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Building Community

September 6, 2019
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As the Native American program adviser, Reinette Tendore supports students throughout their university journey.

By Micaela Myers

When Reinette Tendore first arrived at the University of Wyoming as an undergraduate, the culture shock between Laramie and the Wind River Indian Reservation, combined with the stresses of being a young mother, was almost too much to bear.

“There were times I didn’t think I would make it, because I was a teenage mom,” she says. Luckily, she made connections with a small support system of Native Americans on campus and joined a sorority with other women of color, Sigma Lambda Gamma. Through their support, she was able to persevere, graduating in 2009.

Tendore, a Northern Arapaho tribal member, went on to work in a youth prevention program on the reservation and returned to UW for her master’s degree in social work in 2017. Now she’s paying it forward on campus, helping the next generation as UW’s Native American program advisor.

“One of my biggest goals as a tribal member and UW graduate was to help my people with my degree,” Tendore says. “What guides me and keeps me going is that I always reflect on what I needed as a student. I try to be that person  to these students.”

Her job includes recruitment, retention and coordinating the Native American Summer Institute.

“I love supporting the students and the energy that they give,” Tendore says. “I’m helping them through not just academics but also with personal support and through community.”

Tendore and her family call Laramie home now, including husband and fellow UW alumnus Lee Tendore and children Hudda Herrera, Rhaelle Curry, Riquell Curry and Rylee Tendore. Lee was recently named the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Liaison to Gov. Mark Gordon.

Tendore maintains strong connections on the reservation, making monthly trips there or to Central Wyoming College where many students begin their higher-education journey.

“I work with students from the application process until they graduate UW and leave here with a degree,” Tendore says.

In addition to fostering a strong Native American community on campus, she encourages students to get involved throughout UW and get out of their comfort zone.

“I’ve been really pushing students to go and get involved on campus in other areas—whether it’s supporting RSOs, taking part in service leadership programs, or weekly or nightly events,” Tendore says. “A lot of our students’ goals are to move back to the reservation, so being involved on campus adds to their leadership skills, development and growth as a person.”

Tendore recently chaperoned an Alternative Spring Break and encourages her students to participate in service-learning trips as well. “Seeing the growth in the six or seven days they were gone—coming back, they are brand-new people,” she says. 

The Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center has played a key role in developing a strong community at UW.

“It’s about my students leaving with their degree and those degrees helping our people on the reservation,” Tendore says. “It’s possible, and you can get your college degree. We’re doing it, and our numbers are rising.”

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