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Students in front of Microsoft

Class Notes I Summer 2024

Read about the exciting things going on with our current students and alumni. Learn about job changes, professional achievements, a marriage or new addition to their families, gatherings with other YVC alumni or other significant news.

Do you have news to share with your classmates? Submit your news and photos by emailing

IT students tour Microsoft

Students check out the latest from Xbox during a recent field trip to Microsoft.

YVC’s Computer Science and Information Technology (CS & IT) Club recently took 12 students on a field trip to Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., for a guided tour of the visitor center. On display were early examples of computer code, hardware, touch-screen technologies, artificial intelligence and the latest X-Box games. Afterwards, YVC alum and Microsoft programmer David Zarate answered student questions and shared his trajectory from YVC to the University of Washington to Microsoft.

“This unique opportunity provided students with valuable insights for those who wish to work as software developers,” said Information Technology Instructor Stef Apperson. “David even graciously agreed to provide career advice via the club’s Discord server.”

Jonathan Carvajal interacts with a Microsoft PixelSoft display.
Jonathan Carvajal interacts with a Microsoft PixelSoft display.

After leaving Microsoft, students visited the Pacific Science Center in Seattle to learn more about technology and explore the many interactive STEM exhibits.

“Highlights included the Tropical Butterfly Garden, and the experience was quite educational for many of the students, expanding their understanding of the extensive role science plays in our lives,” continued Apperson.

The club has had an exciting year with their recent trip along with hosting industry professional speakers, a presentation by the Paul G. Allen Computer Science Center, STEM Day participation, and some spirited gaming sessions.

Club President Julizza Gomez is already thinking ahead to next year and soliciting ideas for more STEM destinations to visit. If you are interested in any aspect of computing, please contact the CS & IT Club.

STEM students present at Heritage University

Several YVC students who participated in undergraduate research projects recently shared their findings at the Honoring Undergraduate & Graduate Scholars Symposium (HUGSS) hosted at Heritage University. Students presenting their research at the symposium were Ethan Gu, Alida Flores, Karime Estrada, Alex Olvera-Vargas, Maria Ruelas, Juan Vargas and Kevin Perez-Haro. In addition to his presentation Gu received an award for his scientific poster during the event.

“The sharing of research findings is foundational to the progress of science,” said Matthew Loeser, biology instructor. “YVC students engaged in this process by presenting their summer research to fellow scientists and continued building their professional networks.”

The event highlights the ongoing partnership between YVC and Heritage. Thanks to its casual atmosphere, HUGSS helps students build their confidence as they ask questions, learn about different fields of research and interact with their peers. It also provides a pathway for students from underserved communities to enhance their education, which could lead to more job opportunities. 

Ileana Martinez ’12 | Sunnyside Sun News

Ileana Martinez (center) signs paperwork to purchase Sunnyside Sun.

YVC alum Ileana Martinez is now co-owner of Sunnyside Sun newspaper. Martinez, who serves as the newspaper’s media director, along with Job Wise, general manager, purchased the newspaper in May 2024.

Martinez has 11 years of experience in the newspaper industry and prior to joining the Sunnyside Sun team served as a graphic design for the Daily Sun News and prepress layout for Columbia Gorge Press. She is a 2010 graduate of Sunnyside High School and received her associate degree from Yakima Valley College in 2012.

“We are thrilled to bring the ownership home and continue to be a part of the Sunnyside Sun’s history and future. We view our work as a service to the community and hope we can keep our readers’ trust and support.” — Ileana Martinez

Martinez is a member of local organizations including the Sunnyside United-Unidos Coalition, Empowering Sisters Network and a supporter of youth sports in the community. She is also the owner of a small home-based candle business in Sunnyside and participates in community events throughout the summer.

Geology students visit Wenas Mammoth Foundation

Geology students in front of mammoth statue
YVC students taking Geology Instructor Katharine Solada's historical geology class pose for a photo in front of a metal mammoth sculpture at the Wenas Mammoth Foundation property in Selah, Wash.

Students in Geology Instructor Katharine Solada’s historical geology course recently took a field trip to the Wenas Mammoth Foundation dig site for some hands-on education.

In 2005, a mammoth and bison were found on the property in Selah, which is owned by Doug and Bronwyn Mayo. After the fossils were excavated by Central Washington University from 2005 – 2010, the Mayo’s created an educational foundation where students can come and learn about paleontology.

“This is a very unique site because the mammoth and bison are found well above the Missoula Flood deposits, meaning that these organisms lived and died in the Wenas valley,” said Solada. “YVC students had to dig through dirt in a specific, organized manner to uncover small and large fossils.”

While the large fossils are planted at the site and are casts of a mammoth from another paleontology site, the dirt burying the fossil casts can and does contain fragments of real fossils. All the dirt the students dug out needed to be sifted and washed to examine for smaller fossils.

“Every step of the process required precise measurements and care,” said Solada. “At the end of their dig, students uncovered casts of a mammoth tusk, jaw, scapular, pelvis and smaller real fossils of plants and rodents. This trip wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing work of Doug and Bronwyn Mayo and Jim Landon.”

2024 Herodotus-Gedosch Award presented to Olivia Stoller-Black

History award presentation 2024
2024 Herodotus-Gedosch Award presentation from left YVC History Instructors Ken Zontek, Monty Walker, Lindsey McNellis, Student Olivia Stoller-Black and Political Science Instructor Tim Jeske.

YVC’s 2024 Herodotus-Gedosch Award was presented to Olivia Stoller-Black of Wapato. First given in 1994, this award was created in the spirit of Herodotus, the “Father of History,” and Robert Gedosch, a former YVC history instructor, to recognize exceptional history students. As this year’s award recipient, Stoller-Black received several books selected by faculty and tailored to his personal interests.

Books included “The Guns of August” by Barbara W. Tuchman,  “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914” by Christopher Clark, “The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia” by Peter Hopkirk, “The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America” by Timothy Egan, “Murder at the Mission: A Frontier Killing, Its Legacy of Lies, and the Taking of the American West” by Blaine Harden and “The Rise and Fall of the British Empire” by Lawrence James. Her name will also be included on a plaque that hangs in YVC’s Glenn Anthon Hall on the Yakima Campus.

“I’ve always been really interested in wars and how they were caused and the effects of them. Less about the actual fighting and more about the people who were affected by it,” says Stoller-Black. “I like to compare the past to the present and there’s a lot of similarities you can see with the imperialism of the past and post-imperialism here right now.”

Stoller-Black will transfer to Central Washington University in fall 2024 to pursue her bachelor’s degree as a history major. 

Story by Stefanie Menard, AA-DTA ’05, communications consultant. Courtesy photos.