Computing Success

Computing Success

Computer science students garner national attention for their research in algorithms

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

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

The same was true for Manuel Anaya.

Manuel Anaya

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

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

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

NEVER STOP LEARNING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEANINGFUL OFFERINGS GO VIRTUAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONNECTIONS ABOUND

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

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

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

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

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

Hopping into Med School

Hopping into Med School

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

OF PLANTS AND PESTS

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

Karly Beth Serrano

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

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

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

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

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

POWERPOINT LEADS TO PRIZE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The most significant recompense?

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

Karly Beth Serrano in the field

INSPIRED BY HEALTHCARE HELPING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conquering COVID

CONQUERING COVID

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

 

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

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

Rico emailed back immediately: “Count me in.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READYING STUDENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

NURSING FAMILY

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nurse holding a needle

HANDLING LIQUID GOLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEW APPRECIATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINDING THEIR PLACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Still We Rise!

Illustration by Sirin Thada

2020 was a challenge for us all, to say the least. From a pandemic to politics and everything in between, it could be easy to dwell on the challenges of the year. But, here at Heritage, there are far more things to celebrate than to lament. The university and our students came together united in the face of what none of us ever would have imagined and not only continued to operate but persisted and made advances that will benefit our students. Here is a look back at some of our high points of the year.

 

JANUARY

 

The Cornell University Chorus and Glee Club perform at the Seasons Performance Hall in Yakima, Wash in January 2020.

Heritage welcomed the Cornell University Chorus and Glee Club to the Yakima Valley as part of their Pacific Northwest tour. The event was part of a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program cross-cultural sharing.

 

Illustration by Sirin Thada

 

Admissions Director Gabriel Piñon and HU senior Grisel Rodriguez testified to the Washington State Senate in support of Bill 6559, which would increase the maximum Washington College Grant award at private colleges and universities, such as Heritage.

 

HU Physician Assistant Program students in Olympia, Wash.

Students from the Physician Assistant Program at Heritage met with Washington state representatives and senators in support of House and Senate bills designed to improve access to healthcare.

MARCH

Illustration by Sirin Thada

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Heritage University closed its campus and moves all instruction, student support services and business functions online for the remainder of the spring semester.

Jackie Vargas

Jackie Vargas (History and Criminal Justice double major) completed the Washington State Legislative Internship Program in Olympia.

 

APRIL

 

Illustration by Sirin Thada

Yakima Valley Partners for Education, an initiative started and supported by Heritage University, provided food vouchers to 220 families impacted by COVID-19 in the lower Yakima Valley through a grant received from the Communities of Color Coalition and a contribution from Fiesta Foods Supermarkets.

 

MAY

 

EAGLES Scholarship recipient Colton Maybee

The university awarded the first of its newest full-ride scholarships to 20 students. The EAGLES Scholarship is awarded to STEM students whose interests include working to protect the environment. In addition to the financial award, recipients receive academic mentoring and the opportunity to participate in paid environmental pollution research.

 

Illustration by Sirin Thada

288 men and women earned their master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Heritage University in 2020. While the pandemic meant the traditional commencement exercise couldn’t happen, graduates donned their caps and gowns for virtual celebrations with friends and families, and Alumni Connections sent every graduate a special gift box in honor of their accomplishment.

 

JUNE

Sixteen Heritage University students joined more than 800 of their peers from colleges and universities across the United States to participate in the Professional Development Training Seminar for Undergraduates offered by Brown University, intersecting with the Leadership Alliance National Symposium.

 

Illustration by Sirin Thada

It was a seemingly impossible task- reimagine the valley’s most successful and time-honored fundraising event in the middle of a global pandemic when standard operating procedures are anything but standard. But, on June 6, Heritage University’s supporters rose to the challenge in a big way. The Bounty of the Valley Scholarship Dinner brought in a record-breaking $851,807!

 

JULY

 

HU class held virtually courtesy Yusuf Incetas

Improvements made to technology for online learning meant students would be able to take many courses virtually, both synchronously at the time that their classes meet and asynchronously at a time that best meets their schedule when fall semester started. The improvements will impact student success long after the end of remote learning mandates. Students will never have to miss a lecture because of unforeseen circumstances, and they will be able to watch lectures as often as they need to fully learn the course material.

 

Illustration by Sirin Thada

History professor Dr. Blake Slonecker’s article “‘It’s with Tokens’: Women’s Liberation and Toxic Masculinity” in Seattle’s Underground Press appeared in the summer 2020 issue of the Pacific Historical Review.

AUGUST

Illustration by Sirin Thada

Alumna Magaly Solis, citizenship program manager at La Casa Hogar in Yakima, Wash., received the 2020 Violet Lumley Rau Alumna of the Year award.

Fall semester began with a partial campus opening and options for academic delivery. Students could take classes online synchronously or asynchronously from off-campus or come to campus and attend class from the classroom with their peers and instructors. Student services, such as the library and computer labs, also opened for student access with social distancing protocols in place. 327 new students enrolled at Heritage for the fall semester.

 

Alex Alexiades

Heritage University Assistant Professor Dr. Alex Alexiades completed his second Fulbright U.S. Specialist Program Fellowship for his work in South America.

 

SEPTEMBER

 

Social work class taught by Corey Hodge

The Social Work program welcomed its largest class of students into the major. A combined total of 67 juniors entered into the program at both the Toppenish main campus and the regional site in the Tri-Cities.

 

Melvin Simoyi

Dr. Melvin Simoyi’s review article, “Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia in Athletes, the Young and the Old,” was published in The Biomedical Journal of Scientific & Technical Research.

 

Illustration by Sirin Thada

The Heritage chapter of the student organization Enactus hosted the first-ever virtual Leaders of Tomorrow conference for high school students.

 

Melissa Hill

 

Dr. Melissa Hill, VP for Student Affairs at Heritage, joined the College Success Foundation Board of Directors.

 

OCTOBER

 

Illustration by Sirin Thada

 

Mathematics majors Eduardo Gonzalez and Seong Park’s article, “Fluorescence Lifetime Measurements with Simple Correction for Instrument Temporal Response in the Advanced Undergraduate Laboratory,” was published in the American Journal of Physics.

 

EmpowHer 2020

 

Roughly 100 women from across Washington state gathered virtually for Heritage’s first-ever EmpowHer forum. The event was a stimulating discussion by a diverse group of women to explore how they, as women, can come together to affect change and build opportunities for everyone.

 

 

Physician Assistant students helped protect the community from influenza by providing a drive-up flu vaccination clinic in the Heritage parking lot.

 

NOVEMBER

 

 

Students from Claudette Lindquist’s Heritage University 101 class organized an Indigenous story-telling event on Zoom as part of the group’s public service project. During their research for the project, they discovered that only 38 books out of the thousands of books available in the Yakima County public libraries focused on Indigenous people. The students started an online petition and social media campaign to raise awareness for the issue.

Illustration by Sirin Thada

Heritage celebrated Native American Heritage Month by honoring four Native American elders who have made significant contributions to their community. This year’s honorees are Sharon Goudy, Kip Ramsey, Lorena Sohappy and Davis Washines.

 

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

 

DECEMBER

 

 

Enactus’s annual Pantry of Hope food and necessities giveaway went virtual. Instead of gift baskets, 100 families in need received Walmart gift certificates. Participants qualified for the gift cards by participating in an online money management course covering budgeting, saving and building credit.

 

 

Class Notes

2007

Francisco Guerrero (B.A., Business Administration) received the Outstanding Leadership Award from HAPO Community Credit Union. He is the Finance Center Manager at the Sunnyside branch, a position he has held since 2007. Additionally, he was elected mayor of the City of Sunnyside in 2019 and assumed the role in January 2020.

 

2017

Norma Ortiz (B.A., Business Administration) joined Catholic Family Charities as a Human Resources Recruitment Assistant.

2020

Alyson Mehrer (B.A., Criminal Justice) enrolled in the University of Idaho College of Law and began her studies there in September.

Anitramarina Reyna (B.S.N., Nursing) joined the Cle Elem- Roslyn School District in September and serves as the district’s nurse.

Noemi Sanchez (B.A., History) joined the Washington Immigrate Solidarity Network in Seattle, where she is a fellow working with community members to build a plan to implement the 2019 Keep Washington Working Act enacted by the State Legislature. The act addresses Washington’s economy and immigrants’ role in the workplace.

 

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.

Leaders for the Good of the Nation

Every year, Heritage University kicks off its celebration of Native American Heritage Month with a flag-raising and honoring ceremony recognizing four Native American elders.  This year global circumstances forced us to celebrate differently. While we were unable to come together for the gatherings, we celebrated nonetheless with virtual lectures and the selection and public promotion of the four elders whose lifetime contributions to their community made and continue to make a significant impact in the lives of others. This year, we recognize:

“PUNIA” KIP RICHARD RAMSEY, SR. is an entrepreneur, a staunch advocate for treaty rights,
and a historian. Over his lifetime, he has built a cattle ranch and feedlot, a logging company, two gas stations and restaurants, and a tribal fuel distributorship. His businesses add to the economic vitality of the communities in which they sit and employ many Yakama tribal members and others in the community. When the State of Washington infringed upon his rights to move his products freely on state roads to bring them to market, he refused to back down. Twice, he took his battle to protect treaty rights all the way to the Supreme Court. Twice he won, reaffirming the Yakama Nation’s status as a sovereign nation. Above all, Kip is dedicated to serving the people of his community. He sits on numerous boards of directors, including the Heritage University board, for the last 35 years. Punia is an advocate for education and a protector of cultural treasures.

SHARON GOUDY “KUMSHAPUM” is a dedicated mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and wife of more than 50 years to Pat Goudy, who is rooted in her Christian faith and traditional religions and commitment to ensuring the sovereignty of the Yakama Nation. Her work building the vitality of Yakama Nation programs and enterprises spans more than 50 years and began while she was earning her college degree. She’s led programs that support tribal members’ economic independence, oversaw the administration of the tribe’s law and justice programs, and currently manages YN Credit Enterprise. She has a heart for youth and elder services. Through her term on Tribal Council, she helped lay the groundwork for the revenue-generating businesses runt hrough Yakama Nation Enterprises. She serves on the Elders Board and college intertribal relations board. Her work ensuring sovereignty and the welfare of indigenous people isn’t limited to the Yakama Nation. She’s spent 21 years serving on the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians, a consortium of 57 tribes, helping to build policies and initiatives that address tribal sovereignty.

SUPTIKAWAI LARENA SOHAPPY, the daughter of Julia and Frank Sohappy, a well-known medicine man, grew up in the Wapato and Priest Rapids Longhouses. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college, having attended Haskell Institute. Suptikawai dedicated herself to helping the people of the Yakama Nation. She served as an interpreter for elders seeking financial and housing services with Yakama Nation Housing Authority. While at Yakama Nation Credit, she helped establish the tribal payroll deduction program, which later became the rotating credit program. As coordinator of the Yakama Victims of Crime Assistance Program, she helped crime victims access services to help them heal. Additionally, she served as a Tribal Council member and is currently Vice Chairwoman of the General Council. Suptikawai is one of the elders of the Wapto Kaatnum and an elder at the Priest Rapids Longhouse. Above all, she is dedicated to her large, extended family.

DAVIS “YELLOWASH” WASHINES has dedicated his life to protecting the welfare of the Yakama Nation, the Yakama people and the rights guaranteed to them by the US-Yakama Treaty of 1855. He dedicated more than 35 years to ensure the safety of his community as a Yakama tribal police officer, the chief of police, and the chief of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. He worked on many efforts to improve the safety of tribal members, including the establishment of mandatory seatbelt laws on the Yakama Nation, and bringing national attention to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. He is a dedicated advocate for protecting Yakama treaty rights and was instrumental in restoring the original spelling of the Yakama name as it is recorded in the US-Yakama Treaty of 1855.

Three Letter Word for Success

Blake Slonecker can still picture it: his grandmother at her dining room table, pencil in hand, newspaper and well-worn crossword dictionary before her. She’s working the puzzle in the Eugene Register-Guard.

Blake Slonecker

Blake Slonecker

It’s his first memory of crosswords.

“She did the puzzle every day,” said Slonecker. “I remember picking it up around age 10. I didn’t get very far.”

By adulthood, Slonecker, a history professor and chair of Heritage University’s Humanities Department, had become a practiced and skilled crossword solver.

Then about three years ago, he tried creating one. It was challenging – but Slonecker enjoys mastering challenges.

He’s now written more than 40 advanced crosswords and has had 15 of them published in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

On December 10 of last year, Slonecker got an email letting him know he’d reached the holy grail of aspiring crossword creators everywhere.

He’d just have to be patient to see his words in print.

FROM PAPER NAPKINS

Twenty years since he first started working them, Slonecker finishes the Sunday New York Times crossword – the section’s most difficult of its seven daily puzzles – in about an hour.

He said it takes him an average of five hours to create one.

It was in scratching out puzzles on restaurant napkins that he started thinking about creating crosswords.

“We’d be out to dinner, and my girls would ask me to make them a crossword,” Slonecker said. “It made me think about the relationship between words, clues, and your audience.”

Pre-pandemic, Slonecker would often use his drive time for that creative process – trying to think of well-known phrases with double meanings around which he could build a puzzle.

Ideas can also come randomly.

“A friend asked if I’d had any good ideas lately for puzzle themes. When I said no, he said, ‘You’ve got writer’s block.’ From that, came an idea for a puzzle with famous writers’ names contained in a block.”

Hidden within many crossword puzzles is the “revealer” – a phrase, like “writer’s block,” that gives the puzzle’s theme.

For his crossword “Mixed Greens,” Slonecker’s “theme entries” were popular types of salad greens with the letters in each of those words mixed up.

Last year, Slonecker used his familiarity with the history of 1960s counterculture to create a puzzle for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. The revealer was “Woodstock.”

“People obviously thought of the concert, but the trick was that I was using it literally – the two words ‘wood’ and ‘stock.’ I had names of trees hidden in the words of the puzzle.”

WORD CURATOR

It’s that kind of clever thought process that’s been the fuel of crosswords since the first one was created in 1913 by a British journalist.

Until recently, constructors used paper, pencil – and, presumably, plenty of erasers. Today, said Slonecker, everyone utilizes software like Crossfire, which is his preference. The constructor does the deep thinking; the software assists the process.

Once you have your theme, said Slonecker, you work with a 15-by-15-inch square comprised of white blocks. You place keywords, come up with filler words, change white blocks to black blocks

where words begin and end. Constructors work with purchased word lists; Slonecker’s puts 800,000 words at his disposal.

“Click on the available squares, and it gives you every word that fits,” Slonecker said.

Though this part may sound rote, Slonecker said it’s a very creative process.

“It’s like, ‘This word is boring – but this word is playful!’

“It’s like being an art museum curator: ‘This piece and this piece will look really cool together!’

“A constructor is really a curator of excellent words.”

When solving a puzzle, Slonecker said, there is an “aha!” moment that comes when the puzzle’s revealer finally makes sense. It’s really satisfying, he said: “Almost like you’ve been let in on an inside joke.”

“When creating a puzzle, there’s the same feeling, but multiplied a few times – like you’re the one letting people in on a really great inside joke.”

A blog called crosswordfiend.com reviews every major daily puzzle published. Slonecker said bloggers reviewing his puzzles have said things like, “great idea – why didn’t I think of that!”

“That’s a major satisfaction: creating a puzzle where the wordplay is so smooth that, once solved, it feels entirely natural and obvious.”

SUBJECT LINE: CROSSWORD . . .

When the New York Times Crossword section sends you a rejection, you know it even before you open the email. Not surprisingly, the subject line is “Crossword.”

Slonecker received about 25 of those since he first began submitting his work, but he knew his work was good enough, so he kept it up.

But that December 10 email last year: It was from the New York Times. Its subject line containedone extra word, whose crossword clue could have been: “A three-letter word for success.”

It was: “Crossword – yes!”

Slonecker remembers smiling big when he saw it. He savored the moment. He opened the email, read it, then went and told his family his news.

“We had a bottle of champagne that night,” he smiles.

His puzzle will run in the New York Times sometime in the next few months.

As a History Ph.D., Slonecker’s been published many times. He said he figures the number of people reading his scholarly work is probably measured in the dozens.

“But seeing that puzzle? Probably in the millions,” he said.

“It’s very fun realizing that many people are engaging with your ideas.”

Dr. Blake Slonecker invites you to try one of his puzzles. “I prepared this puzzle to share with everybody at Heritage on All-University Day in January 2020. At the time, Heritage’s leadership team included Andrew Sund, Mel Hill, Taylor Hall, Kazu Sonoda, and David Wise; Heritage’s founding President, of course, is Sister Kathleen Ross. And a reminder: clues that require wordplay in order to solve, end with a ?. Good luck!”

To download a printable copy of the crossword puzzle, click here: Blake Slonecker Crossword Puzzle.

Visit heritage.edu/puzzle to see how well you did solving the puzzle.

 

 

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.

MEETING THE NEED

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.”

HERITAGE GRADS READY

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.

HERITAGE GRADS BUILD BILINGUAL PROGRAMS

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.

ADVANCED DEGREES WHILE WORKING

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.

CASHING IN ON CLEAN

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.”

SUCCEEDING IN BUILDING 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.”

EAT YOUR VEGGIES-THEY’RE AMAZING!

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.”