“I’ve taken the declarations of two clients so far,” said Rivera, who explained that it’s part of the immigration process. “They sit down with me and tell their stories about why they came to the U.S. many times, traumatic events have occurred, and it’s a process that results in the reopening of those wounds.”

As Rivera guides them gently through conversations that can take two or three hours, she tries to capture as much detail as possible while walking slowly toward topics that are painful for them. She believes it’s a privilege to be entrusted with their stories. “It’s not something I take lightly,” she said somberly.

Both Rivera and Sanchez now share the same goal – attending law school and then returning to the Valley to put their law degrees to work in their community.

Bellamy-Thompson said the fellowship would not be possible without someone willing to step up and fund it. Thankfully the Laurel Rubin Farm Worker Justice Project stepped in and provided all of the funding necessary. Isley shared that the project, which exists to make internships available to students interested in pursuing law careers that provide services to farm workers in Washington, has a long history of funding law school students, but this was the first time the organization supported undergraduates.

“We can do great things if we have the funding,” said Thompson, who hopes to offer the ARC Fellowship again to students in spring 2020.

“I can’t imagine not coming back to this community after law school,” concluded Sanchez, who is hoping to begin law school in the fall of 2021. “I just want to give back to the people who have given so much to me.”

A Heritage of Teaching

From left to right: Tim Platsman (Initial Residency Teacher Certificate, 2003), Kristina Platsman (Initial Residency Teacher Certificate, 2001), Allison Platsman (Freshman, Education major) and Carol Platsman (B.A. Ed., Elementary Education, 1990 and M.A. Ed., Professional Development, 1993).

 

Three generations of one family, all with a Heritage education, find lasting connection in the classroom.

Five years ago, Heritage freshman Allison Platsman would have said teaching was what her parents did, not her. But a lot can change between age 15 and age 20. When teaching hangs on several branches of your family tree, it just might be in your DNA.

Tally the years on all those branches, and between Allison’s grandmother, her dad, mom, two aunts, her sister, a cousin and her great-grandmother on her mom’s side, there are more than 100 years of teaching in the family.

The Platsman teaching heritage isn’t the only “heritage” that’s part of the family’s story. Allison is the fourth Platsman in just three generations to pursue her teaching degree at Heritage. What her parents and grandmother found there, Allison seeks as well: Connection and the ability to make a difference in the lives of young people.

BEING THEMSELVES

The Platsman teaching legacy in the Yakima Valley starts with Allison’s grandmother Carol – her dad’s mother. It was the mid-1980s, and with her two boys off to college, stay-at- home mom Carol Platsman had to decide what to do with the rest of her life.

“I loved being home with my boys. I also had always loved school, so I decided I’d go back.”

Carol chose to study at Heritage to be closer to her aging mother who lived nearby. A decision made largely because of family needs turned out to be one that would positively impact not only the rest of her life but hundreds of others.

“Heritage was such a positive environment, and there were such outstanding education instructors. I learned so much from their teaching styles.”

A few years later, with two Heritage University degrees under her belt, Carol Platsman was hired by the Sunnyside School District and taught third grade at three different schools over the years.

Carol said she was a “grandmotherly” teacher who utilized both her Heritage education and the nurturing approach that had come so naturally to her as a mom.

Carol retired at 63 in 2004. Looking back, what she recalls most fondly are her relationships with her young students. “I tried to make my room a safe place for kids to express themselves and to be themselves. I was happy when I knew the kids felt they could trust me.”

TAPPING THE ENTHUSIASM

Early in her teaching career, Carol saw the difference positive teacher-student relationships made in kids’ lives. She also noticed how enthusiastically grade school students responded to the rare male teacher in their midst.

Eventually, her son Tim would become one of those teachers. Off to Eastern Washington University in 1982, Tim Platsman had majored in business, graduated, and built a career working in Seattle. Despite his success, something was missing.

Tim Platsman helps a student in his third grade class at Artz-Fox Elementary School in Mabton.

“I was helping businesses make money. I wasn’t making a difference in the world,” he said.

His mother, who was still teaching at the time, suggested he consider a change in his profession.

“Tim was always very interested when I talked about the kids,” said Carol. “I’d always seen a sensitivity, a compassion and a patience that made me believe teaching would be a good fit.”

A few years later, Tim registered for classes at Heritage, declaring an education major. By this time, he and Kristina, also a teacher, had been married for several years and had their two little girls, Kendall and Allison.

“I knew Heritage was a good school,” said Tim. “I didn’t realize how much I would end up really enjoying the culture there – how open the professors are and how much they want your success.”

During student teaching at Artz-Fox Elementary School in Mabton, an invitation directly from the superintendent of schools
led Tim to his first permanent classroom. Seventeen years later, he’s still thrilled to be in third grade.

“Third graders are completely enthused. Most of my lesson prep is me figuring out how to give everyone a chance to speak – they’re all so excited to have the answer.

“Every minute of every day, they love being in that classroom. They soak it up, and I just tap that enthusiasm.”

“MOM”

Thinking back to the time their daughters Allison and Kendall were in grade school, Tim and Kristina Platsman recall the girls’ enthusiasm for helping their parents ready their classrooms for the new school year. They’d stick colorful visuals – pictures of planets, multiplication tables – to the walls, order the desks, paint the old cabinet in the corner.

During the school year, their mom’s classroom was where they would go once the last bell rang. Attending school where she taught meant they’d hang around till she wrapped up, playing school – naturally – with the children of other teachers.

For the Platsmans, time together in a classroom was part of family life. “There was always a really nice family feeling there, just like it was a part of home,” said Kristina.

Kristina Platsman teaches kindergarten at Sun Valley Elementary in Sunnyside

It was a natural for Kristina, whose grandmother was a professor at the University of Kentucky and whose mom worked as a school secretary. Kristina studied at Washington State University, worked for a while in Washington, D.C. and in 1990 – not yet married to Tim – she came back to Sunnyside and enrolled at Heritage. She planned to get a teaching certificate so she could counsel high school students.

Kristina’s memories of Heritage include a farmer’s grange on one side, an old school building on another, and learning about the importance of understanding students’ culture. “One instructor I learned so much from was Ruben Carrera. He made sure that we as future teachers understood how important awareness of culture is.”

Student teaching brought her to a primary grade classroom and – like Tim, whom she would soon meet and marry – she didn’t want to leave. She’s taught in the Sunnyside School District for 27 years, the last 12 at Sun Valley Elementary. Not surprisingly, Kristina cites her kindergartners’ enthusiasm as one of the greatest joys of teaching.

“I stand at the doorway as they come walking down the hallway. They see me, they call my name, and they start to run, their arms open for hugs.”

Not infrequently, her students call her mom. Whatever your students’ background, Kristina said, as a teacher you parent, you counsel, you wear a bunch of different badges. “But always you have the opportunity to connect and form meaningful bonds.”

BEING THAT FRIEND

If she wore one, Allison Platsman’s badge would say “FRIEND.” She’s not planning to teach young children like her parents – though she loves the two- and three-year-olds she works with in her on-campus job at Heritage’s Early Learning Center. She has her eye on creating a happy space for kids not much younger than she is right now – high school, maybe middle school, she said.

Allison wants to be an art teacher. As an artist, she enjoys photography and special effects makeup or body painting – but it’s more than a love for art that guides her. “The art room was a happy island for me,” she said. “I want to be ‘that room’ where kids can feel happy. I want to be that safe haven.”

Allison believes that years of conversation around the dinner table have given her a realistic understanding of what it takes to be a teacher. She realizes bigger kids can mean bigger issues and sometimes more difficult challenges.

But Allison is getting ready to do what her family does: to create that place that feels like a happy family. “Our family tree has strong roots here. Like my parents and my grandma, I think I can make an impact.”

The university is a much different place now than it was when Allison’s parents and grandmother were students at Heritage. The family compared notes during a campus tour early this spring.

 

Coming Full Circle

 

Freshman Connie Batin was scrolling through her Facebook news feed when an announcement caught her eye and changed her life. It was a post about Heritage’s new Full Circle Scholarship, a guaranteed award for enrolled Yakama tribal members who have not previously attended Heritage that covers the cost of tuition at the university.

It had been 20 years since Batin had been in school. In that time she raised seven children, built a career working for the Yakama Nation, and served on the Washington State Health Advisory Council. She had long wanted to go to college, but something always seemed to get in her way— most often it was the expense. When she saw the message, she knew that it was time to get moving.

“Every excuse I had ever had that stopped me from going to college to get my degree was gone,” she said. “I was inspired.”

Connie Batin started her first semester of college with three classes: English, math and a drawing elective.

Batin is one of a dozen new Yakama college students who started at Heritage in January because of the Full Circle Scholarship. Most are nontraditional students who, like Batin, had long dreamed of earning their degree, but were unable to afford the gap left between traditional financial aid – federal and state grants – tribal scholarships and the cost of tuition. These students are exactly why the scholarship was formed, said David Wise, vice president for Advancement.

“Heritage sits on the Yakama’s ancestral lands. We were formed by the vision and tenacity of two Yakama women. Our history and our future are tied to the people and the prosperity of the Yakama Nation,” he said. “Heritage is honoring our relationship with the Yakama Nation the best way we can, by providing educational opportunities for its citizens. The Full Circle Scholarship removes what is one of the biggest barriers that keep tribal members from going to college, the expense.”

The establishment of the Full Circle Scholarship was driven, in large part, by Heritage’s President’s Liaison for Native American Affairs, Maxine Janis.

“Maxine is one of the biggest advocates for our Native American students and was steadfast in her efforts to get this scholarship established,” he said.

The university works closely with the Yakama Nation’s Department of Higher Education to ensure that the application and selection process runs smoothly. The scholarship is open to enrolled Yakama tribal members who have to also apply for scholarships from the Yakama Nation and the Bureau of Indian Education.

Elese Washines (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

“Heritage University is the first choice for Yakama students pursuing Higher Education,” said Elise Washines, program manager at Yakama Nation Higher Education Programs. “the university’s commitment to putting students first, to helping them achieve academically is demonstrated year after year with the number of Yakama students graduating from Heritage exceeding any other 2-year or 4-year college. With the Full Circle Scholarship in place, our students will be able to obtain their educations with full tuition support of both the University and Yakama Nation Higher Education.”

Initially, Heritage administration planned on launching the scholarship for fall semester 2019. But when word got out, the response was so overwhelming that they went into high gear and opened it up for a spring start. Given the timing of some of the requirements, applicants have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as well as apply for the two Yakama Nation scholarships, the window to apply was only a few short weeks. Still, Batin and her fellow cohorts of incoming students jumped at the opportunity.

“I called the university the next day and started my application,” she said. “The whole process was great. Everyone, the admission counselors, my financial aid officer, were so helpful and made sure that I was getting everything done that I needed to do to start college.

Now, two decades after opening a textbook, Batin is fulfilling a dream and a promise made.

“I’m doing this to honor my mother. She would always say ‘You need to go to school. When are you going to go to school? I would tell her ‘I’ll do it someday.’ I’m so glad someday is here. I know she’d be proud of me.”