Restoring hope and pride – WINGS Summer 2023

Heritage University Alumnus of the Year Ryan Washburn has spent his entire work life helping people rebuild their lives.

As a veteran service representative at Columbia Basin College, he helped veterans navigate college life. As program director at Elijah Family Homes, he helped low-income families in recovery become self-sufficient through stable housing and supportive services. In his current role as Therapeutic Court Coordinator in Benton County’s District Court, his work ensures that people struggling with mental illness and addiction get help to lead healthier lives.

But what means the most to Washburn isn’t the job titles that populate his resume. It’s the individual people he’s helped.

They’re people like “Charlie,” a veteran of the first Gulf War who returned home wondering where he belonged. He used drugs, became addicted, was arrested multiple times, and spent years in and out of what Washburn calls the “revolving door of the justice system.”

Entering Veterans Court following his release and having been ordered to check into “clean and sober housing,” Charlie absconded. He was promptly kicked out of the program that was designed to help him.

When he appeared in court, Charlie asked to read a letter he’d written. Through his tears, he said he’d promised his mom if he were given another chance, he wouldn’t disappoint her again. The judge let him remain in the program under the stipulation that his every move would be under Washburn’s vigilant watch.

“Today, Charlie is working on his bachelor’s degree in addiction studies with a plan to become a substance abuse professional,” Washburn says. “And he’s back with us, mentoring others.”

It was only after Charlie completed treatment that Washburn learned the extent of what he dealt with every day.

“He’d been in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Kuwait,” Washburn says. “He pulled his dead friends from the rubble. He was 19 or 20 years old.

“He suffered textbook Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – and we hadn’t even known about it.

“I learn every day that not all wounds are visible. And what people also don’t see is that there are a ton of people who work hard and, with support, they change their lives.

“I get to help them do that.”


Washburn knows what it’s like to struggle. After serving eight years in the United States Navy in three consecutive Arabian Gulf deployments, he had trouble finding a sense of direction. He ultimately enrolled at Columbia Basin College (CBC) and got a work-study job helping veterans transition to college. There he put his love for his fellow vets to work, regularly going above and beyond his job description.

“I wouldn’t just tell them what office to go to; I’d take them there and introduce them,” he says. “I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t fit in.”

As that proclivity for connecting with other vets was recognized, Washburn was approached about becoming a “veteran navigator” for the Washington Department of Veteran Affairs (WDVA). There, he instituted regular trainings for faculty and staff on how to better serve veterans.

After earning an associate’s degree from CBC, Washburn enrolled at Heritage. He majored in education until two of his instructors, who had noticed his easy-going relationships with other vets, suggested he consider social work. He changed his major to interdisciplinary studies and graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 2012. He then pursued a master’s degree in clinical social work at Walla Walla University.

“Through the observant eyes of my professors, I was guided to the path of social work where I was able to lead a life of service to others,” says Washburn. “I strive to embody the values of Heritage in my everyday life as I lead others in their service to others.”


At Walla Walla, Washburn did an internship with Elijah Family Homes, a nonprofit providing stable housing and supportive services to families in recovery. He remembers going into that internthip with the mindset, “if you want to quit drugs, you just quit.” He said that his thinking shifted on his very first day on the job.

“My field supervisor took me to meet a client who asked me if I was an addict. When I told her no, she said, ‘You have to understand how we think and feel and act.’ So she took me to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I learned very quickly that addiction is a disease.

“It was a profound ‘aha’ moment of my life that, wow, these people have real struggles.”

Ultimately, Washburn was asked to be Elijah’s program director and felt such a sense of purpose there that he thought he’d never leave. But when he was offered a position in the Benton County Veterans Court that would give him the authority to make a more significant difference in people’s lives, Washburn accepted. He was hired as its first case manager and would be integral in starting its Substance Abuse Court.

Washburn’s exemplary work got him promoted to run the entire Therapeutic Court program, which also oversaw Mental Health Court. He expanded existing programs and added a Recovery Court.

“In these courts, you’re stipulating that for 12 to 24 months, you will follow all conditions – showing up in court, drug testing, counseling, staying out of trouble, staying employed or looking for employment, or going to school.

“It’s judicial accountability and treatment rolled into one. We’re all up in their business all the time, but we slowly pull back the support. The person gets into a life of sustainable recovery, a productive life, and, ultimately, it reduces recidivism while making the community safer and saving taxpayer dollars.”


“The only thing Ryan loves more than his community is his family,” wrote Eric Andrews, Washburn’s former colleague, in his Outstanding Alumni nomination. Washburn is a devoted husband and father of three boys; with a job that can be stressful, he says he finds deep peace and enjoyment in family time.

“My work is challenging, but it makes a difference. We restore hope and pride, reuniting families. We’re affecting real change and saving lives.

“I don’t know how many people have said, ‘If it wasn’t for this program, I’d have been dead by now.’

“I have goosebumps when I talk about what we’re able to do. It just makes my heart really happy.” page13image35779584

Eagles soaring – WINGS Summer 2023

After years of sacrifice and late-night study sessions, Heritage graduates celebrated earning their degrees at the 2023 Commencement in May.

All totaled 239 students earned their undergraduate and graduate degrees at Heritage this academic year.

This year’s Commencement address was given by Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, who retired after serving as a representative of the 46th legislative district of Washington state from 1997 to 2012. She is a former small-business owner, delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business, President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Assistant Commissioner for the Employment Security Department. The student addresses were given by Andrea Ceja (B.A., Business Administration) and Alfredia Thompson (M.I.T., Elementary Education).

Seventeen undergraduate students graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA, earning them the Board of Directors Academic Excellence Award: Lizette Santos Guijarro, Maria Mendoza, Jiovanna Roman, Rosa Valenzuela, Biriana Carachure, Aisha Cervantes Acuna, Arisbeth Borges, Elvia Valdovinos Cruz, Julian Licea, Daisy Fernandez, Michael LeClair, Brenda Palencia, Carsen Bach, Beau Filbert, Diane Chavez, Maria Reyes, Elizabeth Juarez. Additionally, Heritage awards the President’s Student Award of Distinction to a single undergraduate with a distinguished record of academic excellence and service to the university.

This year’s recipient was Kathleen Sanchez (B.A.Ed., Elementary Education). Sanchez graduated magna cum laude. During her time at Heritage, she was involved in the Student Government Association, a member of Kappa Delta Chi sorority, a work-study for several departments, and a volunteer assisting with marketing and fundraising.

Additionally, Heritage recognized Ryan Washburn (B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies in Education) as the 2023 Violet Lumley Rau Alumnus of the Year. page13image3204656




Business Administration
Vanessa Lynn Estrada

Interdisciplinary Studies in Mathematics
Torre Alexis Chavez

Interdisciplinary Studies in Mathematics
Jose DeJesus Ramos

Social Science
Angel Ramirez


Emilee Jane Bernath
Andrea Mendozav

Business Administration
Eric Agaton Ang
Gabriel B. Albert
Kathleen Leann Aragon
Perla Ximena Bolaños Zapien
Manuel Carbajal
Andrea Ceja
Anajeli Delaluz
Rafael Farias, Jr.
Karina Garzon
Tania Lopez
Sukay Navarrete
Juan Manuel Quintero Macias, Jr.
Pablo Gerardo Vera Rivera
Zeena Waheneka

Criminal Justice
Nayeli Arroyos
Jose Basilio
Yesenia Bengochea
Christopher Mitchel Clinton Berk
Briana Ruvi Carachure
Briseida Carbajal-Prudencio
Erandy Caro
Janet Lorraine Dixon
Alayna Juliane Fernandez
Erick Flores
Sheree Lynn Mahoney
Carson Bigbear Northwind
Gerardo Perez
Elizabeth Perez Hernandez
Adrian Ramirez
Anahi Razo
Marisol Rodriquez
Karina Sanchez
Ivan Santiago
Jerrilyn Stevens
Oscar Alanis Suarez
Diana Nohemi Valdivia Ortiz
Catalina Valencia Gomez
Jacquelyn Vargas

Anjuli Anagelie Barragan
Mary-Alice Elizabeth Correa

Environmental Studies
Noah Matthew Sampson

Anjuli Anagelie Barragan
Jacquelyn Vargas

Interdisciplinary Contract
Yadira Escoto

Josue Aguilar

Mathematics Education
(5-12 Credential)
Ben George Whitings

Adriana Bravos
Melany Bridgett Cesena Salinas
Elizabeth Guerrero Fariass
Zahira Vanessa Flores-Gaona
Jacaranda Isabeth Garcia-Tovar
Elizabeth Gil-Ambriz
Stephanie Louise Gomez
Kamimsa Josephine Goudy
Violeta Yoselin Herreras
Maria Magdalena Mendoza
Lizbeth Morales
Cristal Quiroz Marin
Jiovanna Roman
Lizette Santos Guijarro
Rosa M. Valenzuela
Tori Katie Wapsheli
Veronica Louann Wilsey

Visual Arts
Felicia Sondrol
Allison Kaylee Platsman
Karen C. Reyess
Aaron Maldonado Valadez


Elementary Education (K-8)
Tania Adalia Alvarez
Audrey Roberta Armstrong
Broam Arroyo
Carlos Issac Cantu
Darlene Carrillo-Rangel
Aisha Cervantes Acuna
Alondra Cruz-Valladaress
Yasmin Cuellar
Jennifer Guadalupe Flores Romero
America Naomi Fonseca
Julissa Garcia
Itzy Gissel Gonzalez
Anna Laura Guzman
Jessica Lizbeth Guzman
Sandra Yoana Guzman
Serena Hernandez
Maira Guadalupe Hernandez Gonzalez
Brandon Clay Humphrey
Christa Marie Jimenez
Sandra Ledezma
Diana Cristal Martinez
Israel Roel Mendez
Lorena Mercado
Crystal Mesina
Elise Chreie Moneymaker
Annahi Morfin Ixtas
Ana Laura Olivares
Vicente Fabio Olivares
Joel Lorenzo Ortgea Lozano
Sandra Rabadan
Shakira Ramiraz Moctezuma
Alisha Nicole Ramos
Ana Victoria Ruiz
Melissa Ruiz Moreno
Liliana Sanchez
Jose Sanchez Salas
Kathleen Sanchez
Katelyn Marie Schell
Christopher Silva
Marcos Daniel Silva
Maria Guadalupe Tellez
Andrew Uribe

Middle-Level Education

Karina Colin-Cordna
Jacqueline Tlatelpa Zacatenco



Eden S.C. Davis
Adrian Guerra
Carlos Daniel Iraheta
Tina Marie Janes
Samuel Segovias

Abigail Bravo
Nathan Shawn Buck
Jesus Alberto Buenrostro Mendoza
Guadalupe Merced Iniguez
Zuzeth Danila Jimenez
Elizabeth Juarez
Yaritza Silva Maravilla
Miguel Mendoza
Ruby Nava-Guevara
Tyler Jonah Olney
Mayra Lizeth Quintero Luciano
Brenda Yesenia Gonzalez
Elizabeth Nicole Van Corbach
Trystin Nikole Yanez

Biology Biomedical
Maria Isabel Barrios Hernandez

Environmental Science
Xavier Martinez Chavez
Darren Eugene Olney



Rosalinda Arreola
Cindi J. Badillos
Hema Balderas
Evelyn Arisbeth Borges
Cecilia Marie Delaney Druffner
Kristina Kay Dillon
Rachel Aubrey Elizabeth Duce
Guadalupe Gabriela Garcia
Love Ann Faith Garza
Abigahil Garzon
Luis Felipe Juarez
Yasmin Lopez
Brenda Jazmin Luna-Lopez
Samantha Paris Peterson
Gabriela Guadalupe Rodriguez Suarez
Rosario Jazmin Ruiz Gonzalez
Jaquelyn Marie Scott
Maria Jose Soto


Social Work
Angie J. Aguilar
Jennifer Alvarez
Maria Guadalupe Alvarez
Carsen Lee Bach
Amanda J. Beavert
Elizabeth Desiree Belieu
Maria Esthela Bernal
Elisabeth M. Blanchard
Judy Edit Bucio-Salas
Lizette Campos
Gabriela Castaneda
Sergio Cervantes
Nancy Diane Chavez
Courtney Kristine Corbitt
Guadalupe Delgado
Erica Gabriela Diaz
Karen Diaz
Chestina Sally Ann Dominquez
Sophie Larraine Elwell
Daisy Marie Fernandez
Beau Daniel Filbert
Dalia Gomez Giron
Isabel Gonzalez Perez
Lizeth Gonzalez Orozco
Jaqueline Hidalgo Lopez
Christina Rose Laws
Michael Laird LeClair
Julian Alejandro Licea
Enrique Jose Licona
Desiree Denise Gonzalez
Miriam Longoria
Maria Elena Lopez
Alma E. Lopez
Jessica Macias
Christian Mendoza Magallan
Lilia Martinez
Sharmira Marita Moore
Alejandra Morales
Orlando Munoz Delgadillo
Mami Nyafuraha
Brenda Faviola Palencia Viveros
Maria Reyes
Amanda R. Rodriguez
Monique Sarae Rodriguez
Jasmine Nicole Romero
Ashely Sabalza
Jenny Lee Sanchez
Stephanie Sanchez
Katellin Santiago
Aiyh A. Sarama
Janette M. Torres
Thanya Michelle Valdovinos
Elvia Mireya Valdovinos Cruz
Justina Marie Valenguela
Jayleen Nohemi Vasquez
Deanna Vasquez Chavez
Kaylee Ann Wade-Walsh




Multicultural English Literature and Language
Myriah Starr Barringer
SaraBecca Martin
Elizabeth Christine Nelson


Educational Administration (Principal)
Bethany Nicole Cardenas
Dusty Wirtzberger
Joseph Wirtzberger


Elementary Education
Sina Ari Bigelow
Brenda Cardona
Kathleen Megan Habel
Lindsay Nicole Nelson

Elementary Education Specialization in English Language Learners
Yosi Barajas
Clarisa Calderon
Oswald R. Fonseca
Luis Adrian Horn
Norma Imelda Manzanarez
Fabiola Ramirez-Leon
Erika Sanchez
Alla Mikhaylovna Shvets
Megan Grace Wilkinson
Cresanna L. Zintzun

Elementary Education with a Specialization in Special Education
Cassandra Justine Berry
Maggie Lynn Fiocchi
Kayla Christine Johnson
Ryan Kahl
K. Scott Reinmuth
Shawn Leonard Scabby Robe
Charlotte Marie Schroeder page13image36565600

Dancing to his own beats! – WINGS Summer 2023

There was a time, not so long ago, when you had a better chance of hitting a Las Vegas jackpot than becoming an international recording artist. After all, in Vegas, all you need is one lucky roll of the dice. Making it as a musician, however, was a lot more complicated. For that, you needed a magical mix of talent, charisma, passion, and grit blended with a healthy dose of meteoric luck, plus a team of high-powered music executives and stylists with big-money budgets.

While becoming a musical megastar is still rare, and you still need the talent, technology has made music production accessible to a world full of burgeoning artists. Best of all, you don’t even have to play an instrument to write and produce a musical hit that will broadcast to fans worldwide.

It is here in the virtual kingdom of online music production that Heritage University senior Peter Dodson Dance, aka CabinTheCollective, feeds his creative soul and is building an audience of followers.


Dodson Dance finds inspiration for his craft everywhere. It comes in the noise of everyday life: the sound of baristas foaming a cup of joe or a micro beat heard through the window of a passing car.

Sometimes it’s an earworm of sound that comes from nowhere and repeats over and over in his head.

“I’ll get this start of an idea. Sometimes it will start as a little melody in my head or a drumbeat that I think is interesting. I’ll grab my phone and kind of sing it into a recording that I can take back to my studio later,” he said.

The magic happens in his studio, a small room in his home. Dodson Dance’s instrument of choice is his computer keyboard. By his own admission, he has had very little musical training. The only real instrument he plays is the piano and very little at that. However, using the computer program FL Studios, he becomes a master musician, virtually proficient in every instrument one would find in a band: drums, guitars, bass, keyboards, and even the brass section. He uses the program to build songs by creating the rhythms and melodies played by each instrument. The process is kind of like painting with sound. He starts with an idea, finds a sound that he likes in one instrument and builds the musical shadows and highlights, instrument by instrument.

“My goal is to build a full, layered sound,” he said. “I start with my initial idea and build on that single thought. As it builds and becomes more interesting, I’ll bring in other sounds, play with them and keep mixing things until it feels complete.”

His songs “start with the beat,” he said. The words come later, sometimes years later. When he’s ready to start adding lyrics, Dodson Dance steps up the microphone. He’s the vocalist on almost every track.

“The music drives the lyrics,” said Dodson Dance. “It portrays a story in my head. When I go back to the music, I’m often just freestyling the words into the mic. I say what I feel or what the music conveys to me.”

Dodson Dance describes his music as “feel- good, inspirational hip-hop.” His songs have a synthesized sound with strong underlying beats and rapped vocals.

“I want people to be inspired, to want to hear more and understand where I’m coming from,” he said.

His foray into music production began seven years ago when he was a 15-year-old kid getting together with his buddies after school. Music was extremely influential to the teens. They’d dance and listen to their favorite artists, vocalizing their favorite sounds. Before long, the crew began to play with sounds more formally using their computer and music production software. They would mix musical ideas, spinning off the hip-hop music they loved listening to on the radio. Dodson Dance found he had a talent and a passion for what they were doing.

“It got to the point where I thought, ‘Man, this is good. I really want to share it,’” he said. “I had some friends who were dropping songs online on SoundCloud, so I started putting my music there too.”

SoundCloud is a music streaming service known for giving new artists a platform where their music can be heard more broadly. However, SoundCloud music is only playable by SoundCloud members. Dodson Dance wanted to play with the musical big boys. A few years ago, he expanded his reach, publishing his songs on Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music under the name CabinTheCollective. He’s created videos and released them on social media giants TikTok and Instagram. While he still has a way to go before he reaches influencer status, he is building a following.

“It would be crazy to say, ‘I want to be a rock star.’ I love making music and sharing it with others, but what I really want is to be a teacher,” he said.

Music is a passion and a hobby for Dodson Dance. He started at Heritage three years ago as a computer science major. However, it didn’t take long for him to realize his heart wasn’t in computers.

“I was talking to my mom, and she said I should consider becoming a teacher. She said, ‘You’re good with kids. Children work well around you, and you work well with children. They listen to you,”’ he said.

His mom knows a thing or two about teaching. She is Gloria Jones-Dance, an associate professor in Heritage’s Teacher Preparation program.

Dodson Dance took his mother’s advice and switched his major to elementary education. Last semester he completed his practicum at Whitney Elementary in the Yakima School District. He taught first grade. The experience affirmed that he was on the right path.

“The experience taught me that young minds need lots of repetition, and kids are ready to learn at all ages. It was fun but also taught me to be serious to ensure students were doing their work,” he said.


While hip hop as a genre has a reputation for being less than child- friendly, Dodson Dance believes that his avocation and future vocation need not be mutually exclusive.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about this,” he said. “I am an adult, and I make my music for other adults, but I think about that eight-year- old out there who could find my songs on the internet or who may be listening to my music with his parents or older brother or sister. I don’t want to expose them to messages they might not be ready for. That’s one of the reasons that I keep my messages positive and inspirational.”

He also thinks about how music can be integrated into this teaching.

“Music helps me inspire creativity in students and create musical opportunities,” he said. “I can see possibly turning lessons into song, delivering information rhythmically or melodically, or even engaging with the kids through music.”

With two more semesters left to complete his degree, Dodson Dance is concentrating on making the most out of what is left of his college career, and building his next great beat to add to his ever-growing collection of streaming songs.

You can hear Peter’s music through streaming platforms Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Music. Or follow him on TikTok or Instagram. In all platforms, search for CabinTheCollective. page13image36565600

Making strides for health justice – WINGS Summer 2023

Each June, during the semester between their junior and senior years, a dozen Heritage University nursing students leave the Yakima Valley to work at one of the largest specialized care centers for children in the nation.

In an innovative joint effort between Heritage’s nursing department and Seattle Children’s Hospital, the students enter a four-week pediatric care clinical rotation. They tend to patients under the tutelage of veteran nurses and gain a working understanding of the realities and practicalities of caring for sick and chronically ill children and their families.

Each student’s 120 hours at Seattle Children’s represents an important type of diversification in their clinical experience, a full year before graduation – one that expands their consciousness and their experience while enhancing the hospital’s growing commitment to diversity.

Seattle Children’s began hosting small cohorts of Heritage nursing students in 2017, and the program has continuously evolved and grown since.

The hospital provides Heritage and its students with several significant resources: a nursing professional who works as an adjunct faculty member at Heritage during the academic year prior to the students’ rotation, housing in the University of Washington dorms during their clinical rotation at Children’s; the option to return for an intensive 160- to 180-hour senior preceptorship; and upon graduation, guaranteed employment interviews. If hired, relocation to the Seattle area is paid for by Seattle Children’s.


Beginning in their junior year, Heritage nursing students traditionally do multi-week, on- location clinical practice in various disciplines: women’s health and maternity, primary care of children, family health, and hospitalized adults. They work in community health and critical care, at hospitals throughout the Yakima Valley, and even at Heritage’s Early Learning Center.

The experience of Seattle Children’s turns things up a notch. Students gain experience in a highly complex system of care for acutely and chronically ill children and their families who come from a four-state area and include Latinx, indigenous, and undocumented children. Heritage’s student population is demographically similar; 80 percent of students are people of color.

The first steps of the partnership took place when Christina Nyirati, Ph.D., R.N. and Debra Ridling, Ph.D, R.N. first spoke in 2015. Nyirati is the director of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) program and chair of Heritage’s nursing department. Ridling is Associate Chief Nurse and Senior Director of Nursing Practice and Research at Seattle Children’s.

“I knew they were pretty saturated because they host 800 nursing students every year,” said Nyirati. “But we explored whether there could be a relationship that would benefit our students and Seattle Children’s and its patients and families. The arrangement has grown to what we’re doing today.”


Seattle Children’s prospectus on the project included the following statements: “The C.D.C. declared racism a serious public health threat in 2021. The National Academy of Medicine’s ‘Future of Nursing 2020-2030’ report declared action was needed to interrupt disparities that are systemic throughout healthcare.”

“They identify one strategy as increasing the diversity of the nursing workforce to better reflect the population,” said Ridling. “That’s a big part of what this program is about. Heritage students share the same cultures, language and background as many of our families, and that goes a long way in making them feel more comfortable. They see someone they identify with. They converse in their native language.

“They act as cultural brokers for this facility, and that’s a huge benefit to Seattle Children’s.”

Heritage nursing curriculum includes learning about “ethical comportment,” meaning their manner or presence, and that, to practice ethically, they must at times speak up on behalf of patients and families. They are taught to bring their lived experience and knowledge to their practice.

“Our students bring a realness and a humility to the experience of nursing,” said Nyirati. “We make sure they know that their background is rich and important, that they come to us already with that, and we’re there to expand on it. We cultivate their courage to be that presence.”


Ten months before this year’s cohort of Heritage nursing students crossed the Cascade Mountains to Seattle, the nurse who would help provide an early connection from the Yakima Valley to Seattle made her way to Toppenish.

Bilingual and bicultural hospital-based nurse Genevieve Aguilar was selected to join the Heritage staff as interim joint faculty. She contributed to two semesters of clinical practice instruction and helped integrate students’ knowledge of theoretical nursing concepts into clinical practice.

Aguilar developed a unique connection with the students, enhancing it with an open-door policy and a personal touch.

“I think many of the students could easily see themselves in me,” Aguilar said. “I shared a lot about my journey, including in real time, as I applied for my Ph.D. studies. They got a sense of what that might be like for them.

“I think it’s been a mutual understanding from a cultural perspective.”


While at Seattle Children’s, Heritage nursing students do assessments, give medications, listen, watch, ask questions, and absorb it all. When solicited, they share their clinical reasoning.

“Our students are taking care of children with highly complex health problems; they’re not just observing, they’re practicing nursing under close supervision of faculty,” said Ridling. “They tell us they’re treated as professionals and colleagues, that the nurses pull them in and want them to learn.”

Once they graduate, many Heritage nursing school alumni will remain in the Yakima Valley, where their hearts reside, to serve their communities. Some will practice on Yakama land, serving indigenous people whose access to healthcare is limited. Some will take their place at Seattle Children’s. Some will further their education. A graduate may choose to become a certified pediatric nurse, pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree, or get their Ph.D.

As they evolve along their paths, the program they participated in will evolve as well. Development professionals at Seattle Children’s and Heritage are working to provide for its growth.

“We’re talking to people and organizations we both have relationships with about how we can improve health care outcomes in rural communities and at this regional hospital,” said Rueben Mayes, Regional Partnerships and Philanthropy Officer at Seattle Children’s. “This work is something Heritage has been doing successfully with Seattle Children’s for six years now, and it’s growing.”

The housing is costly. Mayes points out the senior preceptorship program will be growing, and the relocation stipend needs to increase.

“We’re looking for sustainable funding for all of it through an endowment.”

Nyirati’s vision for Heritage Nursing and Seattle Children’s extends even further.

“Our dream is to have an endowed chair, someone who is an experienced, doctorally prepared professor of nursing, who would come with years of experience in bridging both the practice and nursing education, that would benefit both organizations,” she said.

“It can leverage both of our organizations to become national leaders in modeling this equitable pathway toward transforming the health of all the nation’s children.

“We can do this not only for the Valley and Washington State, but for the nation.”

A recent report by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) predicted that the United State’s healthcare system will face a number of challenges over the next decade – An aging population with more complex medical needs; an ever-growing shortage of medical professionals, including skilled nurses; and social factors that influence both people’s health and wellness as well as their ability to access quality healthcare. Topping the list of actions needed to adequately address these concerns are educational programs that train nurses to work with diverse populations in community-based healthcare.

With its student body that is more than 75% Latinx and Native American, this area is where Heritage shines. However, continuing to provide high-quality nursing education that meets these standards has its challenges.

“Nursing is an expensive program for colleges,” said David Wise, vice president for Advancement. “When you look at all of the elements within the program: recruiting doctoral-level faculty, the simulators and medical equipment students first learn to use on campus, not to mention the expenses that come from the clinical rotations at medical facilities throughout the region, the costs can be enormous.

However, the implications of this program for the health and welfare of the communities we serve are equally as enormous. That’s why we are building an endowment explicitly dedicated to securing the nursing program’s financial welfare.”

This fall, Heritage and its partner, Seattle Children’s Hospital, are each launching capital campaigns to build endowments to support Heritage nursing education. Funds raised by Seattle Children’s Hospital will defray financial barriers, such as housing and relocation expenses, that Heritage students face while undergoing their four-week practicum. Additionally, it will fund joint-faculty appointments where hospital nursing staff are loaned to Heritage for teaching positions on campus.

Heritage’s endowment will provide the university with the necessary resources to attract and retain distinguished faculty members, who will bring their expertise and experience to enhance the academic programs within the nursing department. These positions will facilitate developing and implementing innovative teaching and learning techniques that will enable students to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in their careers.






Class Notes

Ken Gosney (B.A.Ed., English/ Language Arts (4-12), M.Ed., Professional Development, School Administration) was appointed CEO of Goodwill Industries of Sacramento Valley and Northern Nevada in January 2022. Prior to this appointment, he served as the CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Columbia, covering the Tri-Cities area of Washington state. There, he helped turn the nonprofit into one of the top five performing Goodwill operations out of the nearly 160 territories in the United States and Canada.

Mike Villarreal (M.Ed., Educational Administration) was elected to serve as president of the Washington Association of School Administrators for the 2002-23 academic year. Villarreal is the superintendent of Hoquiam School District, a position he’s filled since 2017.



Amber Richards (B.A, English, M.A., English Language Arts 2011) joined the faculty at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. She serves as a professor of writing in the Department of Writing.



Rosa Gutiérrez
(B.A., Business Administration) was appointed Human Resources Director for Sundquist Fruit and Gilbert Orchards in November. Prior to this, she served as the HR/Food Safety Manager for Sundquist Family of Companies.


Francisco Ramirez-Amezcua (B.A., Environmental Studies) is a migrant graduation specialist at Sunnyside High School. This past fall, he was awarded Student Support Staff of the Year for the Sunnyside School District.


Chelsea Brannock (B.A.Ed., English Language Learners) was appointed the 2022-23 Educational School District 105 Regional Teacher of the Year. Brannock is an English language arts teacher at Wahluke High School in Mattawa, Wash.

Clariza Maldonado (B.A., Business Administration) earned a Master of Science in Information Technology and Administrative Management from Central Washington University. She now works for Konami Gaming as a project manager for their Systems Research and Development department.


Dalia Chavez (B.A., Criminal Justice) joined the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC), where she serves as a civil rights investigator based in the Yakima Valley. The WSHRC is a state agency responsible for administering and enforcing the Washington Law Against Discrimination.


HU Alumni, we invite you to send us updates on your professional and personal achievements! Go to to complete your submission for Class Notes. page5image59280640

From Heritage to Harvard and Back Again!

From Heritage to Harvard and Back Again!
No one writes a better story about Heritage University and its students than Robert Ozuna. Whether it’s part of an application for a half million dollars or five million, Ozuna writes passionately about Heritage and the students it serves because he knows them. As a first-generation college student with early-life experience working in hop fields, he’s shared many of their life challenges.

Robert Ozuna

Today, as President & CEO of RGI Corporation, the educational consulting business he co-founded in Sunnyside, Washington, Ozuna often partners with Heritage on its multi-faceted grant-writing endeavors, seeking sizable funding for everything from money for new buildings, to getting people in need into college, to necessary support services for existing students. RGI’s small team of a dozen grant writers and researchers includes many Heritage graduates.

The Heritage/RGI grant-acquisition success rate is an impressive 100 percent since 2020: Five applications have been submitted, and all five have been awarded. Their work is responsible for $13.3 million in funding received for programs that served more than 1,000 students over the last five years.

There are reasons for the success, Ozuna said. There is a high level of need in the region, and Heritage is doing great work to meet that need. When the story of the impact of the university in the community they serve is told accurately and compellingly, it’s powerful.

“From Hop Harvest to Heritage to Harvard,” a journalist once wrote about Ozuna. People said he could have worked anywhere – but what mattered most to Ozuna was what the people back home needed.


Robert Ozuna was born in south Texas to parents who were migrant farmworkers. After years following the seasons back and forth, they ultimately settled in Grandview in the Yakima Valley.

“Working in the fields was hard labor,” Ozuna says. “My parents always told me, ‘You need to graduate from high school and get out of the fields.’ They dreamed of me getting a good job bagging groceries inside a store.”

Ozuna graduated from high school and took a job recruiting migrant children into school programs for Educational Service District 123. Later, he trained parents to become involved in their children’s education.

“I acquired a passion for helping people, especially students,” he said. “And after a while, I thought, ‘I’m telling all these students to get an education, yet I don’t have a degree myself.’ I decided to go to back to school. I had a lot of ties to the Yakima Valley, and I felt Heritage was the best place for me.”

Once at Heritage, Ozuna started getting to know his fellow students, both Latinx and Yakama.

“I was driven to really engage with them because I found that everyone had a story,” he says. “The common thread was there was usually no role model because their parents didn’t know about college or how to navigate financial aid. There was a lot of determination in the face of adversity, and here, students could get their education without leaving the valley.”

Heritage gave Ozuna the confidence to pursue his educational goals. He thought about going to Harvard.

Like his success today, his higher-education trajectory beginning at Heritage was impressive. The university was a 600-student college still
in its infancy when he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration. He proceeded to follow it up by earning his Master of Public Administration at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He dedicated the first half of his career to public service and education.

“I wanted to go to Harvard, and I thought, I will never get in, but I’ll just apply, get rejected and get it over with,’” he says. “But I got accepted.”

Ozuna was there during a time when many of his fellow students were going to work for the Clinton administration. He was appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s U. S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Federal Advisory Board, even though he’d already decided to return to Washington State.

“Our dean said if anyone wanted to work in government, that was the time – we had the opportunity. But I always felt we really needed to get an education and come back. We need lawyers and doctors who look like us.

“I said my work was back home. There was so much to be done. Heritage provided me the opportunity and knowledge to pursue my educational goals leading to Harvard and coming back. Heritage will forever have a special place in my heart for providing me with this opportunity.”


Ozuna returned to the Yakima Valley and took a position directing the Statewide Farmworker Employment and Training Program, followed by the University of Washington Yakima Valley Community Partnership. Then he fulfilled an important personal goal: to be the CEO of his own business.

“I had worked with students and families one- on-one,” he says. “Instead of touching lives one at a time, I wanted my work to have a positive effect on as many people as possible, to do things on more of a macro instead of a micro level.”

He founded RGI Research Corporation with Heritage mathematics professor Ryan Landvoy in 2002. In addition to Heritage, RGI clients today include the University of Washington, Washington State University, ESD 105, Utah State University and many Alaska School Districts, whose student population is 98 percent Alaska Native.

Ozuna’s care for his community has most recently been exhibited in the fulfillment of another dream: to become an elected official. He’s served on the Grandview City Council since 2020.

His goal with RGI has always been to stay small so they can pick and choose their clients and do the work that matters most. “I am proud that Heritage University is one of our most valued clients.”

“I’ve had friends who’ve said, ‘You went to Harvard, and you came back?’

“’Absolutely,’ I say. I came back to help our people.” page17image62693088

All Four Years, All Right Here!

All Four Years, All Right Here!
Providing access to college degrees at remote locations across Washington State is nothing new for Heritage University. In fact, when the college began 40 years ago, it started with classes being offered at its campus in Toppenish, as well as in the small, eastern Washington community of Omak. In 2013, the university added the Tri-Cities to its list of locations where transfer students could take the last two years of classes needed to turn their associate degrees into bachelor’s degrees.

This academic delivery model remained relatively unchanged over the years— until now. Starting fall semester 2023, Heritage will begin accepting freshman and sophomore students who want to do all four years of study at the university’s regional site opening in Kennewick.

The move to offer instruction to first- and second-year students in the Tri-Cities is a natural extension of the Heritage mission to make college accessible to anyone with the talent and drive to pursue a degree regardless of economics, culture, or geographic location, said President Andrew Sund.

“We see this expansion in the Tri-Cities as a chance to collaborate with other institutions, which has been a long-standing tradition in higher education,” he said. “We can work together and thereby serve the people in the Tri-Cities who come from many backgrounds. More choices for students are always better in higher education. Our goal is to increase the total number of students who graduate from college, not to move students from attending CBC or WSU Tri-Cities. Working together, we can increase the total college-going student population, and benefit the entire community.”

The expansion means the university is moving from its location on the Columbia Basin College campus in Pasco into its own facility in Kennewick. Heritage is leasing space in what was once the Tri-City Herald building, located on Canal Drive. The university will occupy parts of the building’s second floor, with classrooms, offices, a reception lobby, study spaces and a break area. The site was selected for its central location with easy access from all points in the Tri-Cities and proximity to services in downtown Kennewick.

Initially, Heritage will expand its existing regional site offerings, education, social work, criminal justice, psychology and accounting, into four-year offerings. Additionally, it will add a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration to its list of degrees that can be earned from start to finish at the regional location. Moreover, Tri-Cities students will have access to all classes and the 36 degree programs offered at its Toppenish campus.

“Students will have the opportunity to transfer seamlessly between campuses, and some classes may be offered in a hybrid format where classes are delivered both in-class and online between the two campuses. The linkage between the two campuses will present a tremendous range of possibilities for students to study in their field of interest,” said Sund.

Martín Valadez, the director of Heritage University’s regional site in the Tri-Cities, said the move will make it easier for students to achieve their goals of pursuing higher education.

“Many Tri-Cities students are raising their families as they work several jobs, and we know they will benefit from having this additional opportunity to earn a four-year degree close to home,” he said. “We are excited to play a larger role in the firmament of higher education in the Tri-Cities and be a part of the revitalization of downtown Kennewick.”  page9image37120368

The Gift of Gratitude

Perla Bolanos

The Gift of Gratitude
For this issue of Wings, we reached out to students and asked them to tell us about a pivotal moment in their life that had a profound effect on their views of themselves and their world. Perla Bolanos, a senior who is getting ready to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, submitted this essay.

I remember my first day of third grade in the United States—the thrill, excitement, uneasiness, and anxiety of the unknown. I wore one of my best dresses with shoes I had painted the night before to cover the scratches. My mother was so excited for me to start school she told me, “Vas a tener muchas amigas y vas a aprender mucho mi niña. – You’re going to have a lot of friends, and you’re going to learn a lot, my little girl.”

My mother brushed my hair so hard, putting it into a high ponytail with a bow, and used jugo de limon so my hair wouldn’t fall. With one last look in the mirror, I carried the backpack I had brought with me from Mexico and headed out on my way to live the “American Dream.”

The school was big and had lots of space to run and play. It was in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Salinas, California, where my godmother lived. She was the only reason I had the opportunity to attend that school in the first place. My parents, brother, and I lived in a small studio apartment behind one of my godmother’s restaurants outside the city. A small school was located a couple of blocks from my home, but my parents insisted on enrolling me in a “better school.” Everyone wanted me to receive a quality education, meet new people, learn, and get accustomed to my new home.

When I walked through the door into my classroom, the look on my third- grade teacher’s face was something I will never forget. She stared at my face, clothes, and shoes; she stared at me and who I was. She knew I was not like the usual students that attended her class, and she was right. I was far from being like her other students. Most of them were Caucasian. They were dressed in nice clothes and shoes, and I was just the girl coming from Mexico. I also saw the look on the faces of the other kids. They looked at me like I must be lost, like I didn’t belong there. After the teacher introduced me to the rest of the class, she guided me to the back of the room to a small desk with a chair surrounded by books, far from the rest of the students. As I took in my surroundings, I wondered how I went from being the top student in my school to being the “poor Mexican girl,” as my classmates called me. While the others were learning grammar and about the solar system, I was stuck relearning the alphabet and numbers, this time in English, despite already being taught all this when I was in Mexico.

When I grew tired of staring  at the same activities, I organized the stacks of books that surrounded me. I began losing myself in the pages of these books. One was my best friend, an English dictionary. This dictionary gave me the support my teacher and classmates could not give me. I found myself scanning through the pages, trying to memorize each word, and forming sentences that later would become pages of poems and stories I wrote. Creative writing became my escape and part of my identity. It helped me overcome the language barrier I encountered throughout my journey. The written word allowed me to express my feelings in this new language when I could not express them out loud.

I have mixed emotions when I reflect on my third-grade year. While I am sad for the little
girl who had to endure such an unpleasant school experience, I am immensely grateful for the love of learning I developed as those books surrounded me.

I came to realize that I could take control of my education, that the same little girl and the woman I am today are capable and resilient, and that education is a form of wealth that can never be taken away from me.

Today, I am a senior at Heritage University. Graduation is only a few weeks away. I cannot help but think about eight-year-old me and how far I have come from that third- grade classroom. Attending Heritage University brought me new perspectives into my life. I received an education that I once thought I did not deserve, along with numerous opportunities that have helped me grow as a scholar, professional, leader, and, most importantly, as a first- generation Latina.

My mother once told me, “Education es la unica herencia que te puede dar mija” “Education is the only heritage I can give you, Mija,” and it has been the greatest gift I have received.

It took me a long time to discover who I am and find my voice to express myself, my thoughts, and my visions. To this day, I wonder, “can I reach someone with my words? Can I make a difference?” While those are questions that remain to be answered, I know that as I move forward out into the professional world, I will keep the lessons I’ve learned close to my heart and will do my best to honor my mother’s words and all those who helped me along the way.

Pursuing higher education was always a dream, and now I live it. It is a new chapter— something I have yearned for. This is my American dream coming true. page12image37381888

The Storyteller

When Winona Wynn was one year old, her father took her to Yellowstone National Park. He pulled up under a cluster of pine trees, took her out of the car, and stood her on its hood. With his arms and the natural world both extending their embrace, his daughter took her first steps.

“My dad told me that when you take your first steps in the woods, you learn to walk in the woods as part of your whole being,”

Wynn said. “He embodied the traditions of our people and passed that spirituality and love on to me. It’s part of who I am today.”

In a life that has included significant personal challenges, Winona Wynn has been sustained and shaped by her spiritual worldview – as well as by something she’s always known would give her and her children a better life: education.

Blessed by her experiences, both the positive and the challenging, it’s been her privilege, she says, to pass on lessons learned.

As a Heritage University humanities professor, Wynn lives her commitment to the value of education. She believes part of her role as an educator is to ensure students know they are seen and heard as they take their first steps in the world of higher education.

Over 14 years of teaching, she’s built a classroom atmosphere that’s both interpersonal, focusing on communication between herself and her students, and intrapersonal, where the focus is reflective and empowering for the students themselves.

“Part of students’ education at Heritage needs to be about their journey toward recognizing their unique gifts and valuing their capacity to contribute,” she says. “That takes understanding and commitment from the people who are here. We share an obligation to lead them and teach them.


An enrolled member of the Assiniboine/Sioux Tribe of Ft. Peck, Montana, Wynn was raised in several geographic locations in what she calls a “reservation home.” Her father was a 30-year Air Force veteran, and although moves were frequent, she and her siblings remained connected to their roots through storytelling and visits when possible.

Dr. Winona Wynn leads students through a writing exercise in her University 101 class.

Her home life was complicated but interwoven with inspiration. She recalls her parents’ guidance.

“When our days and nights were tough, my dad would utter his favorite three words of advice, ‘Adjust your mind,’ and my mother would echo ‘This is a learning time. Let’s be grateful.’ I passed their wisdom on to my children.”

Wynn married at 21 and had four children. But it was a difficult relationship, and after years of documented domestic abuse, late one night, she left everything, took her children, and boarded a train to California to solicit support from her parents.

Working three jobs to support herself and her family, Wynn knew: Finding a way to continue the educational path she’d left behind was the only way to a better life.

It was during that time that she signed up for some life-changing classes at the local community college: Sociology and Psychology 101, and it was in those classes that she bonded with a determined group of students.

“We were all just starting out or starting over, and we were there for each other,” she says. “But not all of us made it.”

Of that handful of friends, only Wynn and one other would ultimately finish college. One became addicted to drugs, and another died by suicide.

“There were so many times during those challenging days that I told my children what my parents said: We’ve got people around us who don’t see any light, but we do.’”


Transitioning back to Washington, with her four children and a sister in tow, a better life began when Wynn enrolled at Eastern Washington University, and a friend asked her to attend a session about the McNair Scholars Program. If she applied and was accepted, it would mean support for her academic dreams.

During the selection process, “I just told them my truth: ‘I’m a single parent with a vision for education for myself and my children,’” Wynn says. “One of them believed in me. She said my determination, goals and vision convinced her, then she advocated for me to the others.”

That person, Dr. Karen McKinney, would be a guiding light in Wynn’s educational journey – her mentor for the next 12 years, as Wynn navigated her undergraduate program, graduate studies and pursuit of her Ph.D.

“My motivation always came from difficulty,” she says. “And the fact that I knew people who had come from similar trauma but managed to achieve.”

“It was in large part due to the people in my life – my parents, my college friends, Dr. McKinney, my children, my sister, and, even now, people here at Heritage – that I’ve persevered.”

“I’m thankful for what I’ve learned, for where I am, for all the people in my life. Being thankful lifts us up, inspires hope, and moves us beyond moments of incomprehensible grief, reminding us that each experience is a gift.”


For Wynn, gratitude and care for others translate into a desire to be present for her students. Upon entering Wynn’s classroom, each new student is warmly welcomed.

“For me, it’s like, ‘I’ve never met you, but I know we have a purpose together,’” she smiles.

Each first class starts with a “BioPoem” – a sort of biographical poem that students write about themselves. “It’s how we start talking about who we are. I ask them to write about what they believe, what they’re afraid of, what they hope for, and it becomes an authentic connection for our classroom learning community.”

Wynn has a quote about the humanities that she likes to share: “The humanities are our attempt to understand and communicate the human experience through language. They help us see the wider view of our lives.”

“Understanding our lives helps us to keep taking our steps,” she says. “That’s everything I want for my students.” page9image37120368

College in the Rainforest

Time at Brazil’s Ecological Reserve of Guapiaçu offers important lessons for Heritage students and their homelands.

There’s a place in Brazil where people from all around the world come to replant the rainforest, a little at a time.

They’re scientists, researchers, students and, sometimes, simply volunteer champions of the environment.

The place is Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) – the Ecological Reserve of Guapiaçu – and for two weeks in January, it was a classroom and an adventure for Heritage University environmental sciences major Kayonnie Badonie and biology major Andrea Mendoza. The pair traveled there with their professor Alex Alexiades, associate professor of Natural Sciences.

Returning from this journey, the students brought back not souvenirs but vibrant memories – of experiences with rainforest inhabitants, scientists working on behalf of nature and the environment, and evolving personal stories about how their own work might benefit the world.

The experience was born of a sabbatical Alexiades did two years ago.

“From that trip, I knew I wanted to bring students here for tropical field and conservation experiences and, in future visits, have them conduct research,” Alexiades said.

In his seven years at Heritage, Alexiades has worked to make several indigenous and international exchange opportunities possible for students. The experiences are powerful tools for engagement, he said.

“Once students have experienced this environment and the work people do, they can think about its ramifications for the places they love and care about in their own communities.”


A 2.5-hour drive northwest of Rio de Janeiro, the Guapiaçu area is located on the border with the state of São Paulo in southeast Brazil.

It holds incredible biodiversity – the first reason Alexiades chose to work there. His second reason – the mission and the effort being made to return the area to its natural state and support its inhabitants, both human and non-human – is why he thinks it’s important to come back.

In the native Tupi language, Guapiaçu means “big spring of a river.” But the river here, like the rainforest that holds it, has been greatly altered, its banks laid bare for farming and grazing cattle, its flow in part channeled for human use, sometimes reinforced with concrete.

Surrounding land, once lush and green, has been logged, tree stumps burned, remaining vegetation removed to make room for subsistence farming and, in some areas, hydropower dams, mining and other development.

Where crops were once planted only to fail in the acidic and largely non-fertile soil, cattle graze on barren riverbanks, eating any remaining native plants, consuming grass almost as quickly as it can grow back.

Where natural forestation provided environmental balance, today’s riverbanks offer no resistance to the flooding that occurs almost daily during the months-long rainy season. Mudslides are common, and life is continually unsettled.

“What’s been allowed to happen to the rainforest disrupts everything from the ecology to the hydrology,” Alexiades said. “This is really an ongoing battle for tropical rainforests worldwide.”


The REGUA land, owned by what had been a tobacco- and banana-growing family for several generations, comprises almost an entire watershed. Through an evolving commitment to protecting the biodiversity of the valley, recent owners saw the need to ensure the future of their community through reforestation. The majority of their land has now been replanted and reforested.

Efforts now also focus on land buys to conserve additional land. Eventually, they will reconnect the watershed all the way to the river’s mouth, about 65 miles south into the city of Niterói.

REGUA’s work has meant about 60 full-time jobs – from cooking and cleaning for visiting groups to the main work of tree planting – added to the local economy. It’s a model for engaging communities in tropical rainforests worldwide.


Relative to the immensity of the rainforest, the work being done at REGUA is small scale. Yet, Mendoza and Badonie learned it’s making a difference for the people, animals and plant life in the Guapiaçu area and has implications for other deforested areas of the Amazon.

“The restoration is not only helping to repair the river, it’s also bringing back important rainforest habitat that was once destroyed, and species are returning,” said Mendoza.

“It’s inspiring to know that if we work together with people, we can see a true change in this world for the better.”

Both students felt the hope the REGUA reserve could be for other areas in the rainforest, and that its work is making people’s lives better in the immediate area and downstream.

“What is being done in the REGUA vicinity is fascinating,” said Badonie. “It’s scientists, researchers, and passionate community members coming together to combat deforestation and land disturbance.

“I believe that this is a start for the forests and streams and a healthier environment.”


There’s a community that’s formed with each set of scientists, researchers and students who come to work and study at REGUA. So when heavy January rains kept everyone from the intended data collection and tree planting, Badonie and Mendoza
got to spend invaluable time talking with and learning from the visiting ornithologists, entomologists, and mammalogists that surrounded them.

At day’s end, they’d gather, sharing photos of plant and animal life, watching trail cam videos. Beyond being awed by the color of birds, the size
of insects, and the sheer volume of rainforest sounds, the students were fascinated by the wealth of knowledge around them.

Two decades ago, working as a high-altitude mountaineering guide in the Andes, experiencing the mountains’ majesty and the regalness of the rainforest as well as its rampant destruction, the trajectory of Alexiades’s life was clarified. His immersion experiences steered him to acquire his master’s degree and his Ph.D. His goal now is to research the whole Guapiaçu watershed, comparing the quality of its water today with the improved water quality that’s certain to come.

Badonie, a Yakama tribal member with Navajo Nation roots, said her time at the reserve is already helping clarify her path.

“For me, it hits home because native lands were disturbed by agriculture, and that’s something from which we can never turn back. So if I can take something of what I’ve experienced to the tribes, that will mean a lot.”

Mendoza wants to teach science and inspire younger generations to enjoy it, pursue its study and change the world.

“I can tell them this is what I got to do in Brazil, to help people with their land and their lives,” she said. “This is what you can do in an internship.”

“I think I can inspire them, like I’ve been inspired. The world needs this work and the people who are doing it.” page5image47837584