Growing the Hops Industry


Hard work, ingenuity and care for farmers earns industry leader award of distinction.

Heritage University faculty and students have received scores of accolades over the years, but so far, nothing quite like that recently bestowed on John Reeves, director of Workforce Development for Heritage@Work, a division of Heritage University.

For his 40 years devoted to developing the United States hop industry, Reeves was cited by the Order of the Hop, an organization established in France in 1406 by John the Fearless, the Duke of Burgundy. Reeves flew to the Czech Republic in July to attend the award ceremony.

Reeves’s work helped build today’s robust American hop industry, second in the world only to Germany’s. The Yakima Valley is the nation’s largest hop producer, with three-quarters of all hops grown in America coming from the Valley.

Reeves seems destined to have done great things in agriculture. When he was ten years old, he started working in the fields of southern Illinois, picking fruit and pulling weeds. When he was 12, he started a commercial tomato farm on land his dad gave him. At 13, Reeves went to work on other farms once he’d harvested his tomatoes. He once set a record by working over 100 hours a week three weeks in a row.

Reeves worked both sides of the agriculture field, laboring with migrant workers and doing business with a cooperative in Chicago that sold his tomatoes – all before high school. He put himself through college, graduate school and his Ph.D. program.

“We worked long days in hot, humid southern Illinois,” Reeves said.

In the early 1980s, Reeves brought his work ethic, people skills, and education to the Yakima Valley as field operations manager for Anheuser- Busch. He immediately developed relationships with growers and made his mark.

Before Reeves entered the scene, there had been no U.S. program for virus testing of hop plants. There was no such thing as a set of quality standards for hops nor any widely understood concept of hop farm sustainability. For the hop growers of the Yakima Valley and elsewhere, there was no selling direct to brewers to earn top dollar for one’s crop.

Reeves’s work changed all that. He was instrumental in establishing the industry’s greenhouse-based virus-free plant propagation program, which meant healthier hop plants and a more robust industry. While employed by A-B, he developed the mega brewer’s ten-point program on quality and farm sustainability, helping growers implement important standards for hop seed, leaf, stem, aroma and more. He made it possible for growers to work directly with buyers, skirting the “middleman” wholesaler and earning more in the process.

Later, Reeves and his leadership team at Yakima Chief Hops built a state-of-the-art carbon extraction facility that removed hops’ alpha acid and oil compounds – the elements that give beer its bitter flavor as well as its aromatic notes. The machine did this, minus the use of any chemicals.

With a master’s degree in plant ecology and a Ph.D. in molecular virology, Reeves took on the challenges before him. His depth of knowledge and his commitment to the industry led to a combined 22 years in leadership positions with Yakima Chief Hops and, later, Roy Farms.

Early on, Reeves’s deep sense of caring for people earned him a reputation as a fair player with the interests of the Valley and its growers at heart.

“John is known as a person who not only can accomplish the task at hand but will do it in a manner that ensures maximum consideration of the people involved,” said Ann George, Executive Director of the Washington State Hop Commission. “He’s established many lifelong friendships among those who have been his colleagues and constituents.”

Reeves says the award experience has caused him to think back on his life, that it’s a long way from rural Illinois to Prague – where, coincidentally, he had an office when he worked for Anheuser-Busch.

Reeves says a trip highlight was seeing a former Latinx colleague receive formal recognition from the Order, which he says almost eclipsed the delight he felt about his award. The man started in the business working in the fields, and Reeves gave him his first promotion.

“Today, he’s a vice president at Yakima Chief Hops and the first Latinx person to be recognized with an award like this,” Reeves said.

Reeves continues to provide management consulting to several area companies in addition to his role in Workforce Development at Heritage, which provides training programs for Yakima’s workforce.

He feels much of his life’s work has been centered on providing opportunities for people.

“A lot of the meaning in my life has come from my work. At a young age, I learned valuable lessons about hard work and teamwork that have stayed with me my whole life.

“I saw people who were systemically discriminated against, and I tried to change that.

“What’s always driven me is seeing people being able to elevate themselves.”


A Lift Up to Law School


As part of her freshman year at Heritage University in 2018, Maria Rivera did an internship in Laredo, Texas, translating for attorneys on immigration cases.

“We’d go into the detention center early every morning,” Rivera said. “The first time we were seated with the attorney and a law student in frontof me, and then the clients, who were both Mexican women, came in. They look like they hadn’t slept in days.

“They saw these two white men first before turning their heads toward me. I saw the relief on their faces once they saw me. And that’s when I knew there needed to be more black and brown female attorneys.

“I knew that was the only way that people like this, who are seeking justice, could feel reassured, so they could be at peace knowing that their attorneys understand where they’re coming from.

“That was when I decided I needed to become a lawyer.”

Rivera spent the next four years focused on her goal. She majored in criminal justice and history, completed internships at other law firms, and participated in several law-focused events at Heritage that taught her more about the profession. When she graduated in 2020, she went to work as a legal assistant for a Yakima- area law firm, but she had endless questions about how to actually get into law school.

This past summer, she and 35 other Heritage students and alumni and other local community members– all aspiring Latinx or Indigenous lawyers – had all their questions answered.

They participated in a new Heritage program called the “Law School Admission Council (LSAC) Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars Program” – “PLUS” for short – created solely for that purpose.

A partnership between Heritage and the state’s three law schools at Seattle University, University of Washington, and Gonzaga University, its overarching goal is to help diversify the state’s lawyer population.

Diana López Batista, program director, understood the students’ challenges. She had navigated her way into law school – but she’s the exception.

“Most Latinx and indigenous students have no point of reference,” said López Batista, who works in employment law and labor trafficking through a grant from the Northwest Justice Project. “They don’t typically have family or friends who can advise or mentor them, and that’s a major handicap because the road to law school is filled with challenges.

“You have to get through the LSAT, which is huge. You have to write a bio and a personal statement that will bring you to the attention of the school. You have to leave home and leave the Valley. You have to figure out how to pay for it all. The list is endless.”

And that, she said, is the easy part. There are still three to five years of law school with its intensive study and competitive clerkships and internships, not to mention passing the bar exam after graduating and landing that first job.


The law school prep course is the latest in a continuing line of law-focused events at Heritage, offerings that illustrate a strong interest in studying law among a significant number of Heritage students.

The Washington State Supreme Court has heard cases on campus in a “traveling court,” and State Supreme Court Justice Stephen González has been on campus several times to meet with students. Various forums have led to a lunchbox series where guest attorneys – typically Latinx and Indigenous – came to campus and talked about their educational and professional journeys.

“We knew from spending time with students at these events that we had a lot more territory to cover,” said Kim Bellamy-Thompson, chair of the university’s criminal justice department and an architect of the PLUS program. “I think the really healthy number of students who took this class, especially considering the size of our institution, really says a lot.”

The PLUS class started with an overview of the rigorous admission process and covered everything from the basics of the United States legal system to personal well-being strategies once in law school. During the last week, faculty and students toured all three law schools, sitting in on classes and talking with students, instructors and admissions staff.

“From LSAC prep books to having area attorneys speak to our students and then touring the law schools, we tried to cover it all,” said Bellamy-Thompson. ”First and foremost, we had to have every participant leave here with a basic understanding of the law school admission process, feeling they could move ahead.”


These days, Rivera is busy getting ready to enter law school. She took the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) this fall and is now applying to several schools. She and other class members talk frequently using their Instagram handles and texting.

To anyone who has thought about becoming an attorney “for even 30 seconds,” she said, “I would definitely recommend this course.

“I was able to talk with attorneys who focus on different concentrations of the law and ask them how they got there, ask them for advice.

“I had the opportunity to ask the small or big questions of the admissions teams of each of the three law schools, which also preps me for the application cycle.

“And it was refreshing to bounce around issues and ideas with like-minded individuals who are going through the same struggles you are while applying to law school.”

Director López Batista left the classroom hoping funding will make the course possible again.

“I think back to my family members’ experiences as farmworkers and their issues around working conditions and wages.

“I remember workers having ‘organizing meetings,’ including one attended by two white attorneys. The people thought these lawyers were going to be our saviors, but it didn’t work out that way. I was ten years old when I decided I wanted to be a lawyer to help people who had no one to speak for them.

Passion for the people you are trying to serve is key, said López Batista.

“All these students have amazing passion and backgrounds where they have overcome adversity. So many are so committed to their communities.

“I envision the ongoing success of this as actually creating a pipeline, providing the educational opportunities so that ultimately the attorneys in our community are reflective of our community.”

Graduates of the 2022 PreLaw Undergraduate Scholars Program

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program was created to teach Latinx and indigenous students how to prepare for, enroll in and succeed in law school and beyond.

It’s a partnership between Heritage and Washington’s three law schools – Seattle University School of Law, University of Washington School of Law, and Gonzaga University School of Law – and the following legal services organizations:

• Benefits Law Center
• Columbia Legal Services
• Northwest Justice Project
• Northwest Immigrant Rights
• Office of Civil Legal Aid (OCLA) • TeamChild

These groups continue to provide the students’ with connections to practicing lawyers and judges, a crucial component of the program.

A long list of questions and issues informed the robust syllabus for Heritage University’s first PLUS program, which included these units:

• “Envisioning Yourself as a Lawyer” allowed students to absorb individual narratives from several Latinx and indigenous lawyers who grew up in Central Washington. Each discussed the unique path they took in becoming practicing lawyers and judges. Current law students spoke to the students as well, with role play centered on how lawyers interview and counsel clients.

• “Wrestling the Beast” explained the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). “Nuts and Bolts of the Law School Admission Process” was a full three-hour session. “Financial Planning for Law School” included individual one-on-one counseling sessions.

• A mock law school class gave students the opportunity for individual mentoring sessions with Central Washington Legal Aid and Community Lawyer Mentors.

• Students experienced an evening with Chief Justice Steven González and Justice Helen Whitener of the Washington Supreme Court.

• Mentors and mentees were encouraged to meet outside class sessions to explore job shadowing, internships, or simply ongoing connection and resources.

• “It Takes a Village” discussed practical ways to build support systems dealing with family, emotional, cultural, financial, academic and community issues.


Heritage University to Dedicate New Early Learning Center


Heritage University to Dedicate New Early Learning Center 

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new $4.1 million state-of-the-art Early Learning Center (ELC) made possible through the generosity of an anonymous donor. The ELC project also received a grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce. The ceremony will take place Friday, December 16, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. on the Heritage University campus.

The new five-classroom ELC is scheduled to open in January. The ELC will serve children between the ages of 12 months and kindergarten, providing pre-kindergarten learning known to be invaluable in later years of scholastic achievement. This new facility will allow the ELC to increase its licensed enrollment from 74 to 90 students.

The university’s ELC shares the Heritage University mission of making higher education accessible regardless of economic, cultural, or social barriers and will strive 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 childcare 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.”

The ELC also prepares current Heritage students for their future careers through work-study opportunities 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. “They 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.”

Heritage began construction of the new center in March and invited the community to watch the project’s progress through a camera connected to the university’s website (

For more information, contact Claudette Lindquist at (509) 865-0723 or For help with interviews, please contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or

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Heritage University honors Native American tribal elders as highlight of Native American Heritage Month celebrations


Heritage University honors Native American tribal elders as highlight of Native American Heritage Month celebrations

Toppenish, Wash. – November is Native American Heritage Month, and Heritage University is celebrating by honoring four Native American elders for their lifetime contributions to the Yakama people and their community. This year’s recipients are Gil Calac, Carrie Schuster, Ted Strong and Tallulah Pinkham.

Chimshowa Gil Calac is a Paiute from Susanville Indian Rancheria in California. As a Bronze Star decorated Vietnam war veteran, he is passionate about helping those whose voices are often unheard. He spent two years working as a case manager for Yakama Nation Behavioral Health Services before moving to Fort Simcoe Job Corp to help at-risk youth. After he retired, Gil turned his attention to advocating for veterans in hospice care. He is a member of the Yakama Warriors, where he led the Washington state effort for establishing March 30 as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, and is a member of the Yakama Nation Tribal Advisory Board. Gil maintains a deep reverence for traditional values, which guides him in everything that he does.

Aiiyuttonmii Carrie Chapman Schuster is the matriarch of the Snake River Palouse Tribe and is a Heritage University alumna. She grew up learning tribal history and culture from family matriarchs on The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She has served as a judge in the Yakama Nation’s courts, as the original news director for the Yakama Nation Review, as an educator working with at-risk middle school kids and preschool children, and as a cultural ambassador connecting the Yakama people with tribal communities globally. At each step, she works to prepare those she serves to find their place in their community, to be rightful stewards over the land and people, and to respect the generational teachings of those who came before.

Taninsh Ted Strong is a 4/4 enrolled Yakama whose life work has helped tribes throughout the United States and indigenous people worldwide strengthen their sovereignty. His lifelong command from elders was, “Fill your heart with compassion and your mind with knowledge.”  In the early 1970s he designed the first computer network linking tribes in Montana, North and South Dakota and Wyoming. Immediately following, he led the restructuring of the Yakama Nation to a centralized administration and financial management system, allowing the tribe to take control of practices formerly run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He advocated and fought for treaty rights, salmon recovery, water rights and environmental management at the state and national levels while serving as the executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. President Clinton appointed Taninsh to the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, where he advocated for social equity, economic vitality, and environmental justice. He counts being Chief Judge for the Yakama Nation as the most challenging yet most rewarding experience of his career.

Cawmit Tallulah Pinkham is a full-blooded, enrolled Yakama who has a heart for helping those who struggle with mental illness, addiction and abuse. She spent 23 years advocating for patients at Indian Health Services, where she met with individuals and families to get to know them on a human level so she could help connect them with the programs and services they needed. She encouraged patients to learn the traditional practices of their culture and family as a way to find connection and purpose in their lives. When she saw the generational destruction that comes from domestic violence and child abuse, she worked behind the scenes through Native Women’s Association to support the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The four elders are being recognized during the eighth annual Honoring Our Elders ceremony at Heritage University on Wednesday, November 9, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. in Smith Family Hall. This event is by invitation only. Also, their stories are featured in a series of full-page ads, each dedicated to a specific elder, that are running in the Yakama Nation Review throughout November.  Framed copies of these ads are being added to the permanent display of honorees at the university in the Violet Lumley Rau Building.

Heritage is holding many other events in November in observance of Native American Heritage Month as designated by President George H. W. Bush in 1990. These include:

November 2, 2022, 8:30 a.m. – Flag-raising Ceremony

Heritage University will raise the flags of the Yakama Nation, the state of Washington and the United States during a ceremony featuring the Yakama Warriors. The ceremony will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will be held at the main campus entrance.

November 30, 2022, All Day – Dr. Virginia Beavert (Tuxámshish) Day at Heritage University

Heritage University recognizes and honors the esteemed Yakama Nation elder and language teacher on her birthday.

Other Native American Heritage Month events at Heritage will include:

Wapaas Basket Weaving (November 8, 14 & 15)
Roc Your Mocs Week (November 13-19)
Frybread Fundraiser (November 21)
Movie Night (November 21)
Yoga Time (November 28 & 29)
De-stress Workshop (November 30)

For more information on these events, contact Maxine Janis at (509) 865-0737 or or Julia Polk at (509) 865-8610 or

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Heritage University to hold El Grito de Independencia celebration


Heritage University to hold El Grito de Independencia celebration

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University will host an El Grito de Independencia celebration on Friday, September 16, 2022 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at its Toppenish campus in recognition of Mexican Independence Day. 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 re-enacted at 7:30 p.m.

The festival will be hosted Manny DJ and feature performances by Group Proyecto 2020 and Raises de Mi Pueblo Folklorico Group. There will be fun for the entire family, including loteria (games), kid crafts, food and beverages, traditional dancers, live music and a resource fair. The El Grito will be performed by the Titular Consul of the Mexican Consulate in Seattle Hector Ivan Goday Priske. The event is free and open to the public.

El Grito de Independencia will have vendor opportunities. For those interested in registering as a vendor, contact Martin Valadez at For more information, contact Davidson Mance at

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Heritage University to hold Eagle Giving Day and 40th Homecoming Events


Heritage University to commemorate 40th anniversary with
Eagle Giving Day and Homecoming Event

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is marking its 40th year of providing higher education opportunities to Yakima Valley residents with two events. The first is Eagle Giving Day, a day set aside to raise funds for student scholarships. The second is Homecoming 2022, an event to reunite alumni, faculty and staff past and present and current students.

Eagle Giving Day is scheduled for Friday, September 9, 2022. Friends and alumni are encouraged to help Heritage University continue its mission of making a college education accessible to anyone with the talent and drive to pursue a degree. “As we look back at our 40-year history, one thing is clear. It is our generous donors who have made it possible for more than 10,000 students to graduate and go on to meaningful careers,” said Heritage University president Andrew Sund, Ph.D. “Gifts received on ‘Eagle Giving Day’ will ensure that future generations of Eagles have the same level of support by providing funding for scholarships, programs, internships, technology upgrades and more.”

Heritage University alumni have an exceptional reason to give back to their alma mater on Eagle Giving Day. An anonymous alumni donor has agreed to match every $40 gift from alumni up to the first $5,000, which means that $40 gift instantly becomes $80 for student scholarships. Their generosity will help make it possible for students to achieve their dreams like they did. HU alumna Adriana Villafan, who graduated in 2015 with her B.A. degree in business administration with a concentration in Human Resources, and is now the director of the TRIO program at Heritage. Villafan said she plans to participate in Eagle Giving Day. “Scholarships and mentoring are part of the support I received when I was a student at Heritage,” Villafan said. “Heritage helped me get to where I am today, and now that I am in a position to give back, ‘Eagle Giving Day’ is the perfect opportunity for me and other alumni to return the favor.”  

The giving doesn’t need to wait until Eagle Giving Day. Each gift received before September 9 will count towards the day’s final total. For more information on Eagle Giving Day and to make a gift online, please visit

Homecoming 2022 will be held on the Heritage University campus on September 9 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. It is open to Heritage alumni and current students as well as current and former faculty and staff and friends of the university. People are encouraged to RSVP at

For more information, please contact Davidson Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or

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Eagle Giving Day badge over campus image

Pacific Power Foundation gives $5,000 grant to Heritage University for student scholarships


Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is pleased to announce it has once again been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Pacific Power Foundation. This is the fourth year in a row Heritage has received the grant, which will be used to fund scholarships for students pursuing degrees in the health sciences and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

David Wise, VP of Advancement and Marketing for Heritage, was presented with a grant check from John Hodkinson, area distribution manager for Pacific Power on July 13, 2022. “I am grateful for Pacific Power Foundation’s continued support of Heritage University’s mission of providing educational opportunities for students of the Yakima Valley. This generous grant will help the students who have the drive but not the financial means to obtain the education that prepares them for exciting and rewarding careers in health sciences and STEM, two of the fastest-growing industries today,” said Wise.

Pacific Power Regional Business Manager Toni Petty said Pacific Power Foundation supports Heritage University’s mission of making a college education accessible. “We’ve seen how communities across the nation strive to bolster their ranks of technology and healthcare workers. We are happy to support Heritage and its work to prepare students to thrive in these important fields,” said Petty.

For more information, contact Davidson Mance at (509) 865-0731 or

About the Pacific Power Foundation

The Pacific Power Foundation is part of the PacifiCorp Foundation, one of the largest utility-endowed foundations in the United States. The foundation was created in 1988 by PacifiCorp, an electric utility serving 2 million customers in six Western states as Pacific Power (Oregon, Washington, and California) and Rocky Mountain Power (Utah, Wyoming and Idaho). The foundation’s mission, through charitable investments, is to support the growth and vitality of the communities served by Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power. For more information, visit

Heritage University Vice President of Advancement David Wise accepts a check from Pacific Power Area Distribution Manager John Hodkinson at the Heritage University campus in Toppenish, Wash.

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News Briefs

Heritage students present research and psychological association conference

Heritage University students present research at the 102nd annual Western Psychological Association (WPA) conference held in Portland, Ore. in late April.

Three Heritage students were among the many that presented their research at the 102nd annual Western Psychological Association (WPA) conference held in Portland, Ore. in late April. Melanie Montejano and Zahira Flores presented “Experiences Applying to Graduate Programs in Experimental Psychology” and Mira Cardozo presented “Latina Transfer Students’ Academic and Socio-Cultural Resource Use and Persistence” with Dr. Kayden Vargas.

The convention is an annual occurrence that brings together students, researchers and other professionals for the scholarly exchange of scientific ideas in behavioral science research. page17image35220448

Poet Laureate presents poetry reading and writing workshop at Heritage

Washington Poet Laureate Rena Priest holds a writers’ workshop as part of a two day visit to Heritage University in April of this year.

In April, Washington Poet Laureate Rena Priest spent two days at Heritage University, where she presented a poetry reading and conducted a writing workshop for students, faculty and staff.

Priest is a poet and an enrolled member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. She was appointed to serve as the Washington state poet laureate for the April 2021-2023 term. She is a Vadon Foundation Fellow and recipient of an Allied Arts Foundation Professional Poets Award. Her debut collection, Patriarchy Blues, published by Moonpath Press, received an American Book Award. page17image35220448

Former faculty’s works join University’s permanent art collection

Heritage’s permanent art collection grew this spring when retired Heritage University Fine Arts Chair Carolyn Nelson donated two of her works. The gift includes the oil on canvas “Her Blue Jacket” and the sculpture “Learning to Heal.” The pieces were included in the spring exhibit of Nelson’s works that were in the Virginia S. Hislop Gallery through the end of the semester.

Carolyn Nelson

Nelson was the founding chair of the Fine Arts Department. She joined the university faculty in 1993 and taught for 22 years before retiring in 2015 and returning to working as an artist full-time. Over the past 40 years, she’s exhibited her ceramic sculpture, paintings and drawings throughout the Northwest region. page17image35220448

Generosity and Gratitude

Heritage University students reveal the night’s total raised during the 36th Annual Bounty of the Valley scholarship fundraiser held on campus June 4, 2022.

The first live, in-person Bounty of the Valley Gathering for Scholarships and Paddle Raise in three years was a resounding success, bringing in nearly three-quarters of a million dollars that evening! That amount continues to rise as contributions come in online.

“To say we are grateful is an understatement,” said David Wise, vice president for Advancement. “Our students depend upon scholarships to make their dreams of earning their degrees a reality. It is incredibly heartwarming to see so many like-minded people in one room raising their paddles high to ensure that higher education remains accessible.”

Scenes from the 36th Annual Bounty of the Valley scholarship fundraiser at Heritage University held June 4, 2022.

The event occurred on Saturday, June 4, on the Heritage University campus in Toppenish. Organizers shook things up a bit from previous pre-COVID events.

“One thing that makes this event special is the way it brings together our students, friends and supporters. Historically, getting people from the reception to the dinner was challenging because they were having such a good time socializing,” said Dana Eliason, senior director of development. “We decided to do a bit of restructuring so our guests could have more time to interact and enjoy the evening.”

The format change replaced the formal, multi-course served meal with an open buffet of gourmet favorites, such as beef tenderloin, salmon, and jumbo prawns, served at the reception in the university’s Jim and Gaye Pigott Commons. The traditional cocktail hour was extended to two hours. Then the guests moved to Smith Family Hall in the building next door for dessert and the program and paddle raise. Additionally, the program portion of the evening, where guests hear from students who have benefited from the scholarships funded through their support, was live- streamed on the Heritage website.

“The format was a bit of an experiment,” said Eliason. “And, it worked! Our guests loved having more time to mingle with each other at the reception, the broad selection of food, and the casual elegance that this format affords. Plus, guests who could not be with us in person for whatever reason were able to still participate from the safety and comfort of their own home.”

The Bounty of the Valley is the single largest fundraising event at the university. All of the money raised goes directly to support student scholarships. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $9 million.



There is still time to give. Watch the program online, see the student video, and make a gift online by going to:

HERITAGE.EDU/BOUNTY page17image35220448

The Courage to Stand Up

Growing up, Courtney Hernandez always felt a little out of place in her small hometown of Selah, Washington. She wasn’t like the other little girls with their blond pigtails and fair skin. Her complexion was decidedly darker, her hair a mass of chocolate curls. She was the only little girl in her school district whose parents were African American and Hispanic. And while she did all the same things as the other children—played sports, went to school, did her chores at home—she knew she was different. And so did those around her.

“At times, I was treated a little differently by my teachers, peers, and other kids’ families,” she said. “Until they got to know me.”

It wasn’t until Hernandez graduated from high school and moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington that she fully appreciated what she experienced growing up in a community where racial and cultural diversity was limited. She was double majoring in social work and American ethnic studies. On one of her first days on campus, she walked into her African American Studies 101 class, and, for the first time in her life, she sat in a classroom full of students that looked like her and a teacher who looked like her.

“It was such a surreal experience,” she said. “It felt so empowering. When my teacher got up in front of the classroom and started to speak so powerfully, I was almost in tears, I was so touched by the experience. I felt like I was getting down to my roots and learning my cultural history for the very first time.”

That first class, and the variety of other ethnic studies courses with concentrations in other cultures, such as Native and Mexican American, opened her eyes to how much history was left out of her K-12 learning. There was so much about the American experience of ethnic minorities that she didn’t know, even within her own culture. Hernandez soaked in those lessons like a sponge.

“I was so eager to learn,” she said. “So many people are afraid to learn about those who are different, or they look down on them and think that education that includes their history and perspectives is dangerous or wrong, but diversity in education is a good thing. The more we learn about other cultures, and the history and the experiences of those different than ourselves, the more caring and understanding we can be of other people”.

Four years later, Hernandez graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work in 2014. She couldn’t find a position as a social worker, so she started teaching in a Seattle-area preschool. There, she learned her heart was really being in a classroom. Three years later, she moved back to Selah and enrolled in Heritage’s Master in Teaching program. She started teaching at Mount Adams Middle School while attending her graduate program. After graduating, she took a position at Lewis and Clark Middle School in Yakima, where she taught until she moved to Davis High School in fall 2021.


Davis High School and Hernandez’s alma mater Selah High School are a mere 5.8 miles apart. Despite their close geographic proximity, the student makeup is decidedly different. Davis’s population of students of color tops 88%, while Selah’s student body is nearly 64% white. Additionally, a little more than three-quarters of Davis’s students receive free or discounted lunch compared to less than half of Selah’s students.

When Hernandez started teaching at the school, she remembered her experience sitting in her first African American studies course all those years ago.

“Back then, I was shocked by how much I didn’t know,” she said. “It impacts the way I teach my kids today. I like to supplement their learning as we go through the curriculum as things come up. For example, we were learning about activism and civil rights, and Emmett Till was mentioned. The very short explanation in the book didn’t really explain much about who he was, what happened to him and, the impact of his death, and the kids were interested, so we did a little bit of a deeper dive on him and his story.

“I think it is important that we look at history from multiple angles. Hopefully, I’m changing the typical Eurocentric learning kids have been getting.”

A few months after joining the Davis faculty, the school principal approached her with an idea. The school’s Black Student Union (BSU) needed an advisor. It had been inactive for several years and would take some work getting it up and running. The club supports African American youth at the school, provides a safe place where students can talk about their experiences and gives them an outlet to educate the rest of the student body about black culture and history. Hernandez and a newly-hired school counselor decided it was a task they needed to take on.

“The Black Student Union is a club for all that encourages cultural diversity with special regard to those of African American descent. In BSU we teach lessons and lead discussions on topics such as microaggressions, slavery, the “N” word, Black history, colorism and more. We also plan and implement events and activities for Martin Luther King Jr. Day as well as Black History Month in February. We do fundraisers, go to cultural events happening in the community, partake in community service, and overall we support our members and give them a safe space to talk about their lives, and how they are treated in the school and community and how they navigate living in a world as a person of color.”


On May 25, 2020, in a city 1,500 miles away, a man she had never met was killed. The death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white police officer sparked protests across the country. Sitting in her living room, watching the news, Hernandez was heartbroken.

“I was really struggling. George Floyd’s death was just one of many in a string of deaths where a black person was killed. I saw so many people around me just going on with their lives as if their deaths didn’t matter. It was like they were saying, ‘it doesn’t affect my life in any way, so who cares,’” she said. “Then I saw all the protests and the candlelight vigils and the rallies in other parts of the country, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Hernandez ran into an old friend from high school and learned that there was a similar rally scheduled in Yakima the following week. He asked for her help, and Hernandez responded with a resounding “yes!” The event was a success. Two hundred people turned out. There were speakers who shared their stories

and a march that went down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It was a peaceful gathering, one that Hernandez wanted to repeat in her small town of Selah.

The reaction she got from both those she invited to participate, and the City of Selah was night and day to what happened at the Yakima event.

“It was really intimidating. Some of the speakers that spoke in Yakima would not speak in Selah. They said it was too scary and too much of a risk to speak in Selah. We moved ahead with our plans anyway,” she said. “Then the community heard about what we were planning, and things went crazy.”

In the days leading up to the protest in early June, rumblings in the community intensified. Social media posts falsely warned that militant protesters were planning riots and burning down buildings in the town. There were even death threats levied against the event organizers. Hernandez and her fellow organizers carried on with their plans. They attempted to arrange for a police escort at the event to ensure everyone’s safety as they had done in Yakima, but their calls to the department went unreturned.

On the day of the protest, more than 150 people showed up to peacefully assemble in support of Black Lives Matter. Most of the gatherers were white, which was not surprising for a community that is 87% white and less than 1% African American. Cars sped past the activists, the drivers blasting their horns, making obscene gestures and yelling profanity out the windows. One city leader, who was an especially vocal opponent of the cause, stood aggressively staring at the group with his hand on his hip, insinuating the presence of a weapon.

The protest was the opening act for a series of confrontations that lasted for months. Community residents who supported the movement with chalk art drawings on the sidewalk outside their homes had their artwork removed and were threatened with fines. The city leader who so aggressively countered the protest in June insisted that Selah didn’t have a problem with racism and publicly denounced the protesters as outside agitators and a “neo-Marxist organization.” Hernandez’s group responded by formally organizing into the Selah Alliance for Equity (SAFE). They purchased and posted lawn signs promoting Black Lives Matter and calling for the removal of the city official from office. The city removed those signs from public areas while leaving other such signs not associated with the movement.

“Things got so ugly. Many people were unhappy with us. We weren’t trying to cause problems; we were trying to raise awareness that racism exists, even in our community,” said Hernandez. “I knew that what I was doing was the right thing. I wanted people to care and to know that there are black people who live here in Selah. And, I wanted the people of color who live here to know that we see you, we feel you, and we care about you.”

As things escalated, SAFE decided it was time to take legal action. They sued the city for violating their First Amendment rights. The two parties went into mediation. The City settled with SAFE for a monetary sum and agreed to meet several of their demands. The agreement includes renaming a park after a person of color, the creation of a welcoming diversity mural at the entrance of town, and measures to diversify the city workforce and diversity training for all city employees, including police officers.

“Selah can be a pretty exclusive community. It can feel like if you’re new here or different, you don’t belong. Our goal all along was to change hearts and minds so that minorities feel safe, accepted and welcome. It’s a slow process, and Selah still needs a lot of work, but it is a start,” said Hernandez.

Now that the spotlight has dimmed a bit on the Selah protests, Hernandez and other SAFE founders are working on forming a 501(c)(3) to oversee the management of the settlement funds and to continue the work they started in a more formal manner.


In May, Heritage University recognized Hernandez with the 2022 Violet Lumley Rau Alumna of the Year award.

“It’s one thing to stand up against injustice when you are one voice in a chorus of thousands. It’s quite another to be one of a few holding a mirror up to your neighbors’ face and showing them a truth they don’t want to see,” said David Wise, vice president for Advancement at Heritage University. “Courtney’s courage and her grace as she remained resolute as so many people in her own community were casting aspersions on her, her beliefs, and her character are in perfect resonance with the Heritage mission and why she so richly deserves this honor.”

“I am extremely humbled and grateful to be awarded the Violet Lumley Rau Alumna of the Year Award. I hope my work in the community and in education can inspire or encourage even one person to keep moving forward and to stand up for what is right,” she said.

Hernandez continues to be a contributor to SAFE and an educator at Davis. In the fall, she will start a new position. She is the high school’s newest college and career specialist.

“I’m looking forward to helping kids get into college, trade schools, and apprenticeships after they graduate. It will be rewarding helping them make sure they are taking that next step so that they can be on the path to living a successful, fulfilling and happy life,” she said. page17image35220448