Native American students prepare for college life at Native Education Forum

Native American students from across the nation visited CSU for the annual Native Education Forum. Photos by Joe A. Mendoza

More than two dozen Native American students from across the country recently gathered at Colorado State University to research indigenous issues and prepare for the college application process during the university’s annual Native Education Forum.

At the forum, which ran from June 24-29, students worked for six days to research issues related to indigenous policies and issues in history, participated in discussions and attended sessions focused on college application preparation. The event ended in a formal forum where students present findings.

“I really like the work I’ve done in the small groups,” Talia Beeh, a junior from Buena High School in Ventura, California. “It’s been great to get to know students from other places and work on a big project together. Being on a university campus and going to lectures every day, I feel like is getting me ready for college. I’ve really enjoyed spending time on this beautiful campus.”

Eighteen tribal nations represented

Danita Ordaz, Native American recruitment and transition specialist with the Office of Admissions at CSU said this year’s group was one of the most tribally diverse groups since the Native Education Forum has been held at CSU, with 18 tribal nations represented.

“The program is completely free for students to attend,” Ordaz said. “It’s also one of our partnership programs on campus so students receive a scholarship if they attend CSU. We’ve seen a lot of students who go through the program matriculate to CSU and are now involved with the program as mentors or group leaders.”

The pre-collegiate program for Native scholars helps students gain valuable experience preparing for college life. Participants gain one college credit in Indigenous Studies.

“I don’t meet a lot of Native kids outside of New Mexico and it’s really cool to meet kids from other tribes and make those connections,” said Noah Begay, a senior from the Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque. “The Native Education Forum has given me a much better understanding of how college works and what the workload is like. The assistance I’ve been getting here to prepare for college has been so helpful. It’s been enlightening to see what steps I need to take to get to college. I love the size of this campus, there’s so much to see and explore here.”

Strengthening skills

In addition to researching issues related to the indigenous community, students also strengthen skills in public speaking, teamwork and leadership. CSU faculty, staff, and current students help facilitate the program.

“All students complete their application items so that when the fall comes they will be ready to apply to all the institutions they are interested in,” Ordaz said. “We host a reception at the end of the program where family members or support people are invited to campus to see all of the hard work their students have accomplished in the week, including their research presentations on contemporary Native issues and solutions.”

Hannah Medina, a senior from La Cueva High School in Albuquerque agreed.

“Along with getting ready for college, my main goal at the forum has been to get to know other people and where they come from,” she said. “I like learning about other people’s cultures. I have really felt accepted here, and I’ve made so many friends at the forum. CSU is my dream school.”