I was serving as president of the Native American Club at Fullerton College when a woman suggested, with a large, confident and reassuring smile, that CSULB was the place for me. That woman, a member of the Native American Alumni Association of CSULB, spoke so highly of the faculty, American Indian Studies program and American Indian Student Services that I was positive it was an exaggeration. My mind soon changed.
The first time I set foot on campus was during an annual CSULB Pow Wow. It was inspiring to see so many Native people gathered at a university, celebrating not only our cultures, but also encouraging our youth to pursue their education. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of CSULB and the American Indian Student Council.
Many of my accomplishments I owe not only to my family, who are a never ending source of love and support, but also to the CSULB faculty and staff. I met two of the most amazing and influential faculty members, Georgiana Sanchez and Craig Stone, in American Indian Studies courses during my first semester.
I remember when Craig Stone asked me, “Are you first generation?” I sat for a moment, wondering if he was asking if I was a first-generation immigrant or the first generation to live off the reservation. I guess he noticed the confused expression on my face when he asked, “Are you a first-generation college student?” Craig became my Partners for Success mentor and introduced me to the American Indian Student Council. He also introduced me to the coordinator for American Indian Student Services, Anna Nazarian-Peters. Craig and Anna’s friendship and guidance in educational, cultural and personal matters as well as Georgiana’s encouraging words helped me find my niche at CSULB.
Whenever I talk about Georgiana, I tell people, "It’s like taking a class with your grandma." Her warm smile and gentle demeanor have touched the lives of many students and I’m forever grateful to be one of them.
The greatest display of the relationships I’ve formed with these individuals takes place the second weekend of March at our annual pow wow. I now understand that the same event that first attracted me to CSULB was the result of the community formed on campus by people such as Craig, Anna, Georgiana, the American Indian Student Council and the rest of the American Indian Studies faculty.