By Tina Keeto
Dear younger self,
I never thought that I would be in the process of getting my graduate degree. If it wasn’t for the support of our family, friends and mentors, I would have given up a long time ago. The thought of going to college never crossed my mind. At eighteen I thought about joining the Marine Corps like the family did and the many generations before me. I didn’t think college was for people like me. I figured college was for non-people of color, especially not for Native Americans. How wrong was I. We did amazing and we kicked butt. There were some challenges but they made us stronger and smarter just like Indigenous women should be.
The only thing was, I never had guidance of what to do as a native college undergrad. But for you, consider the American Indian Recruitment Program. When I was at your age, this program was barely starting. AIR is all about promoting higher education and success in academics in the American Indian community. It is dedicated to the successful completion of high school. The Program offers tutoring, mentoring, and various activities designed to achieve success within high school and higher education. If I knew about this at your age, I would have taken part and the journey to college would have been a lot smoother. The idea of college was a challenge, but I loved the challenge of being told I can’t do something.
I wish you the best as you push through the rough stages. Encourage the youth that you meet and talk to. Tell them your journey and help make it easier for them. Continue tutoring the kids and be a big sister to them. Some of them don’t have the support that you have. But remember, have fun and know that it is all worth it. Keep in contact with the native men and women who helped you succeed.