Before They Walked, Eagles Soared!

It was a long time coming. For some, almost two years. On Saturday, October 30, graduates from the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 finally had their moment in the sun when they walked across the stage to receive their hard-earned diplomas.

For more than 600 graduates, the end of their academic careers was somewhat anticlimactic. COVID restrictions closed the campus to in-person learning and activities. The Class of 2020 went away for spring break and never came back. They finished off their last six weeks of college online. For the Class of 2021, online learning was even longer. They spent their entire senior year in a virtual world. For both classes, celebrating earning their degree with family and friends at Commencement seemed impossible.

“COVID robbed our graduates of some of the best parts about going to college. Their final weeks, and for our Class of 2021, their final year at college was completely different than anyone expected,” said Dr. Kazuhiro Sonoda, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “They all showed great resiliency and grit as they stayed focused on their studies and graduated under these extremely challenging conditions. It was important to all of us to find a way to make Commencement possible.”

This summer, as COVID seemed to be loosening its grip on the nation and more and more people were vaccinated against the illness, school administration felt confident enough to set a date for the rescheduled celebration. October 30 gave everyone enough time to organize the event and was still early enough in the year to avoid winter conditions that could hamper families’ travel plans. However, as the date approached, the Delta strain reared its ugly head.

“We essentially had three choices,” said Sonoda. “We could move the date again, cancel it altogether, or do something radically different.”

They choose the final option. Commencement moved on campus and online. It was set up outside, where chairs and people could be set six feet apart in the open air. It was open only to graduates and those who had a role during the ceremony, such as faculty, speakers and volunteers. A local station, Hispanavision, televised the ceremony so that family and friends could watch the proceedings safely from their own homes.

“Safety was first and foremost on our minds,” said Sonoda. “That and ensuring that our graduates’ experiences were as close to ‘normal’ as possible.”

Of the more than 600 graduates over the two years, roughly a quarter participated in the celebration, including Irwin Godinez-Cruz, B.A., English.

“Being able to celebrate my graduation with a cap and gown was a great honor to my family and me. It was a symbol of all the hard work and sacrifice I put into my academic career. Work and dedication that may have been overseen due to the pandemic, but not forgotten by our institution. The great staff of Heritage University made our dream of having a graduation ceremony a reality. As a first-generation student, this was the greatest of honors,” he said.

Aside from the change in location and limited access, the rest of the event proceeded much like usual. Heritage University founder Dr. Kathleen Ross, snjm presented the Commencement address. Maria Riveria, B.A., Psychology and History, and Godinez- Cruz presented the undergraduate Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 address, respectively. Raymandeep Aujla, M.A., Medical Sciences, and Maggie Lai, M.A., Medical Sciences, presented the graduate addresses for 2020 and 2021. Maria Soto, B.S.W., Social Work and B.A., History, received the 2020 President’s Award of Distinction, and Paola Herrera, B.S.W., Social Work, received the honor for the Class of 2021. After the graduates received their diplomas, the multi- Grammy nominated Native American drum group, Black Lodge Singers, sang an honor song. And, at the end of the long-awaited ceremony, the graduates marched and danced out to celebrate some more with their loved ones awaiting their arrival back home. page5image64606896

Back to Business as the New Normal

Back to Business as the New Normal

Students at Heritage University walk past the Gaye and Jim Pigott Commons on campus during the first week of the fall 2021 semester.

When the 2021/22 academic year opened this fall with students, faculty and staff on campus for in-person learning, what was once normal seemed quite remarkable! After all, for the past year and a half, the campus was more like a ghost town than a university, with most classes meeting online and all but the most essential employees working remotely from their home offices.

The decision to return to in-person classes was made early in the summer when it appeared as though Washington state, and the nation, had turned a corner on COVID-19. Vaccines were widely available, and the rate of infection was going down. The state and health districts had lifted restrictions on gatherings, and schools and universities were given guidelines to return to “normal” operations.

“Our goal was, and continues to be, to provide our students with a quality academic experience while maintaining safety for all who come on campus,” said Dr. Melissa Hill, vice president for student affairs and head of the university’s safe open committee. “We worked very closely with the Department of Health to build a plan that would allow us to accomplish both goals.”

Ensuring safety meant maintaining all of the pandemic protocols—social distancing, wearing face masks and proper hygiene. The biggest change was requiring vaccinations for faculty, staff and students. Hill explained that the decision to require the vaccine came after a great deal of reflection and conversations with a wide array of individuals.

By that time, the vaccine had been widely distributed and was proving to be safe and effective in reducing infection and, in the rare breakthrough cases, in reducing the severity of infection, even with the onset of the Delta variant. Students and staff embraced the mandate for the most part, with only a handful choosing to leave the university or apply for religious or medical exemptions. In fact, at a time when most colleges and universities in the United States reported a drop in enrollment, Heritage’s enrollment remains strong.

Students outside Rau Center

Students study on a picnic table outside the Violet Lumley Rau Center at Heritage University.

“We are very proud of our employees and our student body,” said Hill. “The vast majority were fully vaccinated before the start of the school year.”

The university didn’t do away with its online platforms, which have proven to be an effective tool to help students stay engaged in their studies. During the summer of 2020, Heritage set up its online classrooms so that students can take classes three ways: in person, on campus; synchronously online at the time classes meet; and asynchronously online at a time that best meets their schedule. The result eliminates some of the barriers that can keep students from college, such as unexpected issues with transportation, childcare or even illness.

“Ideally, we want to see every student on campus, in the classroom with their instructor and their peers,” said Hill. “However, the reality of our students’ lives means that sometimes they just can’t make it here. Having these other options gives them more flexibility and options to keep them from missing classes and falling behind. We continue to see a number of our students take advantage of this flexibility.”

The first semester of the year recently wrapped up. Hill is encouraged by the results of the first few months.

“Operating in this pandemic world means we have to be flexible and open to rapid changes. We continue to monitor the situation and are prepared to adjust as needed,” she said. “If there is one thing this last year and a half has shown, it is that our students are resilient and focused on reaching their goals. They are not letting anything get in their way.” page5image25375120

Student sitting near Teepee

A Heritage University student sits near the Teepee and checks her phone during a break from studies on campus.

Yakima Valley Partners for Education and Save the Children use digital resources to expand reading opportunities for elementary students

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Yakima Valley Partners for Education and Save the Children work to develop enhanced reading habits in third-graders by providing access to digital books library.

Toppenish, Wash.– Yakima Valley Partners for Education (YVPE) and Save the Children are working to grow the reading skills of third-graders in the lower Yakima Valley by connecting them to digital reading. About 400 students in the Sunnyside, Mabton and Grandview School Districts have received access to the “myON” digital library, a resource with more than 6,000 digital books. Also, students can use a public library provided by Unite for Literacy.

This effort started on November 1, 2021 with literacy outreach rallies in each school district, and focused on the importance of children reading at least 20 minutes a day. “We realize this is a challenging task for many families to accomplish,” said YVPE Director Suzy Diaz. “That is why we are making these additional resources available to encourage student reading in the home with language and narration options to meet their individual needs.”

Jared Lind, director of instructional improvement for the Grandview School District in Grandview, Wash., said not only is this initiative an effort to increase the time students read each day, it prepares them for future learning. “With access to a digital library and an extensive choice of books outside of the school day, students will have the opportunity to establish reading habits that will promote essential skills necessary for school and beyond,” said Lind.

YVPE and Save the Children will monitor use of myON in November and December to track student progress. To reduce possible screen fatigue, users can access narration options in both English and Spanish. For more information, contact David Mance at 509-969-6084 or mance_D@heritage.edu.

About Save the Children

Since its founding more than 100 years ago, Save the Children has changed the lives of more than 1 billion children in the United States and around the world, helping ensure children grow up healthy, educated and safe.

Save the Children is a central program partner, with three Early Learning Coordinators placed in the Grandview School District, serving 150 children locally through home visiting, book bag exchanges, and various food, learning materials, and essential resource distributions. They have also provided catalytic financial and technical investments to help launch this work.

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Virginia Beavert Day Proclamation

Heritage University’s Early Learning Center to offer expanded range of services in new state-of-the-art facility

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Heritage University’s Early Learning Center to offer expanded range of services in new state-of-the-art facility

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University President Andrew Sund, Ph.D. announced today that thanks to the generosity of an anonymous private donor, it will break ground on December 3, 2021 on a new $3.2 million state-of-the-art Early Learning Facility to serve the needs of the community. The new five-classroom facility will serve children between the ages of 12 months and kindergarten, providing pre-kindergarten instruction known to be invaluable in later years of scholastic achievement.  The center is scheduled to open in the winter of 2022. The groundbreaking ceremony will start at 12:00 p.m.   

Heritage University’s mission of making higher education accessible regardless of economic, cultural or social barriers, is also shared by the university’s Early Learning Center (ELC). The university’s ELC strives to help families with similar access and financial challenges, to prepare their children for success in kindergarten and beyond. “Our early learning programs are designed to offer experiences that enhance and enrich each child’s cognitive, language, social, emotional, physical and creative development,” said ELC Executive Director Claudette Lindquist. “We believe that good child care is good family care. However, our basic philosophy is one of freedom to learn, grow and make choices and we have structured the environment to reflect that belief.”

Quality early learning experiences help prepare children for success in kindergarten, leading to improved educational outcomes during their middle school, high school, and college years. It’s a strategy embraced by Yakima Valley Partners for Education, a Collective Impact initiative started by Heritage University and supported by collaborations with schools and communities throughout the lower Yakima Valley. “We have a deep understanding of the formative role of early education as well as the need to build on the resilience and skills of youth throughout their educational journey,” said Collective Impact Director Suzy Diaz. “We take a cradle-to-career view of improving educational outcomes so that our youth develop into thriving members of our community, and it’s a view wholeheartedly embraced by Heritage University’s ELC.”

Lindquist says the ELC also prepares Heritage University students for their future careers through work-study opportunities at the ELC that provide them valuable experience in their chosen fields. “We have employed social work and nursing students who perform a wide variety of important roles as assistants at the ELC,” said Lindquist. “The students get to use what they’ve learned in the classroom here, earn a paycheck while in school, and obtain skills and experience coveted by employers.”

In addition to serving the lower Yakima Valley community year-round, the ELC also extends its services to Heritage students, faculty and staff. The ELC is currently licensed to enroll 74 students; the expansion will increase that number to 90. For more information, contact Claudette Lindquist at (509) 865-0723 or Lindquist_C@Heritage.edu. For help with interviews, please contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.

Heritage University Early Learning Center rendering by Graham Baba Architects

Heritage University Presents a Land Acknowledgement Statement to the Yakama Nation Recognizing and Respecting the Indigenous Peoples Who Stewarded the Land on which the University Now Resides

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Heritage University Presents a Land Acknowledgement Statement to the Yakama Nation Recognizing and Respecting the Indigenous Peoples Who Stewarded the Land on which the University Now Resides

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University (HU) signed a formal Land Acknowledgement Statement (LAS) that recognizes and respects the Indigenous peoples as traditional stewards of the land in central Washington where Heritage is located, and the enduring relationship that exists between the Yakama Nation and their traditional territory. Kip Ramsey, a tribal elder and chair of HU’s Tribal Relations Committee, and Heritage president Andrew Sund, Ph.D. signed the LAS at a ceremony held at the Heritage University Teepee on Wednesday, November 10, 2021.

The Land Acknowledgement Statement in full, reads as follows:

Heritage University occupies its home on the traditional lands of the Yakama People. These ancestral homelands are the Yakama, Palouse, Pisquouse, Wenatshapam, Klikatat, Klinquit, Kow- was-say-ee, Li-ay-was, Skin-pah, Wish-ham, Shyiks, Ochechotes, Kah-milt-pa, and Se-ap-cat, who today are represented by the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation [TREATY OF 1855] and, whose relationship with this land continues to this day. Heritage University, grounded in the vision of the two Yakama women founders, respects Indigenous peoples as traditional guardians of the lands and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous peoples and their traditional territories.  We offer gratitude for the land itself, for those who have stewarded it for generations, and for the opportunity to study, learn, work, and be in community on this land. We acknowledge that our University’s history, like many others, is fundamentally tied to the first colonial developments in the Yakima Valley. Finally, we respectfully acknowledge and honor past, present, and future Indigenous students who will journey through this home called Heritage University.

Maxine Janis, Ed.D., professor and the President’s Liaison for Native American Affairs at Heritage and a member of the Oglala Latoka nation said over the years Heritage has had various land acknowledgement statements used by various individuals but nothing officially authored by the University. “This signed document gives us an official, consistent message of land acknowledgment,” said Dr. Janis. “It’s a message that we truly recognize and respect the privilege it is to have a university on this land.”

Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman Delano Saluskin (left) and Yakama Nation General Council Chairman Roger Fiander (middle left) and Heritage University Board of Directors Tribal Relations Committee Chair Kip Ramsey (right) look on as Heritage president Andrew Sund, Ph.d. (middle right) signs a Land Acknowledgement Statement recognizing Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of the land on which Heritage University now resides.

Sol Neely, Ph.D., associate professor of English at Heritage and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who helped write the statement, said the LAS is an important step in further strengthening the long-standing relationship between the Yakama Nation and Heritage University. “Establishing a protocol for delivering the Land Acknowledgement Statement elevates public awareness of both Yakama Nation histories and futures across our campus and the broader community,” said Dr. Neely. “The LAS also includes recommended short and mid-term as well as long-range actions that, when implemented, will ensure meaningful change to benefit Indigenous students.”

Some of the short and mid-term actions include: posting a plaque or framed version of the full Land Acknowledgement Statement in prominent locations on campus; starting all campus events with one of the official Land Acknowledgement Statement(s); organizing “learning circles” on Yakama culture and traditions for all faculty, staff, and administrators and require new faculty, administrators and staff to attend; inventory Ichishkiin language preservation and revitalization resources at Heritage in order to build a “Dr. Virginia Beavert Collection” at the university’s Donald North Library that contains historical, cultural and linguistic materials for educational purposes, to name a few. Long-range actions include updating American Indian Studies (AIS) A.A. and B.A. programs so that Heritage becomes an “education destination” for students across the region; recruiting and retaining an additional Indigenous faculty member to contribute to the AIS programs; investing in and sustaining support for the Heritage University Language Center (HULC).

The Indigenous-led effort to develop the LAS began during the fall 2020 semester at HU when faculty members started talking about the growing number of LAS’s being established by other universities in Canada and the U.S. As support for the Heritage LAS grew, Dr. Janis created a committee of Indigenous faculty including Winona Wynn, Ph.D., Greg Sutterlict, Ph.D. candidate and the previously mentioned Dr. Neely, as well as Yakama Nation Higher Education Program Manager Elese Washines, Ph.D. to write the LAS. Neely, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who has worked with other universities on their own LAS’s, incorporated a LAS between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nations (EBCI) and the University of North Carolina Asheville (UNC-Ashville). During the spring, the draft LAS was endorsed by the HU Board’s Tribal Relations Committee and then presented to the Yakama Nation Tribal Council this past August, where it was warmly received and lauded and called a “landmark moment.”

Dr. Sund said the LAS signing is a very important day for recognizing Heritage’s history and mission with the Yakama Nation. “We know that education has been part of the Yakama Nation since time immemorial, as tribal elders share their knowledge with their children and younger tribal members. Heritage was created to bring higher education to this land and to serve as a complement to the education systems that already exist within the Nation,” said Sund.

Plans are underway to frame and display the Land Acknowledgement Statement on campus. For more information, contact Davidson Mance at 509-969-6084 or at mance_d@heritage.edu.

 

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Heritage University awarded five-year $3 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education to expand university’s BSN program and upgrade science labs

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Heritage University awarded five-year $3 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education to expand university’s BSN program and upgrade science labs

 

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University has received a five-year, $3 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions (DHSI) branch to expand its Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and make upgrades to campus science laboratories.

HU Associate Professor Melvin Simoyi, Ph.D. says an expanded BSN program will create a path that allows current working registered nurses to go back to school and earn their four-year degree in nursing. “As hospitals and other healthcare institutions start requiring their nurses to earn a bachelor’s as a condition for employment, this grant will allow Heritage to help the local community and beyond meet a dire need for healthcare professionals, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact communities locally and globally,” said Dr. Simoyi.

Heritage University President Andrew Sund, Ph.D. is proud of the Heritage faculty that wrote such a thoughtful and comprehensive grant application. “The faculty at Heritage have worked very hard to establish a world-class BSN program at Heritage. This award by the Department of Education to expand the program validates their accomplishments. The grant will allow for a significant expansion of the program resulting in even more highly qualified nurses ready to serve the people of the Valley,” said Dr. Sund.

In addition to the RN to BSN degree pathway development, Heritage University’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) offerings will expand with new laboratories for environmental, health and physical sciences. The existing biology, chemistry and physics laboratories at Heritage will be redesigned and equipped to meet the rigorous demands for effective STEM degree programs instruction.

Dr. Simoyi says the grant will allow Heritage to continue delivering high-quality education to even more students. “Technology doesn’t stand still. Updates and improvements are always required, and we at Heritage have the desire to always keep up with the times to ensure we are delivering the best education possible to our students. We are very grateful to the Dept. of Education for its support to help us build on our successes.”

This new grant will also be used to upgrade the university’s information technology services and enable Heritage to improve institutional data collection and analysis by hiring an institutional research report writer and eventually establishing an Institutional Research Office. This project will also develop a financial literacy course with the goal of establishing the course as a General University Course Requirement (GUCR). Finally, this Title V “SHIRE-FIT” project will provide $1,000 stipends to 10 students every year to participate in research internships as work-based learning experiences.

This $3 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education which started October 1, 2021, is the second multi-million-dollar award recently announced by Heritage University. Earlier this month, Heritage received a $4.5 million grant, also from the Dept. of Education, to expand STEM studies in the Yakima Valley. For more information, contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.

 

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Heritage University receives $4.5 million grant to expand STEM studies in the Yakima Valley

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Heritage University receives five-year $4.5 million grant from U.S. Dept. of Education to expand STEM studies in the Yakima Valley

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University has received a five-year, $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education to expand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies in the Yakima Valley. This program will employ mentors and role models for high school students interested in STEM careers and help students navigate a path for studying STEM in college, supplying the Valley with the next generation of scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians. This grant will also allow Heritage to build a 4,700 square foot STEM Education Center on its Toppenish campus, complete with laboratories, learning spaces and equipment to support STEM learning programs.

Heritage president Andrew Sund, Ph.D. is proud of the faculty who made this compelling application to the Dept. of Education, and grateful for U.S. Senator Patty Murray’s ongoing efforts to support STEM Education in Washington State. “As the chair for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, Senator Murray knows the importance STEM education will play in helping students remain on the cutting edge of innovation in Washington State,” said Dr. Sund. “Because of this award, more students will be able to achieve STEM degrees and fulfill the needs of employers for whom the demand for STEM graduates continues to soar.”

Sund is also thankful to the RGI Corporation of Sunnyside, Wash., the firm who collaborated with Heritage faculty to prepare the grant application. “RGI was masterful in distilling the unique role that Heritage will play in increasing STEM graduates in the valley,” said Sund.

Heritage University Natural Science Department Chair Jessica Black, Ph.D., who will serve as the principal investigator for the grant, is excited for the opportunity to be able to build the capacity to better serve Heritage’s STEM students and the community. “We will focus on empowering our students to overcome barriers that often limit access to higher education. Heritage STEM students will graduate as leaders,” said Dr. Black.

The grant period began October 1, 2021 and will run for five years. Construction of the new STEM Education Center will begin in late 2022. For more information, contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.

 

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News Briefs – Wings Summer 2021

Heritage returns to in-person instruction this fall

A year and a half after Heritage moved to remote learning and working in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, students, faculty and staff are returning to the campus.

Faculty and staff return to working on campus starting August 2 with students arriving at the start of the semester on August 24.

Heritage University students sit outside the Kathleen Ross, snjm Center during the beginning of the fall 2020 semester

Heritage University students sit outside the Kathleen Ross, snjm Center during the beginning of the fall 2020 semester

“The biggest responsibility we have as an administration is to assure that we can provide a safe environment for everyone to work and study at Heritage,” said Sund.

He stressed that Heritage is doing every they can to meet that responsibility, maintaining all pandemic precautions, including mask-wearing inside buildings, social distancing, and enhanced cleaning protocols. Additionally, the university requires all faculty, staff and students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“This decision follows vaccination recommendations by the Yakima County Health District, the State of Washington, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” said Sund. “Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that vaccines are effective and safe, and failure to require vaccinations would legally and ethically constitute a direct threat to the safety of staff, faculty, and students.”

Exceptions to the vaccination requirement will be made for people who have medical conditions, religious beliefs, or extenuating circumstances that prevent them from being vaccinated. Sund also said reasonable accommodations would be made for people who fall into those categories. The university will collect vaccination information and proceed with enforcement of the vaccination policy.

Sund stresses that the university is working closely with Yakima County Health District in its safe opening planning. Changes to the progress being made to tackle the pandemic locally and throughout the state of Washington could force the university to change its course of direction. For the most recent information on Heritage’s COVID-19 response, visit heritage.edu/COVID.

 

Online tool available to assist with planned giving

A screen capture of the MyGiving webpage on the Heritage University website

A screen capture of the MyGiving webpage on the Heritage University website

Individuals interested in learning more about planned giving have an informative new tool available to them 24 hours a day to help them get started. Heritage University recently launched its planned giving website, mylegacy.heritage.edu.

“Planned giving is something that people at a wide range of income levels can and should consider,” said Mary Bohmke, Heritage major gifts officer. “There are many different ways that you can attend to causes that you care about in your estate plans that don’t require you to be a multimillionaire.”

The website includes helpful information on a wide array of ways to give, as well as information on wills and personal stories from some of Heritage’s supporters. Readers can also sign up to receive a free estate planning guide or sign up for a weekly e-newsletter.

 

Campus mourns loss of alumna, friend, colleague and mentor

Heritage alum and staff member Laura Aguiar Garibay passed away on June 9, 2021, following a long illness. She was the Assistant Director of Financial Aid and graduated from Heritage in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. As a student, she was the definition of a student leader. She was active
in the Associated Student Body (ASB), serving two terms as the president, where she led the restructuring of the ASB into the more formal Student Government Association. She was an advocate for education, lending her voice to recruiting and fundraising efforts to raise awareness for the need for accessible higher education and scholarships. Aguiar Garibay was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and the undergraduate student speaker who voiced her classmates’ desire for equity.

Laura Aguiar Garibay

Laura Aguiar Garibay

Aguiar Garibay was passionate about helping access higher education. She understood firsthand the challenges that undocumented
students face in earning their college degrees. After graduation, she joined the Heritage University staff, working in the financial aid office to help students access higher education. She was so dedicated to students that she worked from her hospital bed until shortly before her passing. She also continued her advocacy for undocumented students, sharing her story nationally in many publications, including the New York Times.

Laura is survived by her wife Crystal, whom she met at Heritage; her mother Antonia Garibay Hernandez and father Lugerio Aguiar Hernandez; her sisters Maria Del Carmen Aguiar, Sofia Aguiar, and Evelyn Aguiar; brothers Javier Alejandro Aguiar and Raul David Aguiar; and many nieces and nephews. Her family requested contributions be made to the scholarship fund established in her memory at Heritage University in lieu of flowers.

Bountiful Generosity, Boundless Gratitude – Wings Summer 2021

A collage of those who raised a virtual paddle for the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner

As the university prepared for its 35th Annual Bounty of the Valley Scholarship Dinner, David Wise, vice president for Advancement, knew the goal of raising $750,000 was ambitious.

“Three quarters of a million dollars is a significant amount of money to raise at a single event, even during normal times,” said Wise. “However, the challenges of this past year have hit students especially hard, making the need for scholarships even more pronounced.”

Heritage University student Maritza Alvarez receives a camera cue during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner June 5, 2021

Heritage University student Maritza Alvarez receives a camera cue during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner June 5, 2021

Adding to the challenge was the event would once again have to be held remotely.

“Even though we were seeing a great deal of progress on tackling COVID-19 on a state and national level, the restrictions around large gatherings, plus our concern for the health and welfare of our students, staff and supporters, made us realize that it was entirely too early to go back to our traditional dinner and paddle raise,” said Wise.

The team put their heads together to come up with a virtual event that captured spirit of the live event.

“One of the things that we miss most is the camaraderie of being together and hearing from all of our students,” said Dana Eliason, senior development director. “Our challenge was how do we replicate this in the virtual space?”

The answer came from the students themselves.

Heritage University students serve as phone operators during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner June 5, 2021

Heritage University students serve as phone operators during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner June 5, 2021

“This year we called upon our students to take the lead on our event. Not only did they share their stories in some of our videos, two of
them, Enedeo Garza-Ramirez and Maritza Alvarez hosted the live, real-time telecast. They did an amazing job!” The response? This year’s event broke all records; $872,500 raised to support Heritage students!

Heritage University alumni Laura Quintero pauses during taping of her student speaker segment that aired during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner on June 5, 2021

Heritage University alumni Laura Quintero pauses during taping of her student speaker segment that aired during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner on June 5, 2021

“To say we are overwhelmed by the generosity of so many is an understatement,” said Wise.

“This university is truly blessed with many extremely gracious and generous donors, sponsors and friends,” said Eliason. “There were so many things that made this event special, starting with our wonderful students who graciously shared their stories and volunteered countless hours to make the evening successful. They and some added touches contributed by the community, such as the donated wine and chocolates that went out to those who RSVP’d and the special Bounty of the Valley meal that Provisions Restaurant offered made a memorable evening.”

The beauty of a virtual event, is that even if you missed it live on June 5, you can still watch it any time. Visit heritage.edu/sd2021.