Approximately 100 indigenous high school students from 22 different states flocked to New York University this month to take part in a weeklong college fair.
Hosted by College Horizons, a nonprofit organization that prepares Native American students for the rigors of applying to and attending college, the students took part in workshops and lectures—and, of course, experienced the Big Apple.
“I think all but eight flew in to [New York] and about 20 had never been on an airplane before,” said Executive Director Carmen Lopez, a citizen of the Navajo Nation. “And about 75 of them had never been to New York City.”
Lopez said the students range in age from 15 to 17 years old and each student is either American Indian, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian. This was the first time College Horizons hosted a college fair in New York City.
Universities in attendance included Harvard University, Norte Dame and even representatives of the American Indian Community House of New York City were on hand to answer questions about the city.
In order to be accepted into the College Horizons program, Native American students were asked to provide a myriad of documents.
“[The students] submit an application, a personal essay, a list of activities, teacher recommendation, counselor recommendation, official transcripts,” said Lopez. “They don’t know it at the time of application, but they’re learning what they’re potentially going to do for college [applications].”
The college fair was also an opportunity for the students to learn what to do when faced with issues of racism on their prospective campus.
“If some of our students are going to go to schools, predominately white schools, they need to get ready for what that feels like, especially if they’re coming from a community that’s mostly Native people,” said Lopez. “We want to start to plant a seed for the kids with things that could happen—those [students] that may have a brush with racism and ignorance—so it doesn’t hurt as much when they do experience it.”
Genesis Tuyuc, a Maya Kaqchikel and a student at NYU, volunteered to assist the kids and faculty during the college fair. When the fair concluded, she said the goodbyes were “bittersweet.”
“I am happy to have worked besides such strong-willed people,” she said. “Their influence is immeasurable.”