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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Welcome event encourages Native American students

    As Theodore Carroll flipped through pages of his small hometown newspaper, he came across a story about three Native Americans who had graduated not only as Arizona Wildcats, but had graduated with doctorate degrees.

    Where Carroll comes from – Rough Rock, Ariz., located on the Navajo Reservation – it is rare to watch a fellow Navajo walk across a university stage with a college degree, and it is even more rare that you can call them “”Doctor.””

    “”Not many go that far,”” said Carroll, an electrical engineering freshman and first-generation college student. “”I wanted to do the same, so I came.””

    Carroll was among the 150 students who attended the Native American Back-to-School event Wednesday at the Student Union Memorial Center. Undergraduates, graduates, faculty and university officials gave students advice based on their own struggles as Native Americans on a predominately white college campus.

    “”You feel as though you don’t belong here,”” said Jazmin Villavicencio, a public health junior, recalling her freshman year. “”I’m glad the freshmen are getting this advice, because they need to be assured that there is help out there and they are not on their own.””

    “”Take every opportunity that comes your way,”” said Miss Native American UA Seafha Blount, a graduate student in the wildlife conservation and management program. “”You have to realize that there are people who want you to succeed and be happy.””

    Eyes widened in surprise as President Robert Shelton took the stage.

    “”You are the ones who make this university what it is,”” he told the crowd. “”Because of you, we are making better decisions.””

    Pulled aside, Shelton said to diversify an institution is the first step to making good decisions.

    “”If I walked into a room full of people who looked like me, I would be making bad decisions,”” he said. “”If there are unique and diverse people with different backgrounds, it allows us all to be better people,”” he said.

    For Amanda Tachine, interim director of the Native American Student Affairs Office, one of the four ethnic student support services at the UA, the goal is always to increase the number of Native American students attending the UA.

    In 1989, about 434 Native American students walked the campus grounds. In 2007, that number increased to about 940 students.

    Generally, students already fear being on such a big campus with over 30,000 students, but in addition to that, many Native Americans bottle up their feelings and “”end up getting homesick and feeling lonely,”” Tachine said.

    “”I just really wanted them to feel welcomed,”” she added of the incoming students. “”It was a great way to get them connected with student support services.””

    In addition to sponsoring the event, the staff of the Native American Student Affairs Office has themed the academic year, “”Weaving Our Future with Wisdom, Unity, Honor, and Empowerment,”” in hopes of properly welcoming, unifying and supporting the nearly 1,000 Native American students on campus.

    After the two hours of absorbing advice after advice, Carroll knows it is going to be a tough road, but he is ready to face the challenges of being a college student head-on.

    “”I know I have to talk more often,”” Carroll said. “”I have to be more social and outgoing and get involved, and things will fall into place.””

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