Nearly 100 high schoolers from tribal nations in Arizona work on research projects, live in the dorm and connect with ASU resources
It was day three of ASU’s 2017 Inspire program, the weeklong camp that offers high schoolers from tribal nations in Arizona a taste of college life, and the Arizona State University Memorial Union’s Changemaker space was abuzz.
The young scholars were working in 19 student teams, brainstorming and mapping out the action research plans they’d share with peers and families at the closing Capstone Project Showcase at week’s end. Their topic choices were informed by their own interests and the previous day’s panel presentations and discussions related to indigenous education; health; tribal sovereignty; and planning, architecture and construction in Indian Country.
The team of Kristen Sanderson, Darian Wauneka, Mackyl Ortega and April Yazzie, all rising high school seniors, had decided to pursue a research action plan related to health and well-being.
Sanderson’s career interests are nursing or dentistry. Wauneka leans toward optometry. Ortega is interested in working with pharmaceuticals, and Yazzie said she’d like to work for a company like Apple or Intel.
“Individually we suggested alcoholism, hospital misdiagnoses, heat-related deaths and elder neglect,” explained Sanderson.
As a group, they eventually settled on elder neglect by deciding to draw one topic lottery-style, Wauneka said.
Having done a lot of internet research in Inspire’s indigenous reading and writing workshop that morning, they worked quickly at the whiteboard, referring to the saved data on their phones and adding a few more ideas as they saw the flow of their research coming together.
A neighboring team had chosen to explore land conservation on tribal nations, and what can be done about the U.S. government’s pollution of the land.
“Some of the land appears to be unused; there’s no homes or burial grounds, so the government thinks, ‘Why can’t we build out here?’ In reality, that land is used for grazing or for growing crops and the ecosystem is thrown off by it,” said Noah Anaya, a 12th-grade student.
Another group looked at the election of the Navajo Nation president and how during the race the candidates’ focus on tradition and government affect the outcome.
“If the value placed on government is too high, it’s seen as a conflict with traditional values. I would like to see these values balanced, rather than one taking precedent over the other,” senior Vanessa Lee said.
“Outstanding work!” English Professor Jim Blasingame encouragingly shouted to all, as he finished a first lap around the room offering feedback to teams. “These are topics doctoral students are doing dissertations on.
“You’re worldly and you have your heads in the right place. Remember, you are your best resource,” he continued, as he offered tips about how to discern solid, reputable research facts from opinion. “Be wary of sources that use words like would, should, could, might. That author just wants to sell you on their ideas.”
Immersed in campus life
ASU’s college-readiness summer program Inspire, held June 18-24, saw nearly 100 American Indian students from tribal nations in Arizona participate in activities on ASU’s Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses and in the greater community.
Rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors had the opportunity to practice and grow academic and personal success behaviors by integrating reading, writing and research skills in culturally relevant, project-based learning.
“You’re all capable and you’re going to learn new things and will grow,” said Jacob Moore, ASU assistant vice president for tribal relations, in his welcome to participants and their families on June 18. “Open your mind to possibilities and you may see some things differently than maybe what you’ve seen in high school. This is a chance for you to envision yourselves on campus and to see for yourself what being in college is like.”
During Inspire, students experienced university life in a Tempe campus residence hall. They ate in dining halls and enjoyed free time and team-building sessions in the Sun Devil Fitness Center. They worked with their peers and instructors in different buildings on the Tempe campus. They also enjoyed sessions at the Desert Botanical Garden, the Heard Museum and the Indian Legal Program at ASU’s Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus.
Throughout the program the high schoolers were guided by 11 ASU indigenous students who served as team mentors, providing tips and advice that come best from near-peers.
“Living on campus has been interesting. Sharing a room and talking with someone else who has similar interests in going to college is great,” said senior Tyler Salt.
ASU English instructor and mentor Henry Quintero talks with students about indigenous and non-GMO corn during a writing workshop in the Lattie Coor Building in Tempe on June 23 as part of ASU's Inspire program for Native high school students.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Westwood High School teacher Audrey Napoleone guides ASU Inspire students through creating their action research plan and website. Students chose problems to address in their communities and created a website that highlighted possible solutions.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
High school student Irvina Miller (right) listens to mentor feedback as she and her team create their website on the Dakota Access Pipeline.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Inspire participant and high school junior Mariana Porter reads "Red Ink: International Journal of Indigenous Literature, Arts, and Humanities" during one of the program’s indigenous reading and writing workshops June 23. ASU faculty and graduate students make up the Red Ink editorial team.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Mentor and education intern Samantha Toledo (left) works with high school students (seated, from left) Kayla Chee, Alexus Amick and Krishna Riggs on their project focusing on culture and language for their community.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Alchemy High School junior Tenai Tortice works with his group during ASU's Inspire program.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
San Carlos Secondary School senior James Talgo works with his teammates on their website focused on substance abuse.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Indigenous Rhetoric coordinator and mentor Kyle Wilson works with high school student Alianna Pinon on her team’s project focusing on substance abuse.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Inspire students make their way to the Indian Legal Program in ASU’s Beus Center for Law and Society at the Downtown Phoenix campus on the morning of June 23.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Kate Rosier, executive director of ASU’s renowned Indian Legal Program, talks to Inspire participants about the work of the program.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Students applaud Indian Legal Program executive director Kate Rosier’s presentation.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
ASU English Professor and Inspire instructor Jim Blasingame checks in with the student team of (from left) Mackyl Ortega, Kristen Sanderson, Darian Wauneka and April Yazzie as they brainstorm their action research project on elder neglect, at Changemaker Central on ASU’s Tempe campus.Photo by Maureen Roen/ASU
High school senior April Yazzie checks her research notes on her phone as senior Kristen Sanderson (behind her) diagrams their team’s action research plan related to elder neglect.Photo by Maureen Roen/ASU
An Inspire student team discusses how they’ll approach their action research project on traditional health during an afternoon session in the Changemaker space in ASU’s Memorial Union. ASU peer mentor Matthew Yatsayte (right), a sociology major and Mr. Indian ASU 2017-2018, looks on.Photo by Maureen Roen/ASU
During one of the sessions, the students used the me3 tool to explore majors and careers that interested them, providing a glimpse of their future after high school.
“The career exploration has been my favorite part. I’ve always wanted to be a business administrator, and this is giving me the motivation to pursue it when I come [to ASU] next year,” said senior Hailey Veltha.
“I wanted to be a lawyer, but this has showed me different opportunities that are available to me in the different programs,” Anaya said.
By the end of the program, participants were connected with American Indian students, staff, faculty and support services at the university.
“Programs like Inspire are designed to motivate high school students to begin pursuing higher education, and so it’s important to connect them to the university in general,” said Lorenzo Chavez, director of family and student initiatives for Access ASU.
The program, now in its second year, emphasized the accessibility of the different resources at each of the ASU campuses with a resource fair representing ASU’s schools and colleges.
“We want Inspire participants to feel welcome and comfortable at ASU and understand the many opportunities they’ll find in terms of academics and support. Of course, we hope they will decide to apply to, enroll in and graduate from ASU in the future,” said Jeanne Hanrahan, director of community outreach for the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, and University College.
“We received about 250 applications for this year’s program and could afford to offer places to 100 students. It's clear that interest in a program like this is strong,” she added.
This year’s Inspire program was sponsored by a grant from the Tohono O'odham Nation to ASU's University College and the Office of American Indian Initiatives, with support from Access ASU.
Chavez and Annabell Bowen, director of American Indian initiatives in the ASU Office of the President, presented a session for parents and families on the opening morning of Inspire. Bowen spoke about the cultural environment at ASU, and Chavez shared information about applying to the university, financial aid and what families can do to help their students in their decision about college.
“We have more than 2,800 American Indian students at ASU, making it one of the largest Native student bodies in the country,” Bowen told family members, “and enrollment numbers have been increasing every year.”
As part of her work in the Office of American Indian Initiatives, Bowen heads up the university’s Tribal Nations Tour program, in which current ASU students, faculty and staff travel to all of the tribal communities in Arizona in outreach to K-12 students.
“We even talk with kids in Head Start programs,” said Bowen. “It’s never too early to encourage children to start thinking about college and to have them get firsthand knowledge of the first steps they need to take to be ready.”
Will Argeros contributed to this story; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top photo: Students make their way to the Indian Legal Program in the Beus Center for Law and Society at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus during ASU's Inspire program for Native high school students. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now