A Student’s Journey: Changing the Landscape of Higher Education and Workforce on the Tohono O'odham Nation

A Student’s Journey: Changing the Landscape of Higher Education and Workforce on the Tohono O'odham Nation

Friday, August 14, 2020

A Student’s Journey (ASJ) is an innovative educational program that aims to establish a clear path to help tribal college students transfer to the university. Daniel Sestiaga, Tohono O’odham Community College (TOCC), and Marti Lindsey, UArizona Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC) conceived the program in 2018 with the idea of fulfilling a gap of representation while pursuing a streamlined approach to institutionalizing their work.

Daniel thinks the work SWEHSC does at the UArizona College of Pharmacy, developing programs that increase students’ knowledge, skills, self-efficacy, workforce readiness, and career development, fits perfectly with TOCC’s goal: to increase the success of student transfer, empowerment, and incorporation into career development. Daniel and Marti made sure to incorporate O’odham Himdag and TOCC’s T-So:son (Core Values) into the program’s design, making it a unique experience for the students. 

During the first year, the project leaders recruited twenty students from TOCC who applied, were interviewed and accepted into the program. This first cohort attended seven spring workshops between February and June 2020 as part of a new course designed specifically for the program. The virtual course covered critical environmental health, toxicology, and social justice topics. It also incorporated life-skills styled workshops, guest speakers, guest lectures, and home-experiments developed by UArizona graduate students and postdocs from the colleges of Education, Nursing, Public Health, Natural Resources, and Engineering.

On July 31, the ASJ first cohort made final project presentations. The presentations addressed environmental and social justice topics in their community including solar energy, waste management, water and soil contamination, food accessibility and community gardens, immigration policies, border militarization, discrimination, racism, and domestic violence education.

Jamie Siquerios and Pachynne Ignacio are members of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Jamie is from Baboquivari District and from the community of South Komelic. Jamie recently returned to school pursuing a degree in Art & Life Science for Pre-Professional Nursing. Jamie also works for the Tohono O’odham Nation Police as a dispatcher.

“Since I am still getting used to being back in school, I hope to gain as much knowledge and experience as I can, before transferring to a university after completing my associate’s degree. I also hope this will ease any concerns I have that might discourage me from transferring to a university.” – Jamie Siqueiros

Pachynne Ignacio grew up in Sells and is from Sells District. Pachynne’s goal is to attain a degree in Natural Resources. She will be completing her degree in Fall 2020 and is currently undecided about transferring.

“I’ve grown to appreciate not only TOCC’s location but faculty and staff’s role in my educational journey. Being accepted into the A Student’s Journey program, I hope to become better prepared for what to expect when transferring to the college of my choice. As well as gain some experience in an internship.” – Pachynne Ignacio

Stefany Paredes is Hispanic and grew up in Nogales, Arizona. Her goal is to attain a degree in Early Childhood Education. This summer she will complete her degree and be transferred to the University of Arizona in the Fall 2020 Semester.

"I hope to gain comfort and confidence through the A Student’s Journey program. Comfort in getting to know the ways of the University of Arizona. I am so used to being in a small town and small communities that I get anxious about even being a UArizona student and feeling like it’s something that other people can do but not me. I hope to gain confidence in knowing who to talk to and where to go." – Stefany Paredes

A Student's Journey provides TOCC students with an educational experience that is culturally relevant and a workforce experience that directly serves the Tohono O’odham Nation. ASJ becomes a more engaging learning experience for the TOCC students that spark conversations among themselves, staff, and other community members.

Learn more about “A Student’s Journey” 

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