It’s scholarship time, and I’m always inspired by reading the narratives submitted by Native American students who apply for AIEF scholarships. AIEF stands for American Indian Education Foundation; it’s the educational program of National Relief Charities.
This year, I was particularly inspired by the clear determination that came across in Josefina’s story. This is what she had to say…
Ya'at'eeh, I am the Tobacco People, born of the Mexican Clan. My maternal grandparents are of the Many Goat Clan; my paternal grandparents are of the Mexican Clan. And this is everything that makes me Josefina B. I am a beautiful mixture of Mexican and Navajo values.
I am also blind in one eye and can’t walk a straight line to save my life, but I recommend that you do not underestimate me. I am an advocate against underage drinking and alcohol abuse. I am a Sun Devil from Arizona State University focused on becoming a social worker.
Originally from northern Arizona, I grew up on the Navajo Reservation where I was taught my Native language and traditions.
As a junior in high school, I planned to study architecture and design and build homes on my reservation. That summer, 2008, I was hit by a drunk driver. My skull was cracked open and after a two-week coma, I was told I’d never graduate high school and never walk again. Instead, I went back to school and in May 2009 walked across my graduation stage with a 4.0 GPA and ranked as #3 out of 600 students.
I refused to let the doctor rob me of my potential. I did not care that I was blind in one eye or could only use one hand — I am strong enough to help people on a mental level and that is what I plan to do with my life.
Thus far in college, I’ve volunteered with an intertribal club, creative writing group and a national youth leadership organization. My goal was always to create an environment where equality exists.
In my free time, I also volunteer with the at-risk population in Arizona, working through a Native American community service organization, a homeless shelter, a union high school district, and an urban Indian center.
Knowing that I make a difference in the lives of people is how I wake up every morning and what pushes me to become a social worker. The diverse people I assist inspire me to keep moving toward my goal. I only have a few semesters left before I can return to my home reservation as a fully trained and practicing social worker.
Native American students like Josefina and countless others deserve a fighting chance for a college education. For the 2013-14 academic year, AIEF awarded scholarship funding to 164 American Indian undergraduate students and 38 graduate students — all tribally enrolled Native Americans who dream of a college education.
We wish our AIEF scholars and students everywhere the best and encourage all of you to keep working toward your goals. It only takes a dream, hard work, and determination like Josefina.
“Everyone who is successful must have dreamed of something.” — Maricopa Proverb
American Indian Education Foundation: http://www.aiefprograms.org
Photo Courtesy National Relief Charities (NRC) * All Rights Reserved.
This story was originally published in Whisper ‘n Thunder Magazine, Oct 1, 2013. It is republished here with permission. Download PDF >>