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Published August 06, 2019
Personal growth, leadership development and encouragement to seek higher education were among the activities for participants in the recent Native American Summer Institute (NASI) on the University of Wyoming campus.
NASI provided an opportunity for Native youth from Wyoming and three other states -- California, Colorado and Montana -- to experience higher education opportunities at UW. While providing a wide range of educational experiences, the institute also exposed students to UW’s Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center, where Native students “convene and express themselves,” says Reinette Tendore, UW Native American Program adviser and NASI coordinator.
Half of this summer’s NASI group were returning students, including second- and third-year participants -- the majority from the Wind River Indian Reservation. During the week, students received a true college experience, staying in UW’s residence halls and eating meals in Washakie Dining Center.
Among activities throughout the week were engineering workshops; outdoor programs and activities at Curt Gowdy State Park; ecology studies on the local environment; soil testing at UW student-run garden plots; drawing at campus art facilities; 3-D mapping with drones; monitoring the environment and flying drones with a Raspberry Pi; a recording at Wyoming Public Radio; and a workshop at the Wyoming Migration Initiative on campus.
The Wyoming IDeA Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program also sponsored a health sciences track for Wind River Indian Reservation students over the age of 18.
“Our wide variety of academic workshops helps to expose our NASI participants to many fields and areas that they may not know about. I had some of our students tell me that they never knew they could study a specific area or that they didn’t know that there was a major for that particular area. It really gets them thinking,” Tendore says. “The workshops also help students visualize what it is like to be on campus, and the process of applying becomes a lot less scary. The retention and representation of Native students at UW is increasing and, with the help of this summer program, it allows Native students to have a home away from home.”
Current UW Native college students served as peer mentors for the high school participants.
“It is important to have role models for our youth to show them that going to college is possible,” Tendore says. “Our peer mentors share their stories with NASI participants and inspire them to one day come to UW to further their education.”
One of the highlights of the week was a Native group from New Zealand, invited by UW Native American and Indigenous Studies Director Angela Jaime.
“They put on workshop sessions focusing on their culture with song and dance. They shared with NASI some of their traditional beliefs and shared stories of their indigenous land,” Tendore says. “Our students gained so much from them and developed lasting relationships not only with each other, but with our guests. Our students were exposed to another indigenous culture that is new to them and also shared their own culture, which definitely helps them with their personal growth and leadership development.”
During the summer program, the NASI students and the New Zealand group performed their own Native dances and songs for each other during a public event. Another highlight was recognizing the contributions Tim Nichols made with NASI the last three years. He is leaving for a position in Montana.
“Our NASI students, staff and faculty gifted him with some beadwork and other gifts, including a Native song sung by NASI participant Heaven Old Coyote,” Tendore says. “The New Zealand visitors also gifted Dr. Nichols with their native ‘Haka’ song and a dance.”
Tendore praised the efforts of NASI and what the program provides to high school students.
“We have seen some tremendous growth from the students during the six days they are here on our campus. It is important that they get familiar with college life so that they can visualize themselves here on the UW campus as Native American students,” Tendore says. “It also is important that they develop relationships with our current Native staff, faculty and students so they can build the sense of community as they leave their homes and families to come to college.”
Among the NASI sponsors were: the UW College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Admissions Office, Office of the President, Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, INBRE, Wyoming INBRE, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the White Buffalo Youth Prevention Program from the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Students participating in NASI, listed by their high schools, were:
-- Fort Washakie High School -- Christina Brown and Amilynn Thomas.
-- Hardin High School/Hardin, Mont. -- Gabrielle Lopez, Shaunita Nomee and KeyShawn Rogers.
-- Kelly Walsh High School/Casper -- Lea Miller.
-- Lander Valley High School -- Taylee Dresser and Elk Redman.
-- Laramie High School -- Rhaelle Curry and Horace Littlesun.
-- Mullen High School/Denver -- Brandelyn Clark.
-- Riverton High School -- Miracle Seminole and Nakowa Seminole.
-- Sherman Indian High School/Riverside, Calif. -- Aidan Hereford.
-- St. Stephens High School -- Jade Bell, Teran Patton and Zariah Whiteplume.
-- Wyoming Indian High School -- Vidale C’Bearing, Maurice Gardner, Talon Gardner, Amaya Her Many Horses, Jocelia Her Many Horses, Corwin Howell, Heaven Old Coyote, Skyla Shakespeare, Chris Sings In The Mountains and Elizabeth Valdez.
UW student Damien Calderon, from Riverton, was listed as a participant. Also participating in some of the institute workshops were Wind River Indian Reservation students Melvin Arthur, Barbara Goodnight, Odelia Sage, Tarissa Spoonhunter and Carmen Underwood. The students were on campus the same week for a health sciences camp.