July Newsletter Student Highlights
American Indian Services Scholarship Recipient Highlights
Thalia Dubois, Chippewa
Minot State University
Thalia is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and lives in Dunseith, ND. She works as a cashier and babysitter and helps care for her 5 younger siblings. Thalia graduated high school early with 9 college credits already completed. Her college credits a nursing course and a CPR course. Thalia’s desire to pursue a career in medicine was inspired by her grandfather who has had cancer. He to travel four hours outside of their town for his checkups and treatments due to their community hospital being understaffed. She hopes to spare others this difficulty.
Montgomery Brown, Standing Rock Sioux
Native American Studies & Criminal Justice
Sitting Bull College
Montgomery is from Wakpala, SD. His goal is to one day become a lawyer so that he can help represent Native peoples as they pursue treaty rights, water rights, sovereignty, and other issues. His mission is to help tribes become self-sustainable. Montgomery is a U.S. Navy veteran where he served four years as a combat medic. He has volunteered with veterans groups, and is an activist for indigenous causes. Through his work as a veteran volunteer he formed a construction company that helps with various projects throughout his community.
To support Thalia, Montgomery, and students like them on their educational journey, please donate today.
Student Highlight May 2020
My name is Kaitlynn Lynch and I am an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe located in Eagle Butte, SD. At age 6, I was adopted into a loving family and grew up off the reservation in Rapid City, SD. Although my adopted dad is an enrolled member of the Chippewa Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, I was not raised traditionally and lacked exposure to my culture as a child. As a result, I sought out my heritage and biological family in my early teens and eventually moved to live with an aunt on the reservation. During the year that I lived there, I learned about my culture, history, traditions, language, and the hardships and struggles of the people. I was born into a beautiful culture and was blessed with the gift of opportunity to build a life off the reservation. I believe there is a reason I’ve been given the life I was given and I know that the blessings I’ve had were always meant for more than just myself. I have the knowledge, passion, and ability to help people reach their full potential and live their best life and it’s in my plan to do that.
Until recently, I have always struggled with schoolwork. I was diagnosed with ADHD as a young child and my parents did their best to help me. Whether it was with medication, private tutoring sessions, extra time on tests; I was always a C/D student. Life got more difficult for me as I transferred from a private middle school to a public high school. I struggled to fit in and I felt I had no place within my peers. Growing up with a lack of knowledge of my culture hit me especially hard when I transferred from a mostly white school, to a culturally diverse high school. I desperately wanted to fit in with my native peers and be accepted, but I was still seen as an outcast. At the time, I lacked the maturity to find my own path and the guidance needed to bridge the gap between the two worlds I lived in. Eventually, I dropped out of high school and moved to the reservation to discover myself, and find my identity. With the support of my family, I earned my high school diploma at Eagle Butte High School and experienced life on the reservation. I have seen the hurt and the anger, the lack of opportunity for the people from my small community. I have also felt the anguish and the silence of those who do not have the capability or the guiding hand to help themselves change their destiny. I want to be that guiding hand and be an inspiration for anyone who has struggled with life and finding where they belong. I have overcome many obstacles to get where I am today, and I’m proud of my accomplishments.
I am currently a student at Central New Mexico Community College. I plan on graduating the summer of 2020 with an AA in Sociology. It’s my personal goal to make the Dean’s List at the end of this term and the following 2 semesters I have left at CNM Community College. I was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society this fall and I plan on maintaining my high GPA. After obtaining my Associates Degree, I want to transfer to the University of New Mexico and pursue my education by earning a Bachelor’s Degree and eventually attending the UNM law program. It is my intent to become a lawyer, so I can have the knowledge to legally advise or help people. I know that my community is in need of tribal attorneys and I want to fulfill that need with my communication skills and continued education.
Being a full-time mother and a full-time student can be difficult at times. I’ve struggled in the past with time management and the motivation to pursue my education. Today, I am proud of myself for the hard work I’ve put into my higher education, especially during this past year. In April of 2018, my family became homeless when we moved to Albuquerque, NM. We lived in our car and then a homeless shelter. With the support and help from community resources, I was able to secure housing for my family and enroll in college. I’ve maintained a 4.0 GPA and have been able to provide my family with the stability we need to live our best lives. I dedicate my extra time to my academic studies, volunteering in my community, and being an actively involved parent in my children’s lives. Receiving this scholarship has been a blessing to my family because it gave us financial security during the semester. I used the money to add to my emergency savings and to pay ahead on my rent. This scholarship has relieved my financial stress and allows me to focus on classes, family, and giving back to my community.
Student Highlight April 2020
Being born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico and participating in my Pueblo traditions in Cochiti, New Mexico, I am thankful that I am apart of these two very distinct communities. I am pursuing an education that will create positive change in both communities. As an American Indian, I am a part of the Pueblo of Cochiti, Pueblo of Jemez, and Diné. As a first-generation student I call the University of New Mexico my home in earning a Bachelor of Science in Population Health and a minor in Psychology. I am proud to be a part of the 2nd of its kind, College of Population Health in the United States.
I first became interested in Population Health my sophomore year of college when I discovered that a majority of healthcare is reactive, and I wanted to learn how to take a more proactive approach to prevent illnesses and diseases. Population Health consists of the multidisciplinary study of health, illness, and disability. We learn about the societal, behavioral, and organizational causes of health and disease and explore the ways to reduce health disparities. In my classes I examine policies, health systems, and public health practices that can curb health risks in communities and large populations.
My motivations to earn an undergraduate degree in Population Health began with my professional aspirations to better my American Indian community. I intend to conduct research and help develop preventive programs to reduce diabetes with the Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center (AASTEC) as my senior capstone project in the Spring of 2020. After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school to earn an MPH and/or Master of Social Work with an American Indian Concentration. Schools I am interested in applying to are the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis which develops the knowledge and skills to serve Native American communities by understanding the extent, effects, and causes of issues facing Native peoples then evaluating and implementing the best practices with cultural competencies in mind. Other schools I intend on applying to are North Dakota State University with the American Indian Concentration and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins.
In the future, I am eager to develop a healthcare system that increases the access of healthcare services on Southwestern reservations. According to the Navajo Area Indian Health Service (NAIHS), the department delivers health services to over 244,000 American Indians on the largest Indian reservation in the U.S. The Navajo Nation covers more than 25,000 contiguous square miles where NAIHS has a total of 222 inpatient hospital beds at only four hospitals. The issue of lack of healthcare access for Native Americans has geared me towards an educational plan to pursue a career in public community health. The societal problem I am planning to address is the health disparities of American Indians by first working with the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board by becoming a project director after I finish my graduate program. Then, I intend pursing a more significant role in regional planning and public service. I believe in advocating and serving disadvantaged Indigenous people using a holistic framework consisting of emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Working in public service I would be the voice representing our people on director boards and on large scale government committees.
I am passionate that I will be able to take what I learn in my degree now, capstone project and graduate program in the future, and apply it in regional Indigenous and American Indian communities to reduce health disparities and increase access to healthcare services. I am proud to state that I am a 2019 Udall Scholar for Native American Heath care. I have taken the initiative to prepare for my future educational plans and career goals by taking on two internships currently to begin addressing issues that face American Indians and public health. I am the first intern for the College Horizons Scholars Program to develop student success programming for Native students on campus and help retention rates and set them up for their future and lead them to graduate programs. Secondly, I have become a Future Community Leader for the Center for Social Sustainable Systems Leadership Institute. I have currently taken a proactive role in my community to prepare and execute an action plan aimed at addressing and understanding water, land, health disparities, and social justice issues affecting New Mexican Communities. As part of my project publication I am focusing on legislation and policy development to sustain our local farmers, acequias, and to ensure that water is available to our Pueblos south of Albuquerque.
Receiving financial aid has equipped me to focus on my plans and goals for graduate school and my career which I am eager to begin. I have a focused plan to assist Indigenous communities in the future, and I am determined to reduce health disparities and increase access on reservations while preserving our cultural traditions. This funding is helping provide me the education to support my community and pave the way for me to give back to future generations, so they have the same amazing opportunities as me.
Student Highlight March 2020
My name is Shyh Saenz and I am anything but shy. I am an urban Indian from Hayward, California and I am an enrolled tribal member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. I am currently a freshman at Gonzaga University studying Communication Studies with a minor in Broadcasting & Electronic Media Studies.
My goal is to become a sportscaster because there are not very many Indigenous women that look like me on television. I love sports and I am passionate about using my voice. Being a sportscaster will give me a platform to speak up on issues our Indigenous community is facing and give me the opportunity to bring awareness to the injustices facing our community and help make change. I play Division 1 soccer at Gonzaga and I take a lot of pride in being the only Indigenous person on the team. It is empowering to represent my tribe and all indigenous communities by giving hope to other girls like me to not give up.
Living in the Bay Area and moving to Spokane, Washington was a cultural shock. It’s been challenging as I was accustomed to a diverse city and school and now I am in a predominantly white and affluent school. However, I have learned to push through it by finding a community and support on campus in UMEC, the Unity Multicultural Education Center where I have made friends with other Indigenous students and students of color on campus.
The American Indian Services Scholarship is helping me get one step closer to achieving my goals as I continue to learn and grow as a student. Gonzaga is an expensive private school and my funds are limited because I come from a working middle class family. I do not have any spare money and Spokane is much colder than Hayward. I do not have any winter clothes and a good warm snow jacket and boots. What seems like basic things like clothes, food, transportation are not cheap. Books are expensive and I will need new books for the spring semester. During the winter break they will close the dorm so I have to fly back to California. I have not been back home since school started in July. I hope not to get into loan debt when I graduate from college but I also want to survive and graduate from Gonzaga by June 2020.
Although being a student-athlete is a neat experience it is extremely difficult to have a job because of the time commitment. Receiving this scholarship is allowing me to focus on my education and fully thrive as a student.
Student Highlight February 2020
My name is Terra Goss and I’m an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of New Town, North Dakota. I was born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana, but was raised in Killeen, Texas. I currently reside in Great Falls, Montana where I attend the Great Falls College Montana State University.
I’m majoring in License Addiction Counseling, because there is such a high job demand in this field on Native American Reservations. I’d like to work on different reservations as a Chemical Dependency Counselor and try to educate as many people as possible about drugs and alcohol.
Since, I have started school in the fall semester 2018 I have involved myself in The Native American group on campus and was voted the president of the group late August 2018. I will not say that my credentials will blow the competition out of the water or that I have some exceptionally rare skill that makes me the best candidate, but I do have a decent GPA, I have done some volunteer work at the local shelter, and I’m currently looking for an on-campus job.
What sets me apart, and what I think is unique and special about me, is my combination of work ethic and my drive to succeed. Doing the Native group, volunteer work and getting my studies done have led me to develop a strong work ethic and strong ability to prioritize, manage my time, and make sure that I always get my school work done on time. I’m always willing to go above and beyond to do a better job. I believe what I am accomplishing now will help me in the future, when a difficult situation arises I will be prepared to excel and work hard for success. College is a tough road and my drive and perseverance to continue accomplishing have, and will lead me to success.
– Terra Goss
Student Highlight December 2019
I am Verna Sanchez of the Uncompahgre Band of the Northern Ute Tribe. I am originally from Ft. Duchesne, Utah. My parents moved me to Taos, NM as a child where I attended the Taos day School which is located on the Taos Pueblo. My upbringing was traditional culturally from an early age, including regular church attendance, and singing in the choir. In my teen years I attended a Christian Academy school where I played volleyball and basketball. These activities taught me the importance of community and teamwork.
I am proud that my cultural heritage is very much a part of who I am and my everyday life. I am fortunate my parents allowed me to express myself spiritually and determine who I wanted to be. I spent many summers traveling back to my hometown to participate in the traditional doings with my family and continue the tradition to this day.
I have been a fancy shawl dancer since I was a toddler and have carried on the love of dancing through adulthood. Since I am unable to go to Utah to participate as often as I would like, I participate in activities that occur in the local tribal communities.
I am currently completing my 1st semester at Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) where I am pursuing a degree in Health Information Technology. I became interested in the health care industry when I began working early on in my adult life as a care giver with individuals with disabilities and later on with the elderly who needed hospice care. I worked in the care giving field for 20+ years and also spent numerous years attending to the health needs of my family members. Caregiving has become second nature to me and I feel that this a life long career field that provides both personal satisfaction for my elf and also provides a much needed service to vulnerable populations. Once I complete my degree I want to transition my career path to working within the Native American community to help progress the efforts to increase health awareness and health care for those that do not typically receive these services. As Native Americans our community has dealt with socioeconomic and healthcare issues that other groups do not see as frequently. By completing my degree, I will be an example to other Native American women in the community that it is possible to fully live up to your potential and get past any hurdles that have arisen in life.
Throughout my education career I have endured numerous hurdles both personal and financial which have made it difficult to attend school full time. By receiving education financial assistance, I will be able to complete my degree in a reasonable amount of time without having to sacrifice taking classes due to financial funding. By being awarded the AIS scholarship Iwill be able to fully concentrate on my studies without the added pressure and stress of not knowing how I am going to be able to fully pay for tuition and books. Thank you for this scholarship.
To contribute to Verna’s scholarship and other students like her, please donate now.
November 2019 Student Highlight
Despite serving over 300 tribes all across the country, the vast majority of the applications we get are from Navajo students, and we never tire of reading their bios. We feel honored when they introduce themselves to us in Diné and recite their clans, giving us a beautiful glimpse into their culture. Our November Student Highlight is an incredibly resilient Navajo woman and we feel so proud to serve her as she works to lift herself up through education.
Shí éí Bridgett Abeyta yinishyé. Kinłichíí’nii nishłį́, Ta’neeszahnii bashishchiin, Mą ’íí deeshgíízhíníí dashicheii, Naakai dashinalí. Ákót’éego diné asdzáán nishłį́. Colorado Springs kééhasht’į́. Canyon Diablo déé’ naashá.
My name is Bridgett Abeyta. I am of the Red House Clan, born for the Tangle Clan. The Coyote Pass Clan are my maternal grandfathers and Mexican are my paternal grandfathers. That is what makes me a Navajo woman. Colorado Springs is where I reside. Canyon Diablo is where I am from.
I am originally from the Navajo Nation in Arizona, where I attended boarding school as a child. I dropped out of high school and received my GED in the spring of 2004, one month after having my first child. After my brother was KIA in Iraq while serving for the Army I went through a prolonged depression. I lost custody of my children and found myself homeless. During this time, I also lost my mother. I was in a terrible situation, but I kept hearing my grandparent’s words coming back to me. They would reiterate the importance of education. They emphasized that it was the only way to a better life.
In the spring of 2017, I enrolled in classes at Pikes Peak Community College. I was still homeless and living out of my car, but I was more determined than ever. I proved my determination when I made the President’s list that same semester. I had a cumulative GPA of 3.75 and completed 60 credits before transferring to the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in the Fall of 2019. My goal is to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree and graduate with honors. Another goal is to apply for law school. I would like to study Indigenous Law. My personal experience with the lack of application is what interested me. I am also considering adding a business minor to my Psychology major. I was also recently elected as the secretary for the Psi Chi Honor Society, a leadership opportunity I’m excited to partake in.
This scholarship will help me overcome some of the financial burden of tuition, textbooks, and housing. By ensuring that my education is financially secure, I will be able to focus on maintaining a high GPA. This scholarship will also allow me to take advantage of the leadership opportunity as the Psi Chi Honor Society secretary. As a non-traditional student, I understand that I must work twice as hard for the same academic success as my peers. The challenges that I’ve had to overcome have left me with an unwavering sense of resilience and determination.