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47 c h a p t e r 4 Understanding Relationships in the College Process indigenous methodologies, reciprocity, and college horizons students Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation) Fourteen years ago, I was a student in a pre-­college access program called College Horizons (CH). I was a rising senior in college, ready to tackle the college application process, but unsure about where I would end up, or how my family would pay for it. At the program, a weeklong crash course in applying to college, I met a group of adults who would become my mentors, friends, and family throughout college, my life, and my career. It was at CH that I met the Native recruiter for Stanford, who read through the application materials I had worked so hard on throughout the week, offering kind feedback and strong encouragement. Once on campus, knowing that he was in the admission office offered a sense of connection , and seeing him at orientation events, knowing he knew my story and that my admission wasn’t a mistake, made all the difference. He introduced me to the staff of the Native American cultural center on campus, which became my home away from home, and the staff members became my aunties and uncles who always watched out for me. When I think back to this path and this story, the relationships are what truly stand out. The ways that the small interactions grew into meaningful, reciprocal , long-­ lasting friendships, mentorships, and support, and the ways that those relationships allowed me to push on and navigate the difficult and oftentimes contentious spaces of a Non-­Native College/University (NNCU) (Shotton, Lowe, & Waterman, 2013). It was these experiences as a student, and later faculty member, at College Horizons that led me to my research with alumni of the program. When I was 48 Adrienne Keene imagining,building,and planning my research with these alumni navigating their freshman year of college, I wanted to mirror these relationships, extend the foundations we had built together at CH, and complicate the relationship of “researcher” and “subject.” In this chapter, I will explore how relationships—­ to home, to campus, and to their nations—­ remain a central part of navigating the freshman year transition for Native students, while weaving in my own journey as a Native researcher coming to understand Indigenous research methods, researcher/“subject” relationships , and the implications for both as we seek to support and understand Native students in college. Background College Horizons is a pre-­ college access nonprofit founded in 1998 by Whitney Laughlin. The program is an eight-­ day residential program hosted at various college campuses throughout the United States, and serves approximately 100 students from American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities at each of the two to three sites per summer. The program curriculum mirrors the motto of the program, “College Pride, Native Pride,” offering concrete skills students will need to successfully apply and be admitted to colleges of their choice (“college pride”), but also unique identity-­ based programming that assists students in beginning to understand what it means not just to be a college student, but a Native college student (“Native pride”). The current director, Carmen Lopez, who is Navajo, centers Native cultures and identities throughout the program, with the schedule including opening prayers, resident elders, and constant reinforcement of the centrality and importance of Native beliefs and worldviews. Throughout the College Horizons curriculum, relationships are key (Keene, 2016). Students are divided into “small groups” of 10–­ 12 students, headed by 4–­ 6 faculty members. The faculty members for the program come from three groups: admission officers from CH “partner schools” (colleges and universities throughout the United States), college counselors from highly resourced private high schools, and counselors from Native community schools and organizations . The faculty members are assigned to mentees within the small groups, with whom they build strong and lasting relationships throughout the week and beyond the program. Part of de-­ mystifying the college application process for the students comes from breaking down barriers between admission officers and students—­ making the students realize that the faculty members are real people who can assist with their college application process, but will also be their allies and friends once they arrive on their college campus. This “letting your hair down” process is new for many admission officers, who are used to wearing a suit and standing behind tables at college fairs. Understanding Relationships in the College Process 49 This spirit comes through in interviews with...


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