TOPPENISH —Heritage University and its’ partners are in the early days of organizing the rollout of a $2.5 million grant recently awarded from the National Science Foundation.

The grant is designed to increase awareness, participation and success for Hispanic and Native American students interested in STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) careers.

The grant, named CRESCENT, (Culturally Responsive Education in STEM), will, according to Dr. Jessica Black, the primary author of the grant, and the Director of the Center for Indigenous Health, Culture, the Environment and Department of Natural Sciences Chair, operate in different several ways.

It is comprehensive with wraparound supportive services; the grant has a “broad pathway approach,” said Black, and is targeted to students who are interested in STEM, but may be struggling.

The supportive services start early. Staff from the multiple participating partnerships will be trained to identify those needing services early, rather than waiting for mid-term grades.

According to Dr. Black, the services are many and range from intensive tutoring, to peer support, classes in learning how to study, juggle priorities and take on the STEM subjects, which Black called, “tough.”

The broad pathway, which Black discussed, includes high levels of shared training and collaboration with neighboring educational networks.

These educational partners include Yakima Valley College, the Yakima School District and the WSU Research Station.

The grant targets first-generation college students, students who are both interested, but uncommitted to STEM and students who are struggling.

Black noted the grant was developed from a review of 20 years of data, which showed a lot of stops and starts, but nothing from two decades of effort, addressed the totality of challenges facing first time college students, especially in the STEM area.

“We are really, really passionate and really invested in this,” said Grant of the team approach to development, roll out and administration of the grant.

“We really want to see our talented students succeed,” said Black.

Soft roll out of the grant starts now, according to Grant, but the real launch will happen in January of this year.

Deb Brumley can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 114 or email

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