A Legacy of Caring Begets a Legacy of Care

In the 1970s, when Nathan and Elaine Ballou moved to Richland, Washington, the land surrounding their new home was little more than a hillside of rocks, dirt and weeds. Where many would have seen a patch of impossibility, the Ballous saw potential. The couple went to work carving out the land, planting evergreens, and building a multi-layered landscape completed with pathways and ponds, a trickling stream, even a waterfall that cascades down to a lower patio. To sit in their garden today, it’s hard to imagine the grounds being anything other than the tranquil retreat that is so perfectly situated that it feels like Mother Nature unapologetically placed her best woodland landscape in the heart of the shrub-steppe.

Scholarship recipient Karen Mendoza-Arellano (B.S.N., 2019) is a nurse at Prestige Care and Rehabilitation in Sunnyside, Washington.

The Ballous’ gardens are a testament to what can happen when opportunity meets passion and passion ignites inspiration in which motivates hard work. Some would say that the couple built a legacy over their lifetime. That is true. However, their legacy isn’t only in the shrubs and stones that shape their beautiful landscape. It is also in the lives they touch and will continue to touch long after the trees they planted stop growing.

Twelve years ago, the Ballous established the Elaine and Nathan Ballou Scholarship in Nursing and Health Sciences and later made provisions in their estate plans to ensure the fund will continue at Heritage in perpetuity. Their generosity makes it possible for students to pursue their dreams of higher education and the opportunities that come from earning their degrees.

Happenstance lead the Ballous to Heritage. Elaine was on lunch break walking around Richland one afternoon when she saw a sign for Heritage College. Intrigued, she went into the building to learn more. She spoke to the staff in the outreach office for the Tri-Cities regional site and took home a brochure to show to her husband.

Senior, nursing major and scholarship recipient Samuel Cuevas (left) will graduate in spring 2021.

Nathan, then a chemist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, was from a large mid-west family of humble means. He earned his bachelor’s degree through the help of scholarships, and the attention of a particular professor whom he befriended during his undergraduate studies helped him be successful and spurred him on to continue his education until he earned a Ph.D.

“Nate always wanted to establish a scholarship at his alma mater in honor of his professor,” said Elaine. “When I showed him the brochure for Heritage, he said it sounded like something that we should get more information about. We drove up to campus and met Sr. Kathleen and some of the students. The young people we met were all so committed to their education, the staff were incredibly dedicated to the students, and the quality of the education was fantastic.”

Scholarship recipient Alejandra Arteaga, B.S.N., 2019 (right) is a nurse at Toppenish Hospital. Her fellow alum Shelby Clark (B.S.N., 2019) is a doctoral candidate in the nursing program at the University of Washington.

“Nate (who passed away in 2016) loved to learn. He learned from everybody. He could sense that same spirit in the students we met at Heritage. These are students who really value their education,” said Elaine. “No student should be deprived of their opportunity to learn if they want to learn.”

Sitting on her patio under the warm fall sunshine, Elaine is humble as she talks about her and Nathan’s relationship with Heritage and its students.

“It’s not about the financial,” she said. “It’s about doing what we can to support what we value, what we care about.”

Scholarship recipient Erika Scheel is a senior in the nursing program and will graduate in May.

The conversation shifts back to her garden and the decades of love and care she and her husband dedicated to nurturing every flower, shrub and tree. In many ways, it is a physical representation of what they are doing at Heritage, but with far greater reach than their own back yard. Through their support, they are nurturing generations of students. They are giving them the chance to show the world what great things can happen when opportunity meets their passions and ignites their inspiration, which leads them to work hard and, thus, change their lives and the lives of their families. This is the Ballous’ true legacy.

Delivering Ready Educators

A worldwide pandemic may change the way education is delivered on a day-to-day basis. But one thing never changes: The optimum educational experience features students being taught by well- prepared, qualified teachers to whom those students can relate.

For young students of color in the Yakima Valley – mainly Latinx and Native American children – that often means teachers who look like them and share similar cultures.

For the educators, it means having the ability to easily access the education they need – for undergraduate degrees, teaching certifications, and advanced degrees.

Heritage University delivers on all fronts.

Founded initially as a teacher’s college, Heritage has awarded nearly 8,000 Education bachelor’s and master’s degrees in its 38 years. Today, Heritage alumni work throughout the Yakima Valley as teachers, principals and administrators, employed by elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and school districts – all with multi-cultural student bodies. As a group, the educators are themselves a multi-cultural population – more than half of them Latinx and about ten percent Native American.

Because their roots are here, the great majority of Heritage- produced educators stay in the area – and some return to earn advanced degrees that propel them to administrative positions.

“We know that receiving a quality education is key to a good life,” said Kari Terjeson, chair of Heritage’s Department of Teacher Education. “Heritage students get that here and then go out and deliver the same thing to the students they teach. It’s good for the educators we produce, for students, for families. It’s good for our communities.”

Heritage’s focus on graduating students that return to their communities to serve, has a result that’s needed now more than ever. According to the Learning Policy Institute, a national research organization focusing on education policy, teachers of color boost the academic performance of students of color, with improved reading and math test scores, improved graduation rates, and increases in aspirations to attend college.

Nationwide, the gap between the percentage of Latinx teachers and Latinx students is larger than for any other racial or ethnic group.

But here in the Yakima Valley, that teacher-to-student ratio is much more balanced: Heritage is the largest producer of teachers in Central Washington and the largest producer of teachers of color in all of Washington state.


Washington has nine Educational Service Districts, or ESDs – each representing a certain number of counties and school districts. Kevin Chase (M.Ed., Educational Administration, ’93) is superintendent of ESD 105. Assuch, he is acutely aware of the impact Heritage graduates make in the districts and schools within the district area.

ESD 105 supports 25 public school districts and more than 20 private and tribal schools in South Central Washington. It coordinates cooperative programs that ultimately affect the learning of more than 66,000 students in the four counties it serves – Kittitas and Yakima, as well as portions of Klickitat and Grant.

Directing an ESD is a lot like running a business or a small company.

Kevin Chase

Kevin Chase, Superintendent of ESD 105

“My job is like a concierge for superintendents,” said Chase. “It’s fiscal support for districts when they need help. It’s professional development for staff. It’s all the student support that districts need to provide.”

Hiring and staff retention are not among the issues typically keeping him up at night. That’s because when you hire people who are from the area, they almost always stay in the area, said Chase.

“In both the Latinx and Native American communities, extended family is a big part of the culture. Social circles are very important.”

That means excellent teacher retention, in particular of teachers of color, and that’s good for students.

“It’s a really important component in academic achievement but also in the likelihood of students going on to post-secondary education,” said Chase. “Having people as role models is very important. It gives an ability for students to see themselves in positions they may not otherwise think about.”


Since he started teaching more than 30 years ago, Heritage alumnus Doug Burge has seen an increase in his area’s Latinx population – from about 30 percent to now more than 50 percent. Today, Burge is superintendent of the Zillah School District, about a fifteen- minute drive from Heritage’s Toppenish campus.

Doug Burge

Doug Burges is the superintendent of the Zillah School District, which is comprised of a high school, middle school, intermediate school and an elementary school.

Burge said bilingual teachers who are ready to teach on day one meet a critical need.

“Heritage supplies a diverse group of teachers who’ve gained good experience in local schools as part of their education,” said Burge. “They’re ready to go as soon as they enter the classroom. I can count on the fact that they’re going to do an excellent job.”

Burge recalls that when he was an elementary principal, there were many applicants for open teaching positions. Today, there are fewer candidates, yet Heritage continues to be a source of those candidates. Supply and demand in the teaching “industry” is an up-and-down thing, said Burge.

Burge said the Zillah School District has made good inroads into making staff more representative of their schools’ student bodies, where about 15 percent of students are Spanish monolingual.


Russ Hill

Russ Hill, assistant superintendent of East Valley School District in Yakima, Washington.

As Assistant Superintendent of the East Valley School District with five schools and 3,200 students in his purview, Heritage Alumnus Russ Hill has had the opportunity to help initiate language-related programs that are beneficial to students.

That’s critical in a district where the numbers of monolingual and English Language Learners, commonly called “ELL” – those who do not learn English as their primary language – is about 40 percent.

“Many of our families speak only Spanish,” said Hill. “Having a significant monolingual population makes it crucial to also have a significant bilingual teaching staff.”

East Valley schools have dual- language programs in which students spend half their day receiving instruction in English and the other half in Spanish. Schools have both English and Spanish text in their libraries. They seek and embrace curricula that reflects the makeup of their communities – both Latinx and Native American representation. The district hosts dual-language nights for families that encourage involvement and produce engagement.

“There’s a lot of deliberate inclusion of Hispanic culture and Native American culture,” said Hill.


For educators who want to lead beyond the classroom, Heritage offers the opportunity to earn an advanced degree while continuing to work.

Maria Batarao had her bachelor’s degree in communication and was studying for a master’s degree in professional development at Heritage when she realized what she wanted to do with her life.

Maria Batarao

Maria Batarao, Simcoe Elementary School Principal in Wapato, Washington.

“I was part of a volunteer program with AmeriCorps Reading Corp. I had been inspired by my parents who were AmeriCorp teachers,” said Batarao. “I realized working with children was my world.”

She taught for 10 years, then applied for the principal’s position at Simcoe Elementary School in Wapato. She’s been in the role for three years.

Said Batarao: “I learned from my parents to dream big, work hard, and give back to your community. Heritage helped me do that.”

The Dreamers The Doers The Risk Takers

Small businesses are anything but small. They are the bread and butter of the national economy, employing nearly 60 million people and generating 44 percent of the gross domestic product. According to the Small Business Administration,

there are 30.7 million small businesses in American today. In fact, big businesses, those employing more than 500 workers, account for only .01% of the business landscape. In rural communities, like the Yakima Valley, they are virtually nonexistent, making small businesses that much more critical for the vitality of the community.

Behind every one of these small giants is the story of entrepreneurs who had an idea and took a leap of faith, confident that they could turn that idea into a profitable venture. It is not a move for the timid. Starting, running and growing a business takes faith, grit and a whole lot of hard work. Still, for these Heritage University alums, the entrepreneurial call was too strong to ignore. Meet Javier Morin, Yerenia Espindola-Mendoza and Allie Haro.


Javier Morin’s entrepreneurial spirit was evident long before he graduated from Heritage in 2016. He came to Heritage as one of the first Act Six Initiative Scholars—a leadership program that provides full-ride scholarships to students in rural communities. True to the intent of the program, Morin’s presence was felt throughout the campus. Among his many involvements, he served on the Student Government Association, twice as the public relations officer and as the president; was a member of the university’s fraternity; a member of the nationally-ranked Enactus team; and a student staff member of the Heritage marketing department.

Javier Morin

The king of clean, Javier Morin (center) and fellow alum Marcus Morales (not pictured), built The Cleaning Brothers from an idea to a thriving business with 20 employees and contracts in three states in just three years.

“If there was some new and exciting, student- driven project going on, Javier was usually right there in the middle of it,” said David Wise, vice president for Marketing, Communications and Advancement. “His drive and enthusiasm was contagious.”

After graduating, Morin’s career path went down a typical route; he took a management trainee position with Enterprise Rent-a-Car. However, for Morin, it was less of a job and more like an extended internship with benefits.

“I did everything I could to learn all I could while I was at Enterprise,” said Morin. “It taught me a lot about the day to day operations of businesses and customer service.”

A little over a year after graduation, Morin partnered with fellow Heritage Eagle and Act Six Scholar, Marcus Morales to open a commercial cleaning business, The Cleaning Brothers. The idea to launch the business came after several conversations with Morin’s father, who works in facilities management for a healthcare company in Yakima. He was frustrated at the lack of quality commercial cleaning companies in the area.

“I saw there was a need, and I knew I could bring a level of professionalism to the industry that prospective clients would respond to,” he said. “Pretty quickly, I fell in love with the struggle and challenges of building a business. Nothing grows overnight, it took six months for us to get our first client, but success is all about being resilient and not quitting.”

It took time, but growth did come. One client grew to two, three, four, and more. Morin and Morales hustled. In just three short years, they’ve built a company with 20 employees and clients in three states. They even brought in another Heritage Eagle into their fold, partnering with Zia Lohrasbi as they expanded into the St. Louis, Missouri market.

“Our goal is to grow at a steady rate, to take on what we can handle so we can provide our clients with the best possible service,” he said.

For many, this would be the end of the story: a successful business with all signs pointing to a strong future ahead. However, Morin likes to explore different business ventures. A little over a year ago, he partnered with two filmmakers and started 3Mil Media, a commercial video production company that is just starting to get off the ground. And, even his side hustle has a side hustle. He’s in talks with another group of entrepreneurs to launch a third company.

“It’s all about being a risk-taker,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur comes with a lot of challenges. It’s lots of phone calls and responding to things that come up. Building strong partners, being persistent, having a plan and staying focused on our goals, that is the secret of success.”


When Yerenia Espindola-Mendoza enrolled at Heritage University, she never imagined that she would be a successful businesswoman helping individuals and business owners build long-term financial plans. Her desire was going into teaching. However, a conversation with her mentor led her to explore the world of business.

“I’ve always wanted to teach and help people to make a difference in their life. I thought that teaching was the way to do that,” she said. “But when I was talking to one of my mentors at the university, she said, ‘you should go into business.’ Her words changed my thinking, and I declared my business major.”

Yerenia Espindola-Mendoza

Yerenia Espindola-Mendoza leveraged her college internships into a career helping others plan for their futures.

Espindola-Mendoza, a non-traditional student several years older than the others in her cohort, knew she had found the right fit in her major but wasn’t sure what she would do with it once she graduated. That is until a guest speaker showed up to one of her business classes. He was a partner from New York Life, who was there to talk about their internship program. She was the only one who raised her hand when he asked the class who was interested in learning more.

“It was like God spoke to me and said, ‘Take the internship; this is your future career! It’s your path; you will be helping people.'”

That summer, she started her journey with the company, primarily selling life insurance. The company had a national internship contest, and she was named the national winner! The following year, she participated in the
internship competition, again receiving the same honor. As a result, for two years in a row, Espindola-Mendoza was taken to the headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, which was a fantastic experience. After two years of the internship, she decided to turn her experiences into a full-time position as an agent for New York Life.

“Everything started with that internship,” she said. “I saw the need in my community and the lack of education surrounding retirement and financial planning. The lack of information about risk management, life insurance, building a retirement plan, pretty much a lack of understanding about the concept of personal, business, and estate planning. I knew I could help people with this and that by impacting the financial wellbeing of one family or one business, I could impact the entire community.”

After three years in the industry, she became a broker to offer more services. Espindola-Mendoza expanded her service options menu at the three- year mark. She understood that it was essential to have a broad, holistic financial plan to help clients achieve their financial goals. Now she offers life insurance, retirement planning, and long-term care insurance. She sought out training on social security and Medicare supplement plans.

“Every individual’s situation is different,” she said. “I have to be knowledgeable in a wide array of services and products to help my clients find what best suits their needs.”

While her business began focusing on individuals, it has grown to serve the needs of business owners.

“Business owners have a whole host of needs that differ from the individual,” she said. “They need help with personal planning, business planning, and estate planning. Helping them in today’s business world. Her goal is to help implement different strategies based on business owners’ needs. Most common needs are to attract, retain, reward and significantly retain upper-level management employees. Personal and employee retirement plans, provide asset protection, and transfer of wealth in the most tax-efficient ways during succession planning.”

Knowing that her business clients’ needs were much more complex, requiring more specialized services than she could offer, Espindola-Mendoza built a partnership with accountants and attorneys in the area. She also partners with Hall Financial, which has helped businesses for more than 40 years in the area. ” The consortium of business professionals can provide wrap-around of complex business planning and estate planning services.

“My goal is to be the first person people think about when they are looking for financial services. I want them to look at me because of my knowledge, level of care, and exceptional customer service and superior company advanced planning services (attorneys, CPA’s and CFP’s) that assist in planning.

Always putting my client’s needs first. That’s my dream.” She said. “I’m going to continue to keep expanding my services, which means more training and getting more licenses so that I can be of greater service to my clients.”


Allie Haro wasn’t thinking about her future business when she choose the food industry to research for her business ethics course her junior year. A self-described “foodie,” she was simply looking at a subject area she enjoyed.

“I’ve always loved eating,” she laughed.

Allie Haro

A love of good, healthy food and an idea sparked while doing research during her junior year at Heritage led Allie Haro to open Local Beet.

The more she dug into the industry, learning about where foods came from, how they are processed, and not only how peoples’ health are impacted by their food, but how the environment is impacted by their choices as well, the more disenchanted she became.

“I dove in head first and became a vegan,” she said. “While I wasn’t yet thinking about starting a food service company at the time, I think of this as the moment when the spark of an idea was born.”

That idea grew into Local Beet, a plant-based food preparation business providing delicious and nutritious meals to customers in the Yakima Valley. Operating somewhere between a restaurant and a meal subscription service, Local Beet customers order their favorites from a weekly menu. Haro prepares and packages their order into reusable containers, which they pick up from their storefront and take home to reheat and enjoy. Haro opened

her business in July 2019, the culmination of years of saving enough capital to launch her dream, of finding associates whose businesses could work well in collaboration with hers, and searching for the perfect building to house everything she and her colleagues needed.

“I feel like the relationship that I have with business associates are critical to making Local Beet work,” said Haro. “I started my businesses without taking out any loans. Everything came from my savings. Collaborating with Elaina Moon, owner of Healthy Eats Nutrition Service, allowed us to split expenses so we could get the facility and the equipment we needed. And we are able to do cross-promotions that support each other.”

She points to an effort the two undertook shortly after the pandemic shutdown.

“I was really worried about our customers,” said Haro. “I was worried about their health. In times of high stress we often turn to unhealthy habits, like eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods, to cope. Elaina and I, and our friend who is a yoga instructor, started Fitt Challenge. We provided health coaching, virtual workouts and yoga and I was the guru of meal preparation. For my part, our challenge members would get five plant-based, pre-prepared meal kits a week as part of their plan. It was so popular that I started offering the weekly meal subscription to my regular customers.”

Allie food

Haro wants people to know that healthy doesn’t mean boring. Her plant-based meals bring eye-popping color and full flavors to the table.

The challenge of starting a food service business in the first place, then building it into a strong, profitable venture during a global pandemic, isn’t lost on Haro. However, she is undaunted by the risk.

“I’m not afraid of failure,” she said. “The way I see it, failure is nothing more than redirecting you to something else. I feel like I am where I need to be right now and I am giving it my all to make this a success. I have my short and long-term goals and a plan to get there. Where there are challenges that come up, whether from COVID or something else, I look for opportunities in these challenges to move me and Local Beet forward.”

Heritage Grads Here to Serve

Social work is one of Heritage’s most popular majors, with 146 students currently enrolled in the program. The bulk of these students remain in their hometowns after graduation, where they tackle some of their communities’ most pressing issues: homelessness, healthcare, children and family services, mental health and criminal justice, to name a few. Heritage social workers are found in virtually every specialization and in a wide array of agencies throughout Washington state. Here are a few of their stories.


Olga Zuniga

Olga Zuniga’s social work career led her back to the elementary school where she was once a student.

Olga Zuniga took on the role of caregiver when she was still a child. Her parents were migrant farm workers and they needed her to care for her siblings.

As an adult, after her youngest son’s premature birth, it was she who needed help. His medically fragile condition necessitated she live near the hospital for three months.

There, she met a woman who would be her lifeline: Anna, a hospital social worker who helped her with temporary housing, meals, and child care for her other children.

Three years later, her son was thriving, and she was ready to return to work.

“That’s when I thought about my experience and what a difference a social worker made for me,” she said. “I realized that was my calling.”

Many who decide to go into social work do so out of a strong desire to give back, said Corey Hodge, chair of the Social Work Program at Heritage.

“Everyone who chooses to pursue a degree in social work is there for a reason,” said Hodge. “Many have had someone in their lives who believed in them and helped them, and they want to give back.”

Heritage’s social work program has graduated more than 500, and Hodge said almost all have remained in the Yakima Valley. They work for the state and for non-profit organizations. They work in rehab centers and health care, for victims of domestic violence and substance abuse.

The work done by these Heritage University alumni and hundreds of others has effects throughout the region.

For Zuniga, that calling she felt brought her back to her roots. She’s a school social worker, and the building she works out of used to be her elementary school. She is seeing a lot of insecurity around food and housing among her students.

“We have students who may not have breakfast or dinner and students whose families are homeless.”

Sometimes traumatic experiences are deeply embedded in children’s lives. That’s when a social worker taps more comprehensive service providers.

She works regularly with food banks, financial assistance programs, housing assistance programs, mental health providers, medical providers and crisis intervention programs. She calls them “lifelines” for the students she serves.

“Our job is never done. But we make progress, one student and one family at a time.”


Salomon Carrasco has counseled a lot of people in distress. Sometimes it’s the result of mental illness, sometimes drug use or alcohol abuse. He’s worked at treatment centers and at the Pasco County Jail.

It’s helped make him effective in his current role. Carrasco spends each workday riding with Pasco police officers as a Designated Crisis Responder, in a cooperative effort between his employer – Lourdes Crisis Services – and the Pasco Police Department.

The program’s goal is to identify repeat offenders, de-escalate crises, get people off the streets, and get them help.

Washington’s Tri-Cities area has three DCRs in total – one in each of its three cities of Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick. This “Mobile Outreach Team” works with all nine law enforcement agencies in Benton and Franklin counties.

Every weekday following the daily shift briefing, Carrasco hops in a patrol car with whichever officer he’s assigned to shadow. Whenever a mental health or behavioral health-related call comes in, the officer turns the vehicle toward the problem.

Once on the scene, Carrasco talks with family members and assesses the client. His goals are to establish safety, offer resources, and run through a plan should concerns arise.

If the client needs treatment, Carrasco calls ahead to Lourdes. Once there, the client receives care immediately, which wasn’t previously the case.

Sometimes situations are more acute – and possibly threatening. Then, police officers, who are trained to make initial contact, secure the area around the client, and engage Carrasco’s expertise.

“I look up their history, and I evaluate the individual: Are they of potential harm to themselves or others? Are they making threats? Do they understand what they’re doing? I can counsel them and de-escalate the situation.”

The client can talk to the police officer or to him, Carrasco said. “Some people are afraid I’m going to put them in a psych ward. But some see me as a counselor, and I am.”

Back at precinct headquarters, another critical part of Carrasco’s work is participating in training law enforcement on the psychology and process of de- escalation.

Salomon Carrasco

Salomon Carrasco goes out on calls with the Pasco Police Department to provide mental or behavioral health assessments.

“We talk about introducing yourself and tell them you’re there to help them. You listen, keep good eye contact, stay calm, express empathy, acknowledge their concerns, and just allow the person to vent without interrupting.”

The joint effort has helped Pasco meet its goal of decreasing incarceration at a time when mental health issues have increased. Pasco police refer an average of 50 clients to the Mobile Outreach Team every month.

“It’s working,” said Carrasco. “We’re seeing people who need help getting connected with resources having fewer interactions with police, and sometimes eliminating those interactions entirely.”

Lourdes has funding to continue to provide the service through 2020. Carrasco said Pasco city commissioners are talking about how to get funding if Lourdes doesn’t get re-funded in 2021.

“Because it’s making a difference,” said Carrasco.


In her youth, Cynthia Jones made what she calls a series of poor choices, including dropping out of high school and abusing alcohol.

But at age 17, while living in Seattle, Jones saw an ad for a community college. She took the bus there, met with an advisor, and told her she wanted to enroll though she had no income.

Cynthia Decoteau

Cynthia Jones helps Yakama women, teens and children break the cycle of the adverse effects of generational trauma.

The advisor gave her a business card. On it was the name and phone number of a social worker who had funding for Jones for everything from bus tickets to tuition and childcare.

“She was my salvation,” said Jones. “I knew right there I wanted to do something like what she did.”

For those who decide to go into social work, it’s often about giving back in appreciation of what others did for you.

Jones credits many with helping keep her on her path, including fellow students and faculty at Heritage where, in addition to her full-time job, she now teaches as an adjunct professor.

“When my youngest was born prematurely, my classmates took notes for me and would check on me, and my instructors would always say, ‘Don’t let not having childcare keep you from coming to class.'”

Heritage instructor Gregorio Ochoa was one of those people Jones met who made it his business to help other people. She calls him an “old-school” social worker.

“He’s the male version of Mother Theresa,” said Jones. “He went to the people, and he spent time with them. I wanted to be like him.”

After graduating from Heritage, Jones went to work as a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Yakama Nation. She did job skills training and helped her clients find jobs, at the same time she also pursued a master’s degree.

In 2017, she was offered a position with Yakama Nation Behavioral Health as a behavioral health therapist. She provides one-on-one mental health counseling to women, teens and children experiencing trauma, depression and anxiety.

She said an essential part of her work is helping clients understand that the losses their people have endured affect their lives today.

“Children were taken away, women were sterilized, we couldn’t speak our language, and we continue
to bear the legacy of this. We’re in a time of healing now, but we can’t help ourselves until we understand this societal trauma.

“After that, we start to work on the personal trauma,” said Jones. “You need to be with the person and their story. You need to hear it, really hear it – and you also have to help them see the good they have been able to do. I ask people, ‘What are your strengths? How is that you’re still here?’ And I tell them the blood flowing through our veins is that of the resiliency of our ancestors, and that we honor them by doing good. I work to communicate a sense of strength and pride that can build hope.”

Jones often incorporates Native spiritual practices into therapy. “We start with prayer, with a moment of silence, lighting sweetgrass or sage or a candle.”

She said it’s important for people in social work professions to make sure they’re OK, too. She releases her day by spending time in her garden – what she calls her “place of healing.”

“Before we can help others, we have to heal, and that can be a long process.”

Jones recalls visiting a homeless encampment on the Yakama reservation years ago. She saw someone she ran away with when they were teens.

“I remember thinking, ‘That could have been me.'”

Other people from the past show up from time to time, too — people whose lives she helped make better. To this day, she said, people stop into her office at Vocational Rehabilitation looking for her. They want to tell her how they’re doing, that they’re still at the job she helped them get or they’re still drug-free. They want to thank her.

“I think about how it’s one thing after another that leads to where you end up. The difference for me was that I was I’ve had people who care.

“I’ve been able to heal. And healed people heal people.”


Leo López loves remembering the way his dad met people.

“He’d always say, ‘Mucho gusto. Lionel López – aquí para servirte.’ It meant, ‘Happy to meet you. I’m here to serve,’ “It’s how he lived his entire life,” said López.

López learned early on the impact one caring person could have on many people.

Growing up in a close-knit family, López started working in the fields and orchards at age four. Migrant students’ education included “migrant school” – several hours every day after the other students went home – to make up for the time they had been out working.

It was extra time and attention that ensured he had a quality education.

After high school, López knew he wanted a job working with children. He enrolled at Heritage, deciding to pursue a degree in social work. Washington state didn’t have school social workers in 1990, so López went into juvenile rehabilitation, working with adjudicated youth ages 12 to 21.

Leo López

Leo López’s career helping children took him from Washington state to Washington, DC and back again.

It was an eye-opener, more a criminal system than rehabilitation, he said. He learned that systems sometimes don’t serve the people in them very well.

He got his master’s degree and, in 1999, got a job with Head Start’s Migrant/ Seasonal program in their Washington D.C. headquarters. Head Start is a national organization that promotes the school readiness of preschool-aged children from low-income families.

It was in this role that López began to be able to impact more far-reaching improvements in systems affecting children.

“It was all about engaging families and encouraging them to work at what they want for their children – specifically a good educational foundation and keeping them in school,” said López. “This program made sure that wherever a family migrated to, children wouldn’t lose the credits they’d earned toward the grade placement they were at.”

Working with an organization he knew made a difference in children’s lives – children with a background just like his – López felt life had come full circle.

López wasn’t looking to leave Head Start in 2007 when he got a call from friends about a job that seemed tailor-made for him. It was in Yakima – a short commute from his home base of Sunnyside – and, once again, he’d be doing meaningful child- centric work.

Today, López is director of Casey Family Programs’ Yakima office, a national organization whose focus is to reduce the number of children in foster care in the U.S.

Working closely with Washington’s Department of Children, Youth and Family, López and his staff of 17 – mostly master’s-level social workers – are responsible for Casey’s work throughout the state of Washington.

He said some of his most rewarding work is with the Yakama Nation’s Nak-Nu-We-Sha foster program. He admires the way it weaves Yakama culture into its practice with the individual children and families it serves. Understanding a community is something he said is key to any social service program’s success.

There’s high-level interaction in the job as well. López works closely with consultants and lawmakers in New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. He guides partnerships with multiple states and jurisdictions on research that affects public policy.

He’s even developed training for the Mexican Consulate and the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) that helps reunify children with their families in Mexico and parts of the United States.

López said he sees every day the ways positive change can happen on the micro and macro levels.

“I do think it begins with that one person who believes they can make a difference. For me, it started with what I saw every day at home – though I don’t feel I’m even close to what my dad did every single day. But I keep trying.”

The American Dream – Alumnus helps Latinx families move towards citizenship

Magaly Solis builds bridges. Not physical structures made of steel and concrete. Her bridges are metaphorical. She connects people to their dreams and a lifetime of opportunities. Solis is the citizenship program manager at La Casa Hogar, a non-profit organization that partners with Yakima Valley immigrant families and offers culturally & linguistically responsive early learning, adult education, civic engagement, and citizenship services. She is this year’s Violet Lumely Rau Alumna of the Year recipient.

“Magaly exemplifies the ideals and values of Heritage University—excellence, inclusion, perseverance, leadership and service,” said David Wise, vice president of Advancement. “She demonstrates her commitment to helping others and building communities every day in her personal and professional life. We are so proud of her and proud to call her an Eagle.”

Solis graduated from Heritage in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in education. She was a substitute teacher for the Toppenish School District and an interpreter helping injured farmworkers in the lower Yakima Valley communicate with their medical providers when she noticed the great need for adult education, particularly for this population.

“These workers were injured and had little to no way, that wasn’t physical labor, to support themselves and their families,” said Solis. “My own experience taught me that education was something that could open up opportunities for them. I started volunteering in the lower valley, teaching adult education classes in Spanish, English classes and computer literacy classes.”

Solis continued to volunteer with the program for several years before connecting with La Casa Hogar. She learned about the citizenship program and volunteered to teach some of their courses. The experience was so personally rewarding that she joined the team as a part- time employee and later took on the program’s full-time coordinator position.

“I think that coming directly from the immigrant community and having that firsthand experience, I see the needs that we have, and I want to do whatever I can to support those who have that need for education, connection and belonging,” said Solis. “That is why I get involved.”

Solis immigrated into the United States with her family when she was just 12 years old. They settled in the small town of Mabton and she enrolled in school. Her academic experience was challenging. Not only did she have to learn the required curriculum, but she also had to do it while learning a new language, an experience that many in the immigrant community share.

“I knew that education and learning English were the pathway to accessing opportunities,” said Solis. “There were lots of challenges, I had to work really hard, and I feel like I was privileged to have the opportunity to earn my college degree. That isn’t something that is easy for many to access when facing financial and language barriers.”

Today, Solis pays forward the opportunities she received by helping others do the same.

The citizenship program she oversees supports immigrants as they complete the long and arduous process of becoming a United States citizen. It can take years to complete from start to finish. An applicant must first be a lawful permanent resident for a minimum of five years, and be in compliance with other residency requirements, such as time living in the state where the application is being filed and time in country. They must have sufficient English proficiency and pass a U.S. history and civics test. Some applicants are exempt from the English test but still have to demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and civics. And, they have to have good moral character and demonstrate their attachment to the United States and its constitution. The process requires classes, lots of paperwork, testing and a naturalization interview with an immigration officer. It can be very intimidating, confusing and frustrating, especially for those whose education level is rudimentary at best.

“Our program offers combined citizenship education, English and naturalization legal services. We have created a safe, welcoming space where learning and celebration go hand-in-hand. We want to remove barriers for people to naturalize. We work with them and meet them where they are and support them from the initial screening to their oath ceremony,” she said.

Immigration law is very complex and intimidating.

Our goal is to support our students’ confidence in navigating the naturalization process and achieve their goal of becoming proud U.S. citizens. In class, we talk about their rights and responsibilities as citizens and the importance of civic engagement.”

Under Solis’s leadership, the program has grown significantly. Staffing increased from her part-time position to an office of three staff members and a volunteer bank of 50 people. She used her Heritage training to write the program’s first comprehensive curriculum, which provides a clear plan and a process for evaluating and sharing students’ progress. Most importantly, the number of people who completed the program and are now citizens rose from a few hundred to more than 1,200.

When Solis enrolled at Heritage as a freshman, she never imagined the life that she leads today. She thought she would be teaching bright, young students in a K-12 classroom. While she didn’t end up in an elementary school, she found a calling that makes a deep and lasting impact.

“When someone becomes a U.S. citizen, you see this overwhelming emotion on their face, it is the most rewarding feeling seeing this,” she said. “So many of the people I work with want to become a citizen because the United States has been their home for many years. For some, it is about peace of mind, belonging, safety and family unity. And, by being a citizen, they can engage civically, use their voice, and uplift their community. This is what keeps me motivated.”


News Briefs – WINGS Summer 2020

HU grads selected for Latino health fellowship program

Social work major Israel Cervantes Rodriguez and nursing major Dulce Dominguez are among ten students selected statewide to participate in the University of Washington (UW) Latino Center for Health’s inaugural Student Scholars Fellowship Program. The two were in the final semester of their senior year when selected.

Israel Cervantes Rodriguez

The program seeks to advance the field of Latino health by building capacity to address current and emerging health issues facing diverse Latinx communities in Washington state.

“The overall aim of this program is to support the next generation of leaders and scholars who promote the health and well-being of Latinx communities in our state,” said Dr. Gino Aisenberg, associate professor in the UW School of Social Work and co-director of the Latino Center for Health. “Under the leadership of Mikaela Freundlich, Program Coordinator, this fellowship program provides crucial funding to students as well as programmatic activities that promote community and engagement with the faculty and staff of the Center.”

Dulce Dominguez

The students selected for the program came from both Heritage and the UW.

“The recipients of the Latino Center for Health Student Scholars Fellowship Program are the future leaders of Latino communities in our state and region,” said Dr. Leo Morales, professor and chief diversity officer of the UW School of Medicine and co-director of the Latino Center for Health. “They are the most important aspect of the Latino Center for Health’s aspirations and vision.”

Ag industry executive takes the lead of Heritage@Work

Yakima Valley agriculture industry leader John Reeves, Ph.D., joined Heritage University in June to serve as the director of Heritage@Work, the university’s workforce development program.

John Reeves, Ph.D.

Reeves is an agriculture business consultant who works with a number of companies including Pink Lady America, a company that directs the marking for the Pink Lady brand of apples; Roy Farms, which produces hops, apples, cherries and blueberries; and Fall Creek Farm and Nursery, a blueberry breeding company. He has also worked with Anheuser-Busch, Frito-Lay, and is the former vice president of research and new products at Earth Grains and Yakima Chief.

“John was an early advocate for establishing Heritage@Work while serving on the university board of directors,” said David Wise, vice president of Advancement and Marketing, who also oversees Heritage@Work. “His extensive knowledge of the agriculture industry, especially as it relates to their needs surrounding employee education, made him the ideal candidate to take leadership position filled when previous director Martín Valadez transitioned to head the university’s Tri- Cities campus at Columbia Basin College.”

Physician Assistant students awarded scholarships

Two students in the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program received scholarships from national institutions.

Bassanio Martinez, Jr.

Bassanio Martinez Jr. received the Sgt. Craig Ivory Memorial Scholarship by the Veterans Caucus. The caucus is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the interests and contributions of veterans through service, education and fraternity, particularly as it relates to health care. The scholarship was established at the Caucus by Pat and Terri Ivory to honor the memory of their son Craig, an Army medic who passed away in Iraq.

Heather McKnight

Heather (Mayer) McKnight received the American Academy of Physician Assistants Foundation’s Rural Health Caucus Scholarship. AAPA is a national organization that represents all PAs in the United States. The scholarship McKnight received is a competitive award given to students from

rural communities who are committed to serving in rural communities once they earn their degrees and credentials.

Heritage awards record number of full-tuition scholarships

For 58 students, how to pay for college is one less thing they need to worry about this year. All are the recipients of a full-ride scholarship.

“These are among the best and brightest students in our communities,” said Gabriel Piñon, director of Admissions. “We can’t wait to see all the good they will accomplish here at our university.”


This year’s recipients are:


Perla Bolanos, Toppenish High School
Gissel Garcia, East Valley High School
Yesenia Garcia, White Swan High School
Arely Osorio, Toppenish High School
Raehyun Park, Eisenhower High School
Vivianna Phillips, AC Davis High School
Angel Ramirez, Toppenish High School
Leonardo Rios, Granger High School
Emanuel Valdez Santacruz, Eisenhower High School
Elvia Valdovinos, Eisenhower High School


Yamilca Coria Zaragoza, Pasco High School
Joaquin Padilla, Heritage University


Gustavo Mendez Soto, Selah High School
Colton Maybee, West Valley High School
Miguel Ayala, Sunnyside Senior High School
Andrea Mendoza, Heritage University
Maria Vaca, Heritage University
Indys Lindgren, West Valley High School
Jeffrey Brannon, Yakima Valley College
Anthony Brooks, Concordia University
Stephanie Rabanales, Heritage University
Yoana Torres, Heritage University
Yaritza Maravilla, Heritage University
Anna Diaz, West Valley High School
Cristian Cruz Sanchez, Eisenhower High School
Mayra Diaz Acevedo, AC Davis High School
Michael Gonzalez, Angeles Film School
Elizabeth Juarez, Washington State University


Israel Bentancourt, Granger High School
Christopher Berk, Sunnyside High School
Richard Corona, Zillah High School
Gizela Gaspar, Wapato High School

Yvett Corona, Grandview High School
Liliana Hernandez, Granger High School
Gabriela Madrigal, Yakima Valley College
Norma Manzanarez, AC Davis High School
Luis Medrano Espinoza, Prosser High School
Bryana Soto-Guillen, Wapato High School


Madison Candanoza, Sunnyside Christian
Rachel Guerrero, Sunnyside Senior High School
Carolina Herrera, AC Davis High School
Hunter Jacob, Yakima Valley College
Jasmine Martinez, Toppenish High School


Mariela Corona, Sunnyside High School
Maira Hernandez-Gonzalez, Heritage University
Carolina Moran, Granger High School
Jessica Robles Rios, Zillah High School
Katellin Santiago, Heritage University

GOODBYE DEAR FRIENDS: Heritage family loses two of its finest


Judge Michael McCarthy

Judge Michael McCarthy, a beloved member of the Heritage University adjunct faculty for the Criminal Justice Program, passed away on February 21, 2020, following an extended illness.

McCarthy had a long and distinguished career working in the legal field. He was a criminal prosecutor for the Yakima County Prosecutor’s Office from 1980 until 1998 when he started focusing on civil cases. He left the Prosecutor’s Office in 2001 when he joined the Yakima District Court Judicial Bench. He was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Superior Court Bench in 2008, and remained in that position until his death. McCarthy joined Heritage as an adjunct professor in 2012, teaching criminal justice and law courses.

A celebration of life was held in March, and the family requested that donations be made to Heritage University in lieu of flowers.


Dr. Apanakhi (Butterfly Woman) Buckley

Dr. Apanakhi (Butterfly Woman) Buckley passed away peacefully surrounded by family on July 4, 2020. Buckley was a teacher, colleague, and most importantly, a friend to many. She taught in the College of Education from 2000 to 2016 until her illness forced her to retire.

“Apanakhi was an exceptional teacher and mentor to many education students. She was more than a faculty member. She fixed a nutritious dinner for each class for her night students. She sang in the Heritage choir and led the multicultural dance troupe for years. She was faculty senate president and always pushed everyone to remember that staff and students were at the heart of our mission,” said friend and former colleague Pam Root. “Many of the teachers we have in the Valley today owe some of their inspiration and the compassion that they show their own students to her example.”

Buckley held a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in Science Education from the University of Washington, where she completed her dissertation: Beginning the Medicine Path: American Indian and Alaska Native Medical Students. She was passionate about her Choctaw heritage and about building social justice through the inclusivity of multicultural education. Her extensive background in multicultural and scientific education included serving as the director of the Kutkutlama teacher education project and teaching environmental data collection for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment before joining the Heritage faculty.

In 2018, Heritage named Petrie Hall room 1112 The Professor Apanakhi Buckley Collaborative Classroom, honoring her vision of teaching and learning as a reciprocal process. She received the 2013 Heritage University Board of Directors Faculty Teaching Award from Heritage.

Honoring her wishes, her family created the Memorial for Apanakhi Jeri Buckley Facebook group, which can be accessed via the link www.facebook.com/groups/apanakhi.

Before her passing, she wrote a message and asked that it be shared with all of those whose life was touched by her.

“Remember to recognize that you are happy when you are happy because ‘we were happy then’ doesn’t work. ‘Happy then’ is not happiness. It is regret. I am happy now, and it’s because of you. You have helped me find joy and happiness at the end of my life. I love you!” she wrote. “I wish you joy. Please continue to show the kindness to each other that you have always so generously given me.”

Buckley requested that memorial gifts be given in lieu of flowers to one of the organizations “near and dear to my heart:” American Civil Liberties Union, Defenders of Wildlife, Seattle Shakespeare Company, and the Pam Root and Apanakhi Friendship Scholarship at Heritage University.

Class Notes

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:

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.


Marylu (Roche) Martin (M.Ed., Guidance and Counseling) worked in the Omak School District for several years before moving to Alaska to serve as an itinerant school counselor for the Yukon Flats School District, which is about the the size of the state of Washington above the Arctic Circle. She spent five years flying in bush planes to 11 villages; carrying her food, clothing and counseling supplies; sleeping in cabins, teacher housing, and on wrestling mats on classroom floors; and had many adventures. She even helped cut up a moose head for a funeral dinner and did a 10-day river rafting trip down the Kongakut River to the very top of Alaska.

Martin then moved to Moses Lake to be near her son and taught special education for one year. During that year one of her students who had autism was evaluated by a HANDLE (Holistic Approach to Neurodevelopment and Learning Efficiency) practitioner. Martin was so impressed by the work that she studied with the HANDLE Institute to work with people with neurological challenges such as traumatic brain injuries, autism, and learning disabilities. She is now a screening intern and wishes she had this knowledge when she was teaching special education.


Gerardo Rueleas (B.A., Business Administration) was promoted to IT Director – International Operations and Solution Delivery at Costco Wholesale.



Nicole St. Mary-Franson (M.I.T., Elementary Education) is the executive director of the Central Washington Catholic Foundation. Prior to joining the foundation, she served as a teacher, principal and executive principal for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Seattle.


Kathryn Dozier Quinn (B.A.E.D., Elementary Education) joined Avenues: The World School in Shenzhen, China where she teaches English.


Mario Uribe (M.I.T., Elmentary Education, 2019 Ed. Admin./ Principal Certification) is the interim principal at McLoughlin High School in Milton Freewater, Oregon. Prior to his appointment, he served as the school’s vice-principal.


Debra Whitefoot (B.A., Business Administration) is the executive director of Nch’I Wana Housing in The Dalles, Oregon. Nch’L Wana Housing is a newly established nonprofit organization focused on housing and community development for indigenous people living on and near the Columbia River.



Juan Aguliar (B.A., Business Administration) is the property management coordinator for Comprehensive Healthcare in Yakima, Washington. Prior to accepting this role, he served as a case manager for the same organization.



Meadow Rodriguez Jr. (B.S., Computer Science) earned his Security+ certification, which attests to his proficiency to protect networks and sensitive data. Additionally, he was promoted to IT Compliance Analyst 3 at Costco Wholesale. He is an IT change advocate within Costco’s IT division, which means he acts as a liaison between the company’s IT upper management and its employees during its continued transformation of the IT division.



Marcus Morales (B.A., Mathematics) joined Amazon pathways operations program with Amazon operations management position internship in their fulfillment centers.

Amber Ortiz-Diaz (B.S., Biomedical Science) was named by the Yakima Herald Republic as one of the 39 under 39. Ortiz-Diaz is the Yakima Valley site director of Act Six and the Ready to Rise Program, a leadership development and college access program that brings together diverse, multicultural cadres of emerging urban leaders who want to use their college education to make a difference on campus and in their communities at home.



Jacob Billy
Sr. (B.A., Environmental Studies) graduated from Oregon State University with a Master of Education.







Amalia Akagi (B.A., English) joined Sealaska Corporation as the project coordinator of the company’s intern program. In her position, she travels to colleges around Washington and attends conferences like AISESto recruit for our program. “I love being a member of our intern team because the program connects students with the unique and vibrant cultures of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people.”



Brandon Berk (B.A., Mathematics) graduated from Whitworth College with a Master in Teaching. He will start teaching in the Sunnyside School District in the fall.



Submit Your Class Notes

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

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

Understanding Dyslexia

Sharon Bloome with her granddaughter Townsend Gantz Taft.

Sharon Bloome sees herself in the child left behind – the one who can’t read like her classmates and doesn’t understand why.

She was in her 30s before she learned the name for it: dyslexia, defined as “a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that does not affect general intelligence.”

“I didn’t know why I’d lose space on the page or drop word endings. Reading out loud was embarrassing because I never knew when something wouldn’t come out right.”

Bloome learned how to come up with a word by making sense of context. Though she didn’t have the critical teaching expertise that can be available today, she did well in high school, achieving high honors and graduating at age 16. She ultimately went on to become vice president of a Fortune 500 company and founder of three national non-profit groups.

Bloome’s 12-year-old granddaughter also has dyslexia – but she was diagnosed early.

“Early diagnosis and good educational opportunities have made all the difference for her,” said Bloome.

Bloome’s personal experiences moved her to donate to Heritage to get its new Master of Inclusive Education program started.

“It’s help I would have benefited from,” said Bloome. “And it’s exciting to be able to make a difference.”

Kari Terjeson, chair of the university’s Teacher Preparation Program, understands the struggle and its impact from her own teaching experience and from her experience as a mother: All three of her children have dyslexia. It’s not only the children with dyslexia who experience frustration, she said. Parents and teachers do as well because they don’t know how to help them.

Terjeson said Bloome’s way of making it through reading is common for children with dyslexia.

“Up to third or fourth grade, a lot of their ability to read comes from memorizing words,” she said. “As reading requirements ramp up, their challenges come to light.”

Many people think of dyslexia as perceiving reversed letters, such as seeing “b” when the letter is “d.”

“It’s a neurological condition that’s more an inability to ‘hear’ individual sounds within words,” said Terjeson.

Like Bloome, Terjeson also knows from personal experience that children with dyslexia, when it’s identified early and the right help is there, can excel.

“They can achieve wonderful things,” said Terjeson. “Samantha and Allie (her daughters) are both teachers now.

“Early intervention followed by explicit instruction can have a powerful impact.”

Teaching the TEACHERS

As the COVID-19 pandemic became a worldwide reality last spring, teachers throughout the Yakima Valley found themselves delivering their students’ education from a distance. While they rose to the challenge, many also found themselves with unexpected downtime – and some decided to do some distance learning of their own.

One of them is Kayli Chavez Berk. She’s a teacher in the Sunnyside School District, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Education from Heritage in 2018. She was taking some courses to earn her English Language Learner (ELL) certification when she learned about the university’s newest master’s degree program in inclusive education.

“I was intrigued by the fact that the program was titled M.Ed in Inclusive Education, and I wanted to learn more about what exactly the program had to offer. When I learned that it would include coursework covering ELL, dyslexia, and cultural competence, I was immediately hooked. These are areas I am personally passionate about in regard to teaching practices and assessment,” she said.

Chavez Berk is one of the earliest adopters of Heritage University’s new master’s degree program, one that can be completed entirely online – or involve no class time at all.

When they’ve earned their degree, Chavez Berk and other master’s-level teachers will have two endorsements: the first, English as Second Language (ESL), English Language Learner (ELL), or Bilingual Language Educator (BLE); and the second, a Reading Endorsement.

The ESL/BLE Endorsement includes a strong focus on building a culturally competent teaching practice; the Reading Endorsement features a heavy emphasis in both assessment and instruction for students with dyslexia.

For their higher level of education and advanced teaching ability, educators will receive an immediate and significant boost on their school district’s salary schedule, as well as enhanced job security.

Most important, when they are finally reunited with their students, they will have a greater depth of knowledge to help the growing population of students who need teachers with the most effective teaching skills.


As difficult as the “great pause” has been, the break in teachers’ schedules could not have come at a better time for this online educational opportunity, said Kari Terjeson, chair of Heritage’s Teacher Preparation Program.

Two years ago, Washington lawmakers passed a bill that, among other things, requires school districts statewide to screen children for signs of dyslexia. They are required to start doing so beginning the this fall.

The bill had a bit of its genesis more than 20 years ago in Seattle when seven-year-old Eileen Pollet was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. It was a relatively early diagnosis, and she was fortunate to have had more help available than many students receive. Yet despite her teacher’s dedicated effort, she wasn’t learning to read.

“Her teacher devoted 30 minutes a day three times a week before school to helping her learn to read,” said Eileen’s father, Gerry Pollet. “But she simply had never been given the training to teach a child with dyslexia how to read.”

As a member of the Washington House of Representatives representing the 46th District, Pollet’s experience as a parent led him to champion numerous education bills over his 20-year political career. Working closely with the Washington Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, the State Superintendent of Public Schools and others, Pollet drafted Washington Senate Bill 6162. It was voted into law in 2018, requiring every child from kindergarten through second grade to be progressively assessed for reading challenges and those with dyslexia provided with multi-tiered teaching support.

Screening tools and a road map for teaching students with learning challenges have been identified and quantified, Pollet said.

“Now, teachers have to be trained.”

The vast majority of colleges and universities are not yet beginning to plan for how – or if – they will provide the training.

That’s why Pollet finds Heritage’s early adoption of teaching the necessary skills so encouraging.

“Heritage not only understands the research and recognizes the need for this additional training, but faculty and administration are willing to put it into action.”

Because the ultimate responsibility to train teachers to identify and be able to teach children with dyslexia is with the school districts, teachers who come prepared with the training will be in demand.

In addition to the more thorough identification process, teachers in fall 2020 and beyond will need to work with students differently. School districts will be required to teach children with dyslexia in the regular classroom, not in a special education classroom.


Heritage is one of only two universities in the West Coast region to offer this master’s degree program. That’s unique, said Terjeson, but it’s not surprising.

“Heritage has always done what it takes to train teachers, especially to be able to teach marginalized students. Innovation in education is part of the tradition of our College of Education. It’s part of the Heritage mission and vision, the basic heart of Heritage.”

It applies to the other endorsement as well, which prepares teachers to teach students with a variety of language challenges. The degree offers both the ELL endorsement in which a teacher does not speak Spanish but works with non-English speaking students, as well as the BLE endorsement for teachers who are literate in both languages.

“This master’s degree is really about a multitude of language barriers. The ELL/BLE endorsement that’s offered as part of this degree is designed to ensure that all students with language challenges, due to second language acquisition difficulty, are considered,” said Terjeson. “And, because we serve indigenous and Latinx communities, it’s imperative that cultural competency is embedded in everything we do.”

It is this comprehensive approach to building teachers’ skills to work with students facing a multitude of language barriers that attracted Chavez Berk to the program. In the two years that she’s been teaching, she’s worked with many students who struggle to learn.

“Within the classroom, it is very common to work with students who have learning challenges and reading difficulties due to their way of processing information as well as their diverse language backgrounds. I have seen firsthand how many try so hard to succeed but are unable to because they are not given a chance to do so, or are not supported in the way that they need. As a result, they are not able to learn to their fullest potential,” she said. “Learning how to help these students overcome their specific challenges is definitely a motivating factor for me to enroll in this program. I choose to be part of this program not just to add another degree to my resume or bump me up on the pay scale. I am doing this to help increase my knowledge and skills to enhance the education can provide for my students. They are what matter most to me, and they deserve the best.”


With total cost through the competency-based option of Heritage’s new master’s program at just under $15,000, it’s an investment that provides significant returns. In the State of Washington, a teacher with a master’s degree earns on average $10,000 more per year than his or her counterparts without one.

Teachers already in the classroom are best positioned to benefit from the additional education, said Terjeson.

“They are uniquely prepared to identify students with reading difficulties, understand the appropriate interventions, and be able to implement best practices for designing and delivering instruction. It behooves all teachers to have this training/ education, not just those who teach reading. It provides professional development and growth opportunities.”

Heritage’s accrediting body approved the program to be offered through a variety of models: face-to-face, online and competency-based, meaning teachers almost anywhere can take the courses and earn this degree. How students complete each course offering is interchangeable.

“Students can take classes online, and they can do face-to-face coursework, but there’s also an option to actually not take the courses,” says Terjeson. “If you believe you already have the training and experience to challenge the competencies for one or more of the micro-credentials in each course, there’s an option to prepare portfolio evidence and pass an objective exam to demonstrate mastery of the associate competencies. You can essentially challenge the requirements.”

In addition to the master’s degree offering, candidates can also take an endorsement-only route. Each endorsement consists of 16 credits.

For more information on this program, visit heritage.edu/inclusive-education.