Heritage University will require students, faculty and staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus for the fall 2021 semester


Heritage University will require students, faculty and staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus for the fall 2021 semester

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University President Andrew Sund, Ph.D. announced today that all students, faculty and staff will be required to be vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus before returning to campus for the fall 2021 semester.

Sund said the decision by Heritage administrators to require vaccinations was made after much thought, research, and analysis. “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.  President 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.

Pandemic-era precautions, including mask-wearing inside buildings, social distancing, and enhanced cleaning protocols, will continue in the fall. “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.

To assist those who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine, Heritage University will host a vaccination clinic that is open to students, employees and any family members that are 12 years or older living in the same household on Friday, July 9, 2021, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic (YVFWC) will be providing the Pfizer and Janssen COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The clinic will be held in the Martha B. Yallup Health Sciences Building at Heritage. Participants can choose which vaccine to receive, and those who require a second dose for full vaccination will have the opportunity to schedule that appointment with Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic at any of their various locations three weeks from July 9. Heritage University will also host a second vaccination clinic on Friday, July 30, same time and location.  The July 30 clinic will be for people that need the booster (second dose) or missed the first date and would like to get the Janssen vaccine, which is a single dose.

For more information, contact Davidson Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@heritage.edu.


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K-12 students encouraged to enroll for summer school during Saturday registration event in Sunnyside


K-12 students encouraged to enroll for summer school during Saturday registration event in Sunnyside

Toppenish, Wash. – Lower Yakima Valley students in grades kindergarten through 12 will have the opportunity to register for summer school during the “Community Fair for Summer Enrollment” on Saturday, June 19, 2021, at the Sunnyside Fiesta Foods. Students and their families will be greeted by representatives from the Mabton, Sunnyside and Grandview school districts who will help students enroll or receive information about their respective summer school programs.

This summer school registration event is hosted by Yakima Valley Partners for Education (YVPE) and its partners Save the Children, United Family Center, and Fiesta Foods. Suzy Diaz, the director of Collective Impact at Heritage University says summer school is a chance for children to maintain academic accomplishments year-round.  “Gaps in studying during the summer months lead to knowledge loss,” said Diaz. “By attending summer school, students can receive additional learning time, socialize with their peers, and take part in experiential activities.”

During the fair, Save the Children and United Family Center will enroll kids in the “100 Days of Summer Reading Challenge,” and Fiesta Foods will launch their “Reading Is Growing” reading program. Kids who take on the challenge can earn prizes throughout the summer.

“Community Fair for Summer Enrollment” will be held on Saturday, June 19, 2021 from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the #7 parking lot of Sunnyside Fiesta Foods located at 2010 Yakima Valley Highway in Sunnyside, Wash. Students will have the opportunity to register for, or obtain more information on the following summer programs:

Sunnyside: Ignite Summer School Program June 28-July 22
Class schedule: M-Th 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Grandview: SPARK Summer School Program June 23-July 29
Class schedule: M-Th 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (elementary) and 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (middle and high school).

Mabton: K-12 Summer Program June 21-July 29
Class schedule: M-Th 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Families are asked to check directly with the district for openings.

For more information, contact Suzy Diaz at (509) 480-9354 or Diaz_S@heritage.edu or Micaela Araguz at (509) 975-0046 or Micaela@fiesta-foods.com.


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Congratulations Class of 2021

News Briefs – Winter 2021

Former faculty’s gift to improve chemistry education at HU

Back in the mid-1980s, when Jack Fletcher, Ph.D., started working at Heritage, the chemistry lab was little more than a hand-me-down portable filled with tables and chairs and not much in the way of scientific equipment. Then Christmas came in the form of a donation of 10-12 chemistry stations from a Yakima-area Catholic high school that was upgrading their school science labs.

Throughout his career teaching chemistry, first in a high school, then at Big Bend community college and Heritage, Fletcher repeatedly saw that the need for equipment in the science labs he loved always outpaced the availability of budgeted funds. That’s why, earlier this year, when he and his wife JB Fletcher, Ed.D (Ball State University) discussed making a significant contribution to Heritage, they decided to direct their gift to the chemistry department to buy science equipment.

“We supported Heritage from year to year, and this year we got to thinking about the uniqueness of the situation right now. I thought now was the best time we could do something significant,” he said.

Heritage is a family affair for the Fletchers. Jack started teaching at the university part-time shortly after Heritage College formed. Within a year, he moved to full-time and split his work between teaching science and managing the physical plant. JB taught psychology and counseling classes for most of her time at Heritage and one year as a full-time instructor.

The two left Heritage in 1989 when Jack entered the University of Utah to pursue his doctoral degree in Chemical and Fuels Engineering. However, their experiences at the Heritage never left their hearts and minds.

“We had a great time at Heritage, just a lovely bunch of people, students, the nuns, and all the people there who were supportive,” said JB.

The impact of the Fletchers’ gift will be most deeply felt when fall 2021 classes get underway. The department is replacing several worn-out pieces of equipment.

“The timing and magnitude of the Fletchers’ gift carry an immeasurable impact,” said Tyson Miller, Ph.D., a professor in the natural sciences program. “Both our physics research and our organic chemistry lab instruction were at a crossroads. Their gift allows us to purchase new software and hardware capable of acquiring data for advanced research projects with students and further publications, as well as to upgrade and replace these essential instruments needed for acquiring techniques in organic synthesis and purification.”

For the Fletchers, there is satisfaction in a commitment to Heritage that has, in many ways, come full circle.

“It feels pretty good that I was part of the beginning of the chemistry department, and it has grown from there. Maybe my gift can help take the program where it needs to go for the people who are there now,” said Jack. page19image3372448


Heritage family loses long-time supporter and friend    


Heritage University and the Yakima Valley lost a long-time friend and supporter with the passing of Ron Gamache in January.

Gamache’s support of the university and its students goes back to the formation of the school. When the university’s predecessor, Fort Wright College, closed and Heritage began, he went to Spokane with two moving trucks to load up books and supplies to bring to Toppenish. During those early years, he was “hands-on” with his time and talents, installing water pipes, planting trees and leveling the ground for new construction. Gamache joined the university board of directors in 1986 and served in that capacity for 30 years.

His dedication to public service extended far beyond Heritage University. He spent 30 years as a volunteer firefighter, was twice elected to serve as a Yakima County Commissioner, volunteered with programs that served the homeless and hungry, and was a Fourth-Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, among his many other service activities.

Gamache was a long-time farmer in the Yakima Valley, growing grapes, hops and apples whose love of the industry led him to serve on the Yakima County Farm Bureau and the Washington State Farm Bureau.

His family requested that gifts in his memory be directed to the organizations he supported, including Heritage University.page16image3597248


HU student heading to Johns Hopkins University this summer

Business major Perla Bolanos will be spending this summer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. She was selected to participate in a 10-week humanities internship at the prestigious Tier 1 school.

The internship opportunity is part of the Leadership Alliance First-Year Research Experience (FYRE). This program aims to connect undergraduates with internships and research experiences at top-level universities starting their first year of college. The goal is to prepare more underrepresented students for graduate and Ph.D.-level studies after they earn their undergraduate degrees. In addition to the experience, the program pays students a generous stipend and connects them with academic mentors and a network of fellow scholars.page16image3597248



HU student and alumna selected for social work fellowship

Social work major Paola Herrera was selected to participate in the Latino Center for Health’s 2nd Annual Student Scholars Fellowship Program.

Paola Herrera (center bottom) received the news about her fellowship during a Zoom meeting.

Herrera is one of only eight students selected from Heritage University and the University of Washington. Recent HU graduate Maria Soto, who is pursuing a master’s degree in social work at the UW was also among those selected.

The program supports the next generation of leaders and scholars who are committed to promoting the health and well-being of Latinx communities in Washington State.


Maria Soto

“This fellowship program provides crucial funding to students,” said Dr. Gino Aisenberg, associate professor in the UW School of Social Work and co-director of the Latino Center for Health. “It’s also a great opportunity for them to connect with students from other disciplines and with faculty and staff of the Center.”

Go to heritage.edu/Paola to watch a video of Herrera learning about her selection into the fellowship. page19image3372448



Heritage named a top school in Washington

A recently released report by Intelligent.com placed Heritage University in the top 25 colleges and universities in Washington state.

Intelligent.com is an online magazine designed to help students make informed decisions about going to college providing non- biased, data-driven information. They reviewed 185 Washington state colleges and universities, looking at tuition and fees, credits required to graduate, coursework format and accreditation. The top 49 were included in their report. Heritage ranked 21 out of the 49, and was singled out for having the best scholarship offerings.

Visit intelligent.com/best-colleges-in-washington to read the full report on the ranking. page19image3372448


Partnership expands workforce training program offering

Heritage University and Behavior & Law Corp., one of the leading online training companies in Europe and Latin America, have signed
a collaboration agreement to expand Behavior & Law training courses in the United States.

Behavior & Law are experts in behavioral science training and its application. Their goal is to train qualified professionals for leadership positions to improved working conditions and overall job satisfaction in their professional environments.

Heritage and Behavior & Law are beginning their collaboration to provide training in behavioral sciences. They are currently working
on implementing online training programs that will be offered in both Spanish and English in the United States through Heritage@Work,
the university’s workforce development program. page19image3372448

Class Notes


Chris Cooper (M.Ed., Early Childhood Education) Completed Ed.D. at University of the Pacific. His dissertation focused on autism assessment experience for American Indian parents. Additionally, he joined Mt. Hood Community College last summer, where he serves as the Associate Director of Child Development and Family Supports.




Caty Padilla (B.A., Business Administration) was recognized by the Yakima Herald and one of the 2021 39 under 39 area professionals to watch. Padilla is the executive director of Nuestra Casa in Sunnyside, a nonprofit organization that serves immigrant women in the lower Yakima Valley. They provide educational services, such as adult English classes, citizenship classes, and financial and health literacy classes, and promote civic engagement by immigrants.





Brenda Adams (B.A., Business Administration) was hired by Yakama Nation Central Accounting
to serve as a general ledger accountant. Prior to this, she worked for the Nation regulatory affairs specialist.





Emiliano Orozco (B.A., History) earned his Master of Arts in History from the University of Houston.
In August, he started teaching history at Heritage University as an adjunct instructor.


Isaias Guerrero (B.S.W., Social Work) was named Heritage University’s Director of Student Life and Engagement. Guerrero moved into his new position after serving for two years as a retention specialist with the university’s TRIO/Student Support Services department. page19image3372448




You are an important part of the university family, and we want to make sure that you are fully informed of all the great opportunities that are available to you through Alumni Connections. There are lots of great ways to stay connected:

• Like us on Facebook (facebook.com/HeritageUniversityAlumni)

Sign up to receive Heritage’s e-newsletter HUNow.

• Visit us online at heritage. edu/alumni

Of course, the best way to stay connected is to make sure your contact information is up to date. Please be sure to let us know if your address, e-mail or phone number changes. You can submit your changes online through heritage.edu/ alumni, e-mail us at alumni@ heritage.edu or give us a call at (509) 865-8644.

Alumni Legacy Walk Grows

The Alumni Legacy Walk grew by nearly 300 pavers as commemorative bricks engraved with the names and degrees of every graduate in the Class of 2020 were installed in December.

HU maintenance workers installed bricks with the names of graduates from the class of 2020.

Started in 2016, the walk gives alumni, their family and friends a way to leave an indelible mark on the university that acknowledges graduates’ accomplishments at Heritage. Bricks are typically purchased for $45, with the proceeds going towards the Alumni Scholarship Fund. However, the university decided to gift each of last year’s graduates with a brick in their honor because of the cancellation of Commencement brought on by the global pandemic.

To watch the installation and hear a message from Heritage president Dr. Andrew Sund go to heritage.edu/walk. page19image3372448

Nominations open for Violet Lumley Rau Alumni Award

Do you know an alumna or alumnus who has consistently lived out the mission and values of Heritage University? This is your opportunity to recognize them!

2020 Violet Lumley Rau Alumna of the Year recipient Magaly Solis.

Established in 1994 in loving memory of Heritage University co-founder Violet Lumley Rau, this award is bestowed annually to an alumnus who embodies the ideals of Heritage in their personal, professional and community life. Ideals include excellence, inclusion, perseverance, leadership, and service to others.

Both undergraduate and graduate degree holders are eligible for nomination. Visit the alumni web page at heritage.edu/alumni and select Violet Lumley Rau Alumni Award at the bottom of the page to make your nomination. The deadline for nominations for this year is Friday, May 28, 2021. All nominations received after that date will be considered for the 2022 award. For questions, please contact alumni@heritage.edupage19image3372448

Computing Success

Computing Success

Computer science students garner national attention for their research in algorithms

From the time he was 15 years old when his grandmother bought her first laptop, Heritage senior Daniel Cruz has loved computers.

After devouring all the classes and robotics opportunities he could get his hands on in high school, choosing a computer science major at Heritage University was a natural for Cruz.

The same was true for Manuel Anaya.

Manuel Anaya

“I just knew I wanted to be in computers,” Anaya said. He came to Heritage in fall 2018 on a full scholarship through the Moccasin Lake Foundation.

Both Cruz and Anaya stand out for their passion and their work ethic – something computer science professor John Tsiligkaridis, Ph.D., looks for in his students. It’s why he urged both of them to complete research projects and to present that research at academic conferences.

Last summer, the pair worked with Tsiligkaridis researching algorithms and a program to access data more easily. They submitted their work for presentation consideration at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) and were among those selected to present in the Computational and Systems Biology. In November, they presented A Projection Tree Algorithm and the Incremental Neural Network virtually.


It’s a recognized fact at Heritage that small class sizes mean Heritage students get a lot of one-on- one attention from instructors. This is especially true with computer science, where the instructor-to- student ratio is about one to 10.

Tsiligkaridis isn’t just a great teacher, said his students. He’s their guide, their mentor and their biggest cheerleader. He regularly shares opportunities for them outside the classroom, urges their participation, and works with them all along the way.

“John always urges us to join clubs, do internships, go to conferences,” said Cruz. “With COVID here, he preferred us to do conferences.”

When Tsiligkaridis urged Cruz to go ABRCMS conference in San Diego in the summer of 2019, Cruz went. And when Tsiligkaridis encouraged Cruz to attend the conference virtually in 2020, Cruz again enthusiastically agreed.

“John always says if you stop learning over the summer, when you come back, you’re going to have forgotten things.

“He looks at what you like, and he pushes you toward certain fields – like for me, the medical field.”

Tsiligkaridis also encourages upper-level students to mentor younger students. He suggested Cruz work with Anaya, who’s a junior.

Like Cruz, Anaya was used to hearing Tsiligkaridis talk about extra projects. Anaya understood early on the importance of conferences in the computer science field.

As a sophomore, Anaya attended the INFORMS conference in Seattle, a large-scale operations research and analytics gathering.

For the most recent ABRCMS conference, Tsiligkaridis suggested the two students do research on algorithms and a program to access data more easily.

The students worked on it all summer, mostly separate from one another because of the pandemic. Tsiligkaridis would explain what they should do, and they’d start researching it. They wrote an abstract. They developed charts.

“We would show him our work, ask him for guidance, and he always gave us great feedback,” says Anaya.


When an event that’s typically bursting with people from all over the world goes virtual, a lot of things change. The ways attendees experience the event are different, but the offerings remain the same. There are still inspirational keynote speakers and breakout sessions where attendees get a deeper look at cutting-edge research. Students still present their research, with top presenters earning awards. Most importantly, students still interact with their peers from colleges throughout the country, with faculty whose influence could lead

to opportunities with future research or graduate studies; and with leading scientists, programmers and industry professionals who can help connect them with careers after graduation. It’s just all done virtually.

“Even in a virtual situation, you still have speakers and hundreds of exhibitors from nonprofit organizations, grad schools, Ph.D. programs,” said Anaya. “There’s still tons of networking you can do – it’s just done on your screen.

“The experience was incredible,” he said. “It’s an exchange of information and ideas. It gives you a different perspective with these colleagues from around the world, places like China and India.

“I really got a sense of what I didn’t know,” said Anaya. “I gained a lot of knowledge on the subject we chose because we really had to hone in on it and become an expert on it. You go in knowing the basics, and then you have this experience, and it makes you want to learn more.”

John Tsiligkaridis, Ph.D. is one of his students’ greatest cheerleaders. He seeks out experiences that prepare them for their individual goals and often collaborates with them on research projects.


“I learned that everywhere you go, there are different types of people and personalities and always someone who knows more than you do who can guide you.

“You can get opportunities at conferences whether in person or virtual because all these people you’re coming in contact with have different backgrounds,” Anaya says.

“I’ve also learned there’s always more to computer science than what I used to think. There are so many different fields we can apply our work in.”

Both students want to be a part of a community where their expertise can help people. They have their ideas – perhaps a hospital setting, perhaps business.

They expect they’ll look to Tsiligkaridis for his guidance then, too – just as they’ve done so far. page19image3372448

Hopping into Med School

Hopping into Med School

Biology major gains valuable experience with a summer spent researching one of the Yakima Valley’s signature crops.


Last spring, Karolynn Tom, program coordinator of Heritage’s Center for Indigenous Health, Culture & the Environment, told Serrano about a summer research opportunity at Yakima Golding, a hops farm in Toppenish, Washington. While studying hops seems worlds away from medical sciences, the intensive lab work involved with the project would be great experience, the kind that would give her a leg up on her competition for med school. Additionally, the opportunity came with a stipend from the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. Additionally, it was the kind of project that she could present at the Murdock College Science Research Conference (MCSRC) in October. Serrano was quick to take advantage of the opportunity.

Karly Beth Serrano

The summer was busy. In addition to her part- time job as a phlebotomist, she spent three days a week at Yakima Golding to observe hop plants and collect data. She spent the other two days at home studying hops production.

Serrano was supervised remotely by Heritage Associate Professor of Environmental Science Jessica Black. She was mentored by Marissa Porter, research agronomist for John I Haas, Inc., who conducts some of her company’s research at Yakima Golding.

In her research, varying levels of nitrogen were applied to different hops plants, and she observed their growth. Were they taller? Were they shorter? Were there more leaves?

Serrano observed the insects. Were there more? Were there fewer? Were the insects predators or pests?

She learned to interpret data, to understand what’s significant and what’s not, and how to draw conclusions. While she gained understanding, she also learned the importance of coming to understand the research process, even when the subject matter is “not exactly your field.”


In September, after the lab work was completed, Serrano began putting her presentation together for the Murdock conference. She would need to create a succinct statement of her major conclusions at the beginning, follow it up with supporting text and a brief concluding summary, presenting only enough data to support her conclusions and show the originality of her work.

A socially distant pandemic year meant a big change in conference presentations. Serrano shared her poster and work digitally as a PowerPoint with a video link.

She built a strategy on how to present to any judges that would “happen by” virtually. Each time, she’d speak for five to ten minutes, then take questions.

“It was both nerve-wracking and exciting, but I was happy I was expanding my horizons.”

She smiled when she recalled one judge’s question, “Are hops microhezia obligates?”

“I acknowledged I did not know the answer to that but that I could definitely incorporate something about that next time. I texted Marissa, ‘Do you know this worm?’” she said.

Porter texted her back that it wasn’t a worm but a fungus that grows in the soil in the plants’ roots and helps them take up phosphorus.

Serrano said she learned to “think ahead to what you might be asked” – even when some questions might be more easily anticipated than others.

Weeks after the conference was all a memory, Serrano learned she was awarded the MCSRC’s Environmental Science Poster Competition award, which included a modest cash prize.

The most significant recompense?

“The work, the presentation, and being able to say I won the environmental competition on my resume,” said Serrano. “That’s really important for a future medical student.”

Karly Beth Serrano in the field


Either this fall or next, following graduation, Serrano will apply to several medical schools, among them Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, University of Washington Medical School and Washington State University.

Her goal ultimately is to help her community. She notes her local Union Gospel Mission and her nine- year-old sister as two of her continuing inspirations.

She started volunteering at Yakima’s Union Gospel about a year and a half ago, doing patient intake and interpreting.

“Seeing how the Mission works with people who don’t have insurance or traditional healthcare or are homeless has really impressed me. I want to be that kind of physician.

“And my sister Aaleyah – I want to inspire her. I want her to think college automatically – like me.”

Serrano has applied for summer work to the Leadership Alliance summer research program and to the Vanderbilt School of Medicine’s undergraduate clinical research internship program in Nashville, among others.

“I would be excited and nervous to be so far from my family,” she said. “But I’m far more excited than I am nervous.”page16image3597248

Conquering COVID


Heritage nursing students get hands-on doing their part to stop the COVID-19 pandemic.


Heritage nursing student Viviana Rico remembers the January 2021 day she opened the email from Linda Rossow. “Are you interested in helping at the Toppenish vaccine clinics over the next several months?” it read.

Rossow, an assistant nursing professor at Heritage, was asking her students – the 2022 nursing cohort – to help vaccinate the people of the Yakima Valley against COVID-19.

Rico emailed back immediately: “Count me in.”

What Rico was saying “yes” to would involve traveling to several hospitals over several months, handling hundreds of vials of invaluable vaccine, and injecting it into the arms of hundreds of front-line healthcare workers, the elderly, and first responders.

Each person would walk away a little more immune from the deadly virus than when they had arrived. The people of the Yakima Valley would be a little safer.

Rico’s biggest personal takeaway would be immense satisfaction and positive feelings about her contribution – and an enhanced clarity regarding her place in nursing.

For this Pasco native, knowing immediately that she wanted to help fight COVID was as easy as deciding to follow a half dozen of her family members into nursing.

“I always loved hearing the ways they help people,” said Rico. “In nursing, you meet people, you help them, you put in your little grain of salt to help them get well.

“I just thought, ‘What a unique opportunity!’ I remember thinking it was super cool that I was going to be part of the change back to ‘normal’. That this would be something I would tell my grandchildren.”

Before her work as part of that change could take place, Rico needed to re-focus on something she and her classmates had learned more than a year earlier.

“Review giving shots,” Rossow had told her students.

Because of the pandemic, Rico and her fellow students had been out of direct contact with any patients for almost a year.


Rossow’s students had learned to give intramuscular injections – what the COVID shot is – beginning their sophomore year. With six semesters, including the summer between junior and senior year, clinical experiences occur beginning with the second semester for sophomores and extend through to their final semester as seniors.

In the clinical experiences Heritage nursing students undertake, each student has a clinical supervisor or a “preceptor” – an individual nurse who oversees the activities of that student, working with them to become proficient in the skills they’ve learned in class and in lab. That work includes accessing meds, ensuring they’re the right ones, given the right way, at the right time, whether it’s a flu vaccination – or, now, a COVID vaccination.

“Everything that student does until senior year is always with a clinical supervisor or a preceptor,” said Rossow. “That training, testing and supervision ensure that once they’re out in the ‘real world,’ they’re adhering to good practices.”

Once Rico reviewed her old notes and watched a video or two, she felt ready to give the vaccine. But the magnitude of the situation was not lost on her.

“Being part of this whole thing as a nursing student – that’s a big deal. I almost couldn’t believe I was doing it. It’s such a big responsibility.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘You’re helping make a real change.’”


Like Rico, Camryn Newell counts her role in the COVID vaccination effort as perhaps her most significant clinical experience to date.

It’s reaffirmed her knowledge that she wants to be part of the solution to big challenges.

Newell’s focus on nursing originated with family, just like Rico’s. Her grandmother was a nurse and, as a child, Newell was fascinated with the medical world. By age 15, she knew she wanted to be a nurse.

Once she entered the Heritage nursing program, her coursework set the stage for the real work that takes place in clinicals.

“Sub-Q injections, giving oral meds, assessments – they’re all part of what we do in clinicals,” said Newell. “In every one, you get more experience.”

As they gain experience, students learn more about what settings and situations really appeal to them.


Nurse holding a needle


In the early morning hours a couple of weeks after Rossow’s email, Rico, Newell, and another Heritage nursing student, Payton Moore, climbed into a car and headed toward Astria Toppenish Hospital, a few minutes from the Heritage campus.

Walking into a conference-room-turned- vaccination center, the women were greeted by three of the hospital’s nurses leading that day’s effort. The first vaccine recipients – mostly hospital staff – began arriving at 7:30 am.

Newell says she and her fellow students all felt some trepidation when it came to handling the vaccine, in this case, the Pfizer version: “You feel like you’re handling liquid gold.”

Years more familiar with such processes was their supervisor that day, Yvonne Ebbelaar, RN, BSN, director of critical care at the hospital, and adjunct nursing professor at Heritage. She said having the Heritage students there is good for everyone.

“We love having the students,” she said. “It takes a team to keep the whole process going. The students are instrumental in helping us keep the flow moving. Their presence means our staff can stay on their units and do their work caring for their patients.”

As an instructor herself, Ebbelaar says any opportunity a student has to practice over and over helps them gain that “muscle memory” that’s important for a soon-to-be RN.

Altogether, the three students administered a total of about 100 injections that morning.

Five days later, Rico and Newell repeated their work at Prosser Memorial Hospital. Both students had done two clinical rotations there and were specifically requested by a charge nurse they’d worked with.

“As nursing students, that’s a really big deal,” said Rico. “That made us feel really good.”

There, they worked as part of a bigger team, this time giving the Moderna vaccine, with about 300 recipients, in a seven-hour shift.

By the time this story publishes, Rico, Newell and many other HU nursing students are expected to have been part of providing hundreds more vaccines to Yakima Valley residents.


Newell said she feels a new appreciation for nurses and other healthcare professionals on the pandemic front lines.

“Thinking what they’ve all have had to go through – they’re putting themselves and their families at risk so that they can help other individuals in their time of need. That altruism is amazing.”

Altruism, supporting their community, gaining needed expertise – all are part of the experience the university’s nursing program works to provide its students.

Rossow names catastrophic events like the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, and the 9/11 attacks as examples of the need for the emergency effort preparedness and activation that’s required as communities come together to treat victims and save lives.

“All their lives, our students will be asked to contribute to emergency efforts in their communities and beyond,” said Rossow.

“The COVID vaccination effort is far bigger than any single event we’ve had. It’s also bigger than any one entity can handle – because it’s affected everyone everywhere.

“The more students who can be involved in this experience, the more valuable they’ll be to their communities.”

Nurses tend to be people with compassion, Rossow said, with a strong desire to help, whether that’s in volunteering with a massive event like a pandemic or doing first aid for their child’s soccer team.

“Heritage students’ community-focused altruism – a deep desire to give back to their communities – is extremely strong.

“Heritage nurses are different. They’re bringing something to their work that’s kind of indefinable.

It’s a presence, a compassion that focuses on patient-centered, family-centered care.

“A big part of who we are is that being on tribal land, we reflect those values of taking care of our community.”


When she graduates, Rico wants to stay in the Yakima Valley. She’s learned from her clinical experiences that she loves the intensity of the emergency department.

“All of a sudden, a crisis comes, and you have to move. I was part of a ‘code’ one day and, when I did that, I felt, ‘This is me.’ I knew it.”

Newell is still deciding. She’d like to stay in the area in “any opportunity that would be a growth experience.”

Both students feel they got more from their COVID vaccination experience than they gave.

“People are so grateful,” Newell said. “They said things like, ‘You guys are like superheroes!’ It was a great experience to feel so needed and so appreciated.”

“Whenever someone sat down, just as they thanked me for giving it to them, I made sure to tell them, ‘Thank you for doing this’,” Rico said.

“I felt really kind of proud of the people willing to get the vaccine. We all have to do our part,” she said. “We’re (nursing students) just doing our part too.”page13image3280544