Kayleigh was completely caught off guard by our visit.
Orchestrating a surprise in-person scholarship award was no easy feat.
Our staff had been in contact with Kayleigh over the summer for several weeks prior to the impromptu face-to-face. Under the auspices of doing some “follow up” for the AIEF scholarship committee, a meeting was scheduled with the young Pueblo tribal member in Albuquerque in mid-July.
We caught up with her during a special summer camp for incoming freshmen and completely caught her off guard.
After being presented with a plain envelope and having unfolded the enclosed letter, Kayleigh laughed graciously and said, “Oh, you got me… I totally thought this was an interview.”
Her path to being awarded the special scholarship started when her application was stamped received on the deadline of April 4th. A month later, her application was being read by two AIEF committee members and by the end of June, the entire committee was singing her praises for an award.
Kayleigh’s commitment to her community, indigenous, and women’s rights struck a chord with the Scholarship Committee. After reading her essay and the litany of accomplishments for this young woman, the committee was further compelled to support her beyond the first year of college. They awarded her the exclusive four-year-scholarship.
These awards were only given to a select number of applications and Kayleigh was one of 10 who would garner that special award letter.
To give you a sense of what drew the committee to her, her scholarship application began with a traditional introduction using her Tewa language she has heard and spoken since her infancy. “Unbi a:gindi. Ohkuwa Tsawa o kwijowa piye khawa. I am a Tewa and Tiwa woman from the Pueblo tribes of Khap’o Owingeh (Santa Clara Pueblo), Sh’e’whiwhi’tuc-i (Isleta Pueblo).
Kayleigh explained in her application that being a Tewa woman is more than just knowing the language and the culture, but to live by the Tewa values of compassion, respect, humility and sacrifice. Tewa children are raised with a saying that when translated means: “Always love and care for one another.” Kayleigh expounded on that by saying, “My ancestors’ legacy and my people’s strength have instilled in me a passion for justice and service that has blessed me with many opportunities of advocacy and social change.”
In 2016 she was chosen to represent Pueblo Youth at the 2016 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Kayleigh’s pre-collegiate journey in advocacy has many accomplishments.
In 2016 she was chosen to represent Pueblo Youth at the 2016 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. There she was elected by delegates to serve as Special Rapporteur.
Prior to this international acknowledgement, she worked as an intern engaged in planning and executing community initiatives to end all forms of violence against Native women and girls and also oversaw a summer girls program focusing on adolescent Pueblo girls about healthy relationships and the concept of body sovereignty.
Her culture and experiences pointed her towards seeking an undergraduate in International Studies at a New Mexico university. Her current post graduation plans were to serve in the Peace Corps. She was interested in international Indigenous relations and how Native people globally are preserving their cultures, languages and ability to thrive.
Her application concluded with, “If I am blessed with a life where I can serve indigenous communities, protect the most vulnerable, fight for justice and then return to my ancestral lands and assume our traditional way of life, I believe I will have lived the best life a person could hope for.”
The American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program is fortunate to have generous donors willing to invest in building stronger tribal communities and in supporting Kayleigh’s dream of impacting others while living the best life a person could hope for.