A phrase that I believe has some genuine validity is that oftentimes you don’t appreciate things as much as you should until you no longer have them or have lived without them. I think that is the situation with education in this nation, as it becomes more and more customary for people to attend college. In a lot of places in this country, school is taken hugely for granted. I know I am victim to this. I complain about school all the time! Not because I don’t enjoy it, but sometimes you lose sight of the reasoning for putting yourself through so much strain and hard work if you don’t have a clearly defined path on which you’re traveling. I have no idea what I want to do after I get out of school (except for become a rockstar with a van) which can make the competitive nature of school sometimes really difficult to endure. It can sometimes feel, especially in the past, that school is more of an obligation than it is a privilege. There are a number of ideas I have as to why this may be, but it is somewhat in contrast to the sentiments I heard at Tohono O’Odham Community College.
The Tohono O’Odham Nation holds the Community College near and dear as a source of pride as it should be. It’s amazing how successful the school has been so far and it sounds like they are offering some incredible resources to the community members that weren’t there in the past. They have talented people on the board, have a library that is continuing to grow, teach language classes, forage for traditional foods, provide a hot meal every single day, have dormitories, and this is all in addition to standard classes. It is so exciting to hear that many people go on to further education after their time at the community college, but also encouraging to hear that people of all ages come to receive an education because this quality of education was not something they were able to receive in the past. A college on the Tohono O’Odham Nation is something that the nation has not had before and everybody is therefore so appreciative and grateful to have the opportunity to be able to study at such a place.
In my experience, education has simply been the norm. High school is obviously high school, and if you are lucky enough, college just inherently seems like the next step in our lives now because it is hard to make your way into many professions without a college degree in this day. I never thought about applying to college. I never consciously asked myself whether it was the right idea to go to college immediately after high school. It was exciting applying to schools, but it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world because it was just the normal process of education, at least it seemed. Now, with the help of our time on the reservation as well as my experiences in Ghana, I can have a much better appreciation of the resources I have access to. People at the Tohono O’Odham Community College are extremely grateful for their resources, even though their library sometimes doesn’t even have internet access. That is something we all take immensely for granted. To be able to get an education at a place like Washington and Lee is a once in a lifetime opportunity and should not be overshadowed just because it is commonplace in our society nowadays.
I think education is extremely important, but I also think the passion a student brings to the table is equally as important. I have no doubt that many of the people who go to Tohono O’Odham Community College are coming out successful and excited to move into a career or further education. It is an opportunity that they had not had up until a few decades ago, and I’m glad to see that it holds such a good place in the community and is well respected for the opportunities it brings.