Honoring Our Elders

November is Native American Heritage Month, and each year, Heritage University kicks off its celebration by honoring four Yakama elders for their lifetime contributions to their communities. This year we recognize Corky Ambros, Jerry Meninick, Phyllis Strom and Patsy Whitefoot.

CORKY AMBROSE is a warrior and a protector. While serving in the US Air Force, he was part of a flight crew that brought troops, supplies and humanitarian aid to foreign countries. When he returned to civilian life, he spent the next 40 years protecting the natural resources of the Yakama Nation, both as a forester then as a woodland firefighter. Today he is his brother’s and sister’s keeper: supporting fellow veterans, providing funeral service support for the fallen, and serving the community through the Yakama Warriors Association, an organization he helped found in 1992.

JERRY MENINICK’S is passionate about helping the people of the Yakama Nation thrive through the preservation and practice of their cultural history. “We need to learn from our past, to create our future,” he says. His deep and abiding commitment began quietly, growing up in a traditional home where the family fished on the Columbia and listened to their elderstell stories passed down for generations. It grew intoa profession when he started collecting elders’ stories about the Columbia River for a preservation project with the US Forest Service, and into a passion when he was elected to Tribal Council and later became Chairman. As he sees it, connecting to one’s cultural heritage, understanding and appreciating the sacrifices your ancestors made, and practicing time-honored traditions, grounds a person, makes them strong, and in turn, adds to the strength of the entire community.

PHYLLIS STROM spent most of her working years looking out for the welfare of her people of the Yakama Nation. A bookkeeper by training, she spent 35 years safeguarding the strength and sustainability of many tribal programs. Additionally, she sought new funding sources to provide additional services to the Department of Natural Resources, Human Services and Law Enforcement, while continuing to ensure services to manpower and career enhancement programs to assist Native Americans in becoming self- sufficient and build careers to sustain their livelihood. She enjoyed working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Services and Yakama Nation where she helped enforce compliance to established regulations to protect eligibility for continued funding. She credits staff for giving the membership quality services and allowing her to enjoy motherhood for her eight children.

PATSY WHITEFOOT is not afraid of confronting injustices. In fact, she’s spent a lifetime fighting for the rights of Native peoples everywhere. She’s been a strong voice for change at the state and national levels calling for improved access to educational opportunities from preschool through college for Native American students. President Obama appointed her to serve on his National Advisory Council on Indian Education. She’s brought attention to the need for improved mental health and addiction services for Native Americansand is a leader in the movement to draw attention to the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women both on the Yakama homelands and across the nation.

The four elders were each featured in ads that ran in the Yakama Nation Review and were honored during a special ceremony at the university on November 8. This is the fifth year that Heritage has honored Yakama elders. Portraits of all of the recipients are on a permanent display in the Violet Lumley Rau Center. page7image27916096



Who Am I?

Heritage student’s research centers on culture and identity for immigrant youth in the Yakima Valley.

Josefa Zarco was in high school when she first read the bestselling, young adult novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. “It was ok,” she thought as she set it aside and let it slip out of her mind.

Flash forward to her junior year at Heritage. Zarco, an English major aspiring to go to law school, received a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship.She needed a research topic and was looking at a list of suggested reading materials for inspiration. There on the list was the familiar book from her high school days. What a difference a few years makes. This time the book, which follows the teenage daughter of immigrants as she navigates through stereotypes and expectations to find her identity, really resonated with her.

Josefa is a member of the Heritage University chapter of the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.

People think ‘You’re a Mexican woman, you must be really shy and submissive’ or ‘your parents raised you to become a wife and mother, to sacrifice yourself and your needs to take care of the men and children,’ but that’s not necessarily who we are,” she said. “Immigrant families are families just like everyone else. We have a lot of the same struggles and dynamics that you find in families from other cultures.

“Teens are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into this world. Immigrant teens have all of the same angst that their peers are facing, plus the addition of some pretty dark and scary issues, like the fear that their parents or friends may be deported, and racism that tells them that they don’t belong in their own country. For many, there is also a feeling that they don’t fit in. They don’t look 100% ‘American’ and when they go to Mexico, they don’t look or sound like they are from there either.”

Zarco began building the foundation of her research on culture and identity development for immigrant teens in the Yakima Valley. It starts with an introspective look.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Zarco is in a unique position to understand and empathize with the complexities of living in a traditional immigrant family. Her father, Artemio Zarco met her mother, Socorro, and they married and raised Josefa and her two sisters in Los Angeles. Her father had his residency papers when they married, but her mom did not. Zarco candidly admits she worried her mom could be deported at any time.

The family relocated to the Yakima Valley where her parents found jobs, he in a hops field and she in a warehouse packing apples. They saved enough to hire an attorney and began to apply for residency for her mom. Zarco was the oldest, and she knew English, so she became the de facto administrator of her mom’s permanent residency papers.

Zarco’s experience helping her mom was pivotal. It got her thinking about going to college and becoming a lawyer. Her family was supportive, but she knew nothing about the process— how to find a college, scholarships and financial aid, how to apply. She couldn’t ask her parents for help either, so the process was sometimes overwhelming.


Josefa and her family celebrating Christmas at a Las Pastorelas held in San Bernardino, California.

Years later as Zarco was formulating her research question, she thought back to her own experiences and the challenges they presented to her and her sense of self. She understands how first generation students may feel self-doubt when transitioning from their traditional roles to being students. Moreover, how they wrestle with the choice to follow their parents and peers into the workforce, particularly into agriculture, vs. pursuing higher education.

“We’ve been told we can do more,” Zarco said. “But we repeat what our parents did even though they don’t want us to continue that cycle. We do it because it is comfortable.”

Zarco’s research is important, especially here at Heritage, said Dr. Winona Wynn, Mellon & Leadership Alliance Coordinator at Heritage.

“It’s going to document the real process that happens when students come into the academic environment,” said Wynn. “There’s anxiety, fear, the perception of losing their family, and not feeling capable enough to be here. They question whether they can succeed and if the sacrifices they are making – giving up income or the approval of their families – is worth it.

“While in traditional roles, they know who they are and how they fit in, but as students, they are plunged into a whole new identity and there’s a fear of not belonging.”

Zarco pointed out that while there is a focus on addressing and fixing skills deficits that first- generation students may bring to campus in their coursework, there are other obstacles that can sideline an immigrant student on campus.

“We’re so nurtured in our homes,” said Zarco. “Our parents are super strict, so it’s a whole different world that you step into.”

Among the cultural traditions that are important to Josefa and her family is Las Pastorelas, a traditional Christmas play that recreates the telling of the shepherds following the Star of Bethlehem to find the birthplace of baby Jesus.


Zarco’s started her preliminary research this summer by talking with young adults who worked in agriculture with her dad. A number of her peers whom she met with said they thought college was a waste of time because they could be earning money by working instead. Others said it wasn’t even anything they considered because “college isn’t for people like me,” meaning they perceived that immigrants and children of immigrants don’t belong in college.

Interestingly, while the young adults often dismissed college, the mothers Zarco spoke to wanted more for their children, expressing concern that their children were following in their footsteps and missing out on opportunities to live the American dream.

The work Zarco did this summer helped her narrow down the scope of her project. She is now in the process of finalizing her topic and will submit her questions to the internal review board in November. Once approved, she’ll begin in-depth interviews with six young adults using the ethnographic interviewing method. In this qualitative method, subjects are given broad, descriptive questions in which they can speak at length about their experiences. Zarco then evaluates the information to identify systematic, recurring themes.

“I expect my research to bring to light a different side of the immigrant story,” Zarco said.

The goal, she said, is to wrap up her research in April 2020 and submit her work to relevant journals for publishing. page11image9349696

United in Our Differences

Multicultural education sets students up for long-term success that extends beyond graduation.

Long before Miguel Juarez set foot on Heritage University’s campus, in fact before Heritage even had a campus, an overarching principle had taken root—Heritage would be a college with a focus on diversity and multicultural education. By the time Juarez enrolled, this foundational framework was strongly in place and instrumental in building an academic experience that helped him, and thousands of other first- generation students, find success.

“Multicultural education recognizes the importance of acknowledging all experiences, all voices, to empower students, to help them build their unique skills and talents, and to appreciate the strength that comes when we acknowledge, respect and embrace our differences,” said Heritage President Andrew Sund, Ph.D.

This, he said, is especially important at Heritage where minority students are in the majority.

Students of color make up 86% of the undergraduate population with Hispanic/Latino and Native American students being the bulk of this number.


Like so many Heritage students, Miguel Juarez’s path to higher education wasn’t a straight line. He was born and raised in Mexico and immigrated to the United States as a young adult. He spent years working in agriculture, in the fields and dairies of the Yakima Valley. It was hard, honest work, but he wanted more: a chance to go farther than manual labor would allow and a chance to make a difference in the lives of others. Juarez took a leap of faith and enrolled at Heritage.

It was the mid-1990s. Nationally, the college success rate for Hispanic students was less than 15%, nearly half that of Caucasian students not of Hispanic descent. Statically speaking, the odds for Juarez’s success were unfavorable. However, he had chosen Heritage, the university where the founders intentionally put in place practices that would help students like him succeed.

“The first place I went was Student Services, and people there spoke Spanish,” he recalled. “A lot of students looked like me, and I soon found out a number of faculty were Hispanic. I felt welcomed and encouraged from the beginning.”

The support Juarez received throughout his education was critical to his success. He earned a Bachelor of Social Work and went on to earn
a master’s degree. Today, he is back at Heritage, this time as the field director in the Social Work program. And, he is working toward his Ph.D., focusing on a subject with which he’s intimately familiar.

“My dissertation is on success stories of Latino male students. What are the factors that make them stay in school and graduate?”

In writing about successful educational experiences for Latinos, Juarez is telling his own story of thriving at a multicultural university – a story that begins with a welcome, is filled with reinforcement and personal growth, and ends with a promise of successful integration into a multicultural world, a world in which students are prepared to lead.


What students like Juarez feel is a powerful force at Heritage, said Professor Yusuf Incetas who is with the College of Education: it’s empathy.

“Once you establish empathy in the truest sense with everyone, you will be on the same frequency. It’s the essence of a multicultural university experience, and it’s the core of everything here.”

Empathy begins with an understanding of the most basic life challenges for Heritage students, which can include jobs, children, and sometimes language issues. Heritage takes a holistic approach, he said.

“It’s the faculty, the staff, the extra services like the Early Learning Center. It’s the celebration of culturally important holidays, such as Treaty Days, El Grito and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The recognition of our students’ backgrounds is even seen in the types of food we serve in the café and the art on the walls.”

There are specific places at Heritage dedicated to meeting students where they are. The university’s Center for Indigenous Health, Culture and the Environment

works to build partnerships to empower indigenous peoples. The Institute for Student Identity Research helps provide insights into how students’ identities can be engaged as assets and not handicaps in their educational process.

According to Dr. Maxine Janis, the president’s liaison for Native American affairs, a lot of the process of working with students begins with seeing and emphasizing their strengths.

“We talk about support mechanisms that are in place – family, tradition, their own perseverance,” she said. “We flip the script that would look at negatives and look at resilience factors.”


When people from different cultural groups come together, said university co-founder Dr. Kathleen Ross, respectful conversation and regard for others is crucial.

She recalled going before the Yakama Tribal Council with co- founders Martha Yallup and Violet Lumley Rau.

“We asked if they would like this to be a tribal school. They said, ‘We’re a minority on the Yakama reservation. There are also Latino people, Filipino people, many others. We want everyone here to have a chance.’”

The world has gotten smaller since Heritage’s founding in 1982, said Ross, more interconnected. This, she said, makes conscious multiculturalism that much more important.

“We’ve always had a strong sense of how important it is to be open, to share ideas, to share solutions to issues. It’s even more so today.”


Building a multicultural education involves more than faculty and staff. The students play a role as well.

At the start of each year, faculty come together for Faculty Days, a full day of peer-supported training presented by the university’s Center for Intercultural Learning and Teaching, led by Ed Rousculp and Mary James. One of Rousculp’s favorite presentations was “Uncovering the Discoverable: Having the Courage to Hear Student Voices.”

“Students did photos, painting, poetry readings, music, dance – expressions of their life experiences that had a lot of emotion connected to them,” he said. “They shared with their teachers what they really wanted them to know about their personal experiences in the world.”

It hit faculty in a powerful way, said Rousculp. That kind of sharing of experiences is integral to multicultural education.

Rousculp and James work with faculty to fine-tune their teaching skills, encouraging the use of textbooks and other learning tools that display cultural awareness. They encourage faculty to bring in diverse speakers who work in the field and, ultimately, to encourage students to speak out.

It starts from day one. One of the first classes for freshmen is University 101: Foundations for Success, a required course that looks at the indigenous experience, the immigrant experience, environmental stewardship, and sexual identity.

“It helps them look at diversity, identity, their experiences and those of their fellow students,” said Rousculp. “It’s the beginning of a thread that runs through the entire university experience.”


“Our understanding of the world may be illuminated if we are willing to admit more than one truth,” said James.

The narrative of the dominant culture has always been the dominant narrative, she pointed out. Heritage faculty seek textbooks and teaching materials that highlight the truths of less-heard cultures – for example,

what the signing of treaties was about for Native Americans. They also learn that treaties are living documents that apply to their lives today.

Students “bloom” when they hear voices from their own culture and when they find their own voice, said James. They bloom when their fellow scholars respect and listen to what they say.

“They bloom when they’re comfortable enough to bring their own personal voice into the discussion,” she said. “That’s when we let go. We’re not the leaders of the conversation anymore, they are.”

Students figure out how they want to work together on issues in their own communities and the world.

Virtually every Heritage major offers students ways to become actively engaged – whether in research in the scientific community, student teaching, social work practicums, or business internships.

“From the beginning, we ask students to consider how they can make the world more just,” said Rousculp. “They move from being inspired by role models, to active engagement with each other, to having the opportunity to be people who can make a difference.”


At the end of the day, just how much impact does this type of educational experience have on students? It’s transformational, said Juarez.

“When students start at Heritage, they’re not sure of themselves or their place in the world. They’re reserved,” he said. “But by the time they’re about to graduate, they’ve become leaders. They assertively prove their points, at times even challenging the professor.

“I say, ‘Look at you! Look at the language. Look at the terminology you use.’ Even the way they dress is more confident. It’s reflected in everything they do. They know who they are and what they want to do.”

This newly budded confidence stays with them. Janis takes part in student’s exit interviews shortly before graduation. After four, five, sometimes even six years of being a college student, they are once again vulnerable, facing the unknown and having to take a leap of faith. Students sometimes express their fear of leaving, but Janis reminds them of just how much they’ve accomplished.

“I say, ‘It’s up to you now. And you can do it.’ And they do. Because here, they belonged, and they were heard. Here they found their voice.” page7image9381424


Heritage University professor co-authors second book on dealing with water crisis in South America


Heritage University professor co-authors second book on dealing with water crisis in South America

Alex Alexiades

Alex Alexiades, Ph.D. holds the two books he’s co-authored on dealing with water crisis in South America.

Toppenish, Wash. – A new, one-of-a-kind book written to be a resource for Indigenous communities and leaders, natural resource managers and government organizations in protecting freshwater rivers in the tropical Andes and Amazon has been co-authored by Heritage University Associate Professor Alex Alexiades, PhD.  Los ríos de las cuencas Andino-Amazónicas (Rivers of the Andean-Amazonian Basins) was co-authored by Alexiades and collaborators to help communities worldwide protect their water from pollution. It is being published in Spanish by the Universidad San Francisco de Quito Press located in Ecuador.

Dr. Alexiades says a recent World Economic Forum Global Risks Report ranked the water crisis as one of the five most important potential threats to worldwide economic and social stability. “The water supply in many regions is becoming scarce as demand exceeds supply while contamination increases. Since 1971, this combination has resulted in more than 80% of freshwater species to dwindle in numbers, or become extinct,” he said. “Because of this alarming threat, it’s more important than ever to help communities understand, monitor and protect their freshwater resources. Los ríos de las cuencas Andino-Amazónicas will enable communities to make better resource management and conservation decisions.”

The work by Alexiades and his partners has received financial support from the Latin American Water Fund Alliance, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the National Science Foundation. The Nature Conservancy and several other agencies collaborated with the authors on Los ríos de las cuencas Andino-Amazónicas for its work to improve water quality in the Andean-Amazon region for both the people and the environment.

Los ríos de las cuencas Andino-Amazónicas is the second book on an environmental crisis authored by Dr. Alexiades and his colleagues. Their first book, Nuestro Vivir En La Amazonía Ecuatoriana: Entre La Finca Y El Petróleo (Our Life in the Ecuadorian Amazon: Caught Between Petroleum and Agriculture), came out in 2018 and detailed the struggles of local indigenous and mestizo communities and their environment as they faced increasing threats from mining, petroleum.

For more information contact Alex Alexiades at (509) 865-0732 or alexiades_a@heritage.edu. To schedule an interview with Alexiades, please contact David Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.


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Heritage University to host open house at Columbia Basin College

Heritage University
3240 Fort Road • Toppenish, WA 98948
(509) 865-8500
For more information contact:
David Mance, Media Relations Coordinator
(509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.


Heritage University to host open house at Columbia Basin College

Toppenish, Wash. – College students in the Tri-Cities can explore different degree offerings to enhance their careers during a Heritage University open house at Columbia Basin College (CBC) in Pasco on November 7, 2019. Representatives of the degree programs as well as financial aid and enrollment specialists from both Heritage and CBC to help prospective students learn more about the transfer process from CBC to Heritage, and receive information about the programs offered at Heritage’s Tri-Cities site. Prospective students will learn more about the programs offered at Heritage’s Tri-Cities site to help and answer questions.

Heritage University offers five programs at CBC for students to turn their associate degree into a bachelor’s, and one program to turn a bachelor’s degree into a master’s. The five undergraduate degrees are criminal justice, elementary education (K-8th grade), psychology, accounting, and social work. People with a bachelor’s degree can obtain a Master in Teaching (MIT) with a K-8 elementary endorsement and the option to add more.

Marisol Rodriguez-Price, the director of the Heritage University office at CBC, said the open-house serves as a one-stop-shop for students wanting to explore options in furthering their education and achieving their career goals. “Not only will people get to meet the chairs of each of the five programs we offer, but our Director of Admissions and Director of Financial Aid will be available to answer their questions and walk them through the process of applying,” said Rodriguez-Price. “Those who attend will see the personalized service and resources we offer to help them earn their bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. Also, students without an AA-DTA can speak with CBC recruiters for information on how to complete transfer requirements.”

The open house will take place at the “B” building at CBC from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information, contact Marisol Rodriguez-Price at (509) 542-5506 or Rodriguez-Price_M@heritage.edu.

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Heritage University receives $5 million federal grant to support STEM students at HU and at Portland State University


Heritage University awarded $5 million National Science Foundation grant to support STEM students at Heritage and Portland State University

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University has received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support high-achieving, low-income students majoring in STEM fields at Heritage and Portland State University (PSU) in Oregon. The grant will fund a program titled Engagement Achievement and Graduation for Low-incomE Students, or “EAGLES,” and will provide scholarships to cover tuition for at least 116 students in STEM majors, including environmental science, engineering, ecology, chemistry, and biology at both campuses.

EAGLES will accomplish three objectives. The first will be to increase enrollment and retention of low-income and other under-represented groups in STEM fields; the second will be to develop an integrated structure to mentor, advise and engage these students in research and outreach activities focused on community-based challenges associated with environmental pollution; and the third will be to examine the impact of instructional interventions in introductory STEM courses and to fine-tune culturally-responsive learning procedures aimed at developing undergraduate students’ science identity and sense of community. With annual career panels at both Heritage and PSU, additional support services, research experiences, and coursework, EAGLES will not only provide scholarships for biology, environmental science and studies, and chemistry students but will also enhance learning opportunities. EAGLES will fill existing gaps at HU in the STEM pathway by allowing Heritage pre-engineering students to pursue bachelor’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering at PSU and giving them access to PSU career placement services and graduate programs.

Heritage Associate Professor Alexander Alexiades, Ph.D. is the principal investigator along with his counterpart at PSU, Dr. Gwynn Johnson. Alexiades will oversee the EAGLES program at Heritage. He is excited about the STEM opportunities for Heritage students, and for the possibility for the EAGLES model to be used at other campuses across the country.

“The research and service-learning activities conducted by our students will address authentic local and regional issues and strengthen community connections, and these results will demonstrate a model worthy of national replication for increasing enrollment, retention, and graduation in STEM majors and development of the sense of science identity needed in further studies and/or careers in the environmental sciences and engineering.”

Heritage Provost Dr. Kazuhiro Sonoda said this NSF award, when combined with other recent NSF grants (including a $2.5 million announced in June and a $350K grant for research experiences for undergraduates), the university is well-positioned to help STEM students for the next five years. “Heritage University and PSU campuses serve some of the nation’s highest-need students,” said. Sonoda. “These awards make it possible for us to create a comprehensive support system for our STEM students, and I’m very excited about the opportunities these grants will help us bring to them.”

The EAGLES program at HU and PSU will begin in September of this year and run through September 2024. For more information, contact David Mance, media relations coordinator at Heritage University at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@heritage.edu.


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Heritage University to host El Grito de Independencia to honor Mexican Independence Day for second year in a row


Heritage University to host El Grito de Independenciato honor Mexican Independence Day for second year in a row

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is hosting El Grito de Independencia, a Mexican cultural festival in honor of the Mexican Independence Day for the second year in a row.El Grito de Independencia will take place at the Heritage campus on Saturday, September 14, 2019 from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. El Grito de Independencia commemorates the “Cry of Dolores,” a historical event in Mexico that set off the Mexican War of Independence from Spain and will be reenacted at 7:45 p.m.

The festivalwill have fun for the entire family, including games and piñatas for kids, food and beverages, traditional dancers, mariachis and live music. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Melissa Hill at (509) 865-0411 or Hill_M@Heritage.edu.

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Class Notes – Updates on Heritage University Alumni


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:


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

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


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


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



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.

Heritage University awarded $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant to increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students in STEM workforce


Heritage University awarded $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant to increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students in STEM workforce

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University and its partners will use a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) Program for “CRESCENT,” a project to increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce. CRESCENT, which stands for “Culturally Responsive Education in STEM”, will combine innovative strategies for professional development of STEM faculty, STEM curriculum enhancement through institutional partnerships, offering experiential learning to students through hands-on research experiences and community outreach, and development of intensive culturally-responsive student support services to increase the number and diversity of students pursuing higher education in STEM disciplines.

CRESCENT will be led by Heritage University faculty Dr. Jessica Black, the Director of the Center for Indigenous Health, Culture & the Environment and the Chair of the Department of Natural Sciences. The program will incorporate students’ unique cultural strengths in the STEM Student Learning Intervention (SSLI) wrap-around services, combining near-peer mentoring, intensive advising, enhanced tutoring, undergraduate research training, and leadership development activities for engaging and supporting underrepresented minority (URM) students in learning. “We have many talented and driven students in our region who are interested in pursuing STEM careers but can sometimes struggle on their journeys and become discouraged. The CRESCENT program is designed to support these students throughout their pathway from high school to graduate school”, said Black.  “CRESCENT program activities will also empower faculty to develop innovative teaching strategies for instructing our diverse students and prepare the next generation of global citizens with a breadth of knowledge and essential life skills to succeed in the rapidly changing environment of the 21stcentury”.

The CRESCENT program will also investigate factors influencing STEM gatekeepers at the most influential and critical educational transitions that are limiting URM student engagement and advancement into STEM careers, testing innovative models transforming these gatekeepers into positive forces. Other goals include expanding a sustainable collaborative network with regional high schools to increase the pool of URM STEM-prepared first-generation freshmen undergraduate students, increase the number of URM student interested in STEM disciplines, improve the performance and retention of URM STEM students, and increase the number of URM students who pursue graduate studies in STEM disciplines after completion of their undergraduate degrees. The project will generate new knowledge on how to improve the retention and graduation of these students, and the outcomes will be shared with other HSIs seeking to grow their numbers of successful students.

Other HU faculty involved with CRESCENT include Dan Sisk, engineering professor and Dr. David Laman, chemistry professor. Project partners will include Dr. Naidu Rayapati, professor/plant pathologist and Director of the Washington State University Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser, Dr. Rodney Cooper, research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Wapato, and Dr. Matthew Loeser, biology faculty at Yakima Valley College. The CRESCENT program will be funded from September 2019 through August 2024.

For more information contact David Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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