"Since I am a mother and a college student, I want any individual who is a parent to know that college is for everyone."
“I want to motivate and lead my community into a knowledgeable resource area where families can come together for support in areas they deem.”
— Stacie, AIEF Scholarship Recipient
The journey to achieve a college degree can be a long road, especially when balancing the needs of a husband and children.
Stacie agreed to share her story with us the night before her university’s ceremony to honor the American Indian graduates and two nights before the full commencement ceremony...
Stacie began her journey in the southern part of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, growing up on a working ranch. Through living in a rural environment, she learned that family can overcome any obstacle together. Her story consisted of love, happiness, new beginnings, turmoil, failure, and triumphs.
She married her husband, Donavan, in 2012 and they had a baby girl, Aisha. Stacie added, “she was my angel.” With her new responsibilities as a mother, she decided to put her college on hold for that fall semester. Later, as she submitted her essay for the American Indian Education Foundation (AIEF) Program’s Scholarship application, they were expecting their second child. Her son, Daehgan, was a welcome addition to the family.
Stacie's daughter, Aisha, stayed close and was delightfully dressed for this special occasion.
Stacie was very encouraging to others who have families and said, “Since I am a mother and a college student, I want any individual who is a parent to know that college is for everyone; it is what you know about your environment and what it has to offer you. I want to motivate and lead my community into a knowledgeable resource area where families can come together for support in areas they deem.”
During dinner, Stacie shared that her academics began early, but seemed to have been sparked by her father’s work in the oil field and by her community rallying around the annual school science fair. With her father working in the oil fields, hydrofluoric acid enticed Stacie into the periodic tables early on. She knew them well and, admittedly, they came easy to her. She began her college career studying Chemical Engineering, but in her second year, she knew something was missing. It was during this time that she was the ambassador of the Jicarilla Apache Nation. She switched to a math major, but in 2010 entered a classroom on Early Childhood and finally settled into the Family Studies degree. Her work as the tribal ambassador helped change her outlook in life towards education, local resources, and knowledge in community support.
Stacie looked beautiful — The blue turquoise was striking against the white satin
Stacie recalled when the letter awarding the AIEF scholarship came in. Her mother received it at Stacie’s childhood home and was waiting for Stacie to return for a visit before opening, saying, “I was waiting for you to open it.” She was very thankful for the help provided by the funding. She was particularly impressed with the extra efforts made by AIEF to reach out to their scholars. The package she received in the beginning of the year was a great surprise, which showed her AIEF was different from other support she had received.
We asked Stacie if she was excited about the ceremony presented the following day honoring the Native American students. She commented that, “It really hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s been a long road to this day."
Native American Studies (NAS), a University of New Mexico (UNM) department, held their annual Convocation Ceremony honoring graduates receiving the Bachelor of Arts Degree or minor in Native American Studies. Separate from the larger UNM Commencement Ceremony, the commitment has become part of the community. This smaller ceremony included a reception and recognition by everyone, including the UNM and Native American Studies’ faculty, staff, and community members, who had been instrumental in supporting the students and their families.
Daehgan watched from another vantage point with his cousin
Stacie was one of over 70 students representing various Southwest tribes and others who received special honors at the evening event. She invited us to be a part of the audience that witnessed the students walk across the stage as their name was called.
Stacie entered the Student Union Building with her family and she looked beautiful — the blue turquoise was striking against the white satin and red fabric; two feathers were prominently placed in her hair. Aisha stayed close to her mother and was delightfully dressed for this special occasion as well.
After checking in at the main table, the students were quickly ushered together for a group photo. Donovan stood high above, proudly taking photos with the other students’ supporters. Daehgan watched from another vantage point with his cousin. It was a sweet family affair.
Once the photo session was completed, the graduates lined up to walk upstairs to the ballroom. The Grand Ballroom was full of parents, extended family, children, faculty, and other students supporting their friends. Donovan waited for Stacie to enter the room — Aisha wanted to walk in with her mother, hand-in-hand. As soon as Stacie entered, Aisha waved goodbye and was quickly scooped up by her father to sit in their saved seats next to Stacie’s parents.
Aisha found a comfortable spot on her dad’s lap during the ceremony and closed her eyes.
Cheers erupted after each name was announced as faculty members honored the students individually. Even though this wasn’t the large commencement that each student would experience over the weekend, it was much more personal as the Native American Studies’ faculty knew every one of these students and spoke to their strengths as graduates.
Aisha found a comfortable spot on her dad’s lap during the ceremony and closed her eyes. It had been a long day for this little girl.
Once the graduation program was completed, guests entered another room where appetizers and desserts were served. A dance group from the Tesuque Pueblo, “Tesuque Buffalo Warriors,” performed an Honoring Dance for the graduates.
We were honored to spend the evening with Stacie and her family, including her mother and father. Both her parents were very gracious with their appreciation. Her father shared, “thank you so much for supporting my daughter and other students with scholarships — education is so important for our communities.”
The journey may have been long, but the effort was obviously worth it for everyone involved.
Thank you for helping to make this service possible.