UC cam­pus reaches out to Na­tive Amer­i­cans

New pro­grams at San Diego aim to pro­mote col­lege cul­ture among stu­dents from tribes in the re­gion.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Mau­reen Magee mau­reen.magee@ut­sandiego.com

SAN DIEGO — UC San Diego has stepped up ef­forts to pro­mote col­lege cul­ture among Na­tive Amer­i­cans un­der a new part­ner­ship with the Sy­cuan and Vie­jas tribes as the univer­sity seeks to boost en­roll­ment in un­der­rep­re­sented com­mu­ni­ties.

Launched this year, UCSD Ex­ten­sion’s Global En­vi­ron­men­tal Lead­er­ship and Sus­tain­abil­ity Pro­gram will give mid­dle and high school stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend sum­mer col­lege- prep cour­ses at UC San Diego and at univer­si­ties in Ari­zona, New Mexico, Hawaii and Washington, D. C.

Jen­nifer Medeiros of the Sy­cuan Teen Cen­ter said the ini­tia­tive will strengthen the on­go­ing work of both tribes to de­mys­tify col­lege for Na­tive Amer­i­can youth.

“We are try­ing to in­crease the ex­po­sure that Na­tive Amer­i­can stu­dents have to dif­fer­ent col­lege ex­pe­ri­ences so that they can re­ally see them­selves in col­lege,” Medeiros said. “Col­lege should not be a com­pletely for­eign ex­pe­ri­ence for them.”

Na­tive Amer­i­cans make up about 1.3% of the pop­u­la­tion in San Diego County and 1.7% in Cal­i­for­nia. They ac­counted for 0.4%, or 109 stu­dents, of the UC San Diego un­der­grad­u­ate pop­u­la­tion last fall, a slight in­crease from 92 stu­dents in 2009.

High school stu­dents from Vie­jas and Sy­cuan have been pre­par­ing since Fe­bru­ary for week­long cour­ses at Bio­sphere 2 in Or­a­cle, Ariz., as well as in Los Alamos, N. M.; Hilo and Kona, Hawaii; and Washington, D. C. Stu­dents will also par­tic­i­pate in Aca­demic Con­nec­tions, a three- week residential pro­gram at UC San Diego.

Rayanna San­doval, an in­com­ing se­nior at Steel Canyon High School and a res­i­dent of the Sy­cuan reser­va­tion, will study in Hawaii this sum­mer.

“My par­ents and grand­par­ents weren’t given the op­por­tu­ni­ties that I have been given,” said Rayanna, 17. “I do feel the pres­sure to sat­isfy their hopes and dreams that they have for me. I hope the ex­pe­ri­ence puts me one step ahead of ev­ery­one else — Na­tive Amer­i­can and non- Na­tive Amer­i­can kids. I’m plan­ning on go­ing to a univer­sity af­ter high school. That’s a big deal for my fam­ily. I want to ap­ply what I learn to bet­ter my reser­va­tion — whether it’s in a med­i­cal fa­cil­ity or the casino.”

Sev­eral cour­ses in the pro­gram in­cor­po­rate the in­creas­ingly rel­e­vant STEAM sub­jects — science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, arts and math — most of which are in­grained in the history of Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­ture.

For ex­am­ple, the Vie­jas and Sy­cuan stu­dents who visit Ari­zona this sum­mer will study the ef­fects of cli­mate change through hands- on learn­ing and ex­per­i­ments in the Bio­sphere 2 pro­gram.

“Sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture, tak­ing care of the earth, as­tron­omy — these are all tied to the Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­ture,” Medeiros said. “This is also kind of about de­bunk­ing the myth of the sav­age.”

The pro­gram is a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Sy­cuan Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment and the Vie­jas Tribal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter.

Go­ing for­ward, all high school stu­dents from the tribes will have the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend one of the sum­mer pro­grams depend­ing on their grade level. UC San Diego Ex­ten­sion will also of­fer prepa­ra­tion classes for the SAT and ACT col­lege en­trance ex­ams.

A sep­a­rate sum­mer pro­gram af­fil­i­ated with UCSD — Young Na­tive Scholars — has sim­i­lar goals. But in ad­di­tion to an aca­demic fo­cus, stu­dents are im­mersed in their cul­tural her­itage along with par­tak­ing in ac­tiv­i­ties like surf­ing, kayak­ing and study­ing the stars.

Marc Chavez, a UCSD alum­nus who founded the Young Scholars pro­gram, noted that “the cam­pus sits on an­ces­tral lands, on an old Kumeyaay vil­lage; the lo­ca­tion is very im­por­tant to us be­cause it is a kind of com­ing back to the coast.”

The new pro­gram that in­volves the Sy­cuan and Vie­jas tribes is part of UC San Diego’s larger goal of reach­ing out to com­mu­ni­ties in an ef- fort for the cam­pus to bet­ter ref lect San Diego, ac­cord­ing to Ed Abeyta, as­sis­tant dean for com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and di­rec­tor of pre- col­le­giate and ca­reer prepa­ra­tions for UC San Diego Ex­ten­sion.

Lati­nos and African Amer­i­cans are un­der­rep­re­sented in the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion com­pared with the county pop­u­la­tion, and whites are also a smaller per­cent­age of UCSD stu­dents than in the county. Asians are a much higher per­cent­age at UCSD com­pared with the county.

“UCSD Ex­ten­sion has a mis­sion to con­nect the cam­pus to the com­mu­nity,” Abeyta said. “We want to en­gage ev­ery un­der­served com­mu­nity in the re­gion to strengthen UC San Diego and the com­mu­nity.”

Brenda Mon­tero, ed­u­ca­tion man­ager at the Vie­jas Tribal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter, said forg­ing a col­lege cul­ture among Na­tive Amer­i­can stu­dents is com­pli­cated. Na­tive Amer­i­can youth have of­ten been inf lu­enced by their rel­a­tives who had neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences in the Amer­i­can In­dian board­ing schools they were forced to at­tend, she said.

“There is still some neg­a­tiv­ity about ed­u­ca­tion,” Mon­tero said. “Some of our grand­par­ents have been in the board­ing schools and had hor­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Be­gin­ning in 1860, Na­tive Amer­i­can chil­dren were forced to at­tend board­ing and day schools off their reser­va­tions. The schools were known for harsh dis­ci­pline and strict rules that pro­moted Western cul­ture over Na­tive Amer­i­can tra­di­tions. The In­dian Child Wel­fare Act, passed in 1978, al­lowed Na­tive Amer­i­can par­ents to re­ject the schools.

The Vie­jas Tribal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter serves 130 stu­dents from kinder­garten to 12th grade, and the Sy­cuan Tribal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter Serves 75 stu­dents in those same grades.

‘ We are try­ing to in­crease the ex­po­sure that Na­tive Amer­i­can stu­dents have to dif­fer­ent col­lege ex­pe­ri­ences so that they can re­ally see them­selves in col­lege.’ — Jen­nifer Medeiros,

of the Sy­cuan Teen Cen­ter

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