An American Indian group is paving the way for students to feel welcomed and succeed at Salt Lake Community College.
Although the American Indian Student Leadership, or AISL, has continued its legacy of leadership and community since the 1980s, the club nearly went under a few years ago.
“Me and my brother were the only ones to show up to the AISL meeting, and the advisors said point-blank, ‘We need officers or this club is going to die,’” explained Joey Du Shane-Navanick, former AISL vice president.
Du Shane-Navanick and his twin brother, Joseph, felt the call to serve and began the work to revitalize the AISL organization.
“I’ve talked to Native American students here, and they said it’s kind of isolating in a way that you have your own unique culture and beliefs,” he said. “You don’t see that represented in the community and classroom, and it may feel lonely, like you have no community.”
According to the SLCC fact book, seven in 1,000 students are Native American and Alaska Native, making them the least represented group on campus.
“In the first and going into the second year, we went from zero members and no officers to four officers and 25 student members and went on to host events all over campus,” Du Shane-Navanick said.
The Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs has worked hand-in-hand to support AISL and promote their club and events, especially when recruiting members and coordinating club events. AISL events include Native American Heritage Month and the Adopt-a-Native-Elder Program. The group also advocates for issues about the importance and inclusion of the Native American land acknowledgements.
“It’s important for all students to get involved in some capacity so they can feel the sense of community along their educational journey and meet other students,” said Orville Cayaditto, member of the Navajo Nation and ODMA multicultural student success coordinator. “Because when students see a part of themselves on the college campus, they can start to feel more included.”
Cayaditto, who also serves as AISL co-advisor, said creating a welcoming environment for students on campus is crucial.
“College is hard enough on students and I want to ease the process as much as I can,” he said.
Sadie Tsosie, Diné elder and former AISL advisor, noted that “Native Americans do very well at SLCC,” but that “coming from the reservation setting to the big city can be a little bit intimidating.”
Getting involved with the group, she explained, offers students more opportunities see themselves in other students.
“AISL provides support to students to be successful at SLCC and to build and serve through leadership,” Tsosie said.
The meetings also provide a way to meet other students and be a part of a welcoming community.
“No matter how hard or dark it gets, reach out [to an AISL advisor],” emphasized Du Shane-Navanick. “You can’t make it alone, and you have to be a part of a community to be successful.”
Meetings are open to all, Du Shane-Navanick said. Visit the AISL club page for more information.