Emily is a current student at College of the Redwood (CR), Crescent City campus. She started taking part-time classes when she was a sophomore in high school. Then, after graduating high school with honors she immediately became a full-time student at College of the Redwoods. She is currently in her 3rd year as a full time college student. She enjoys attending CR because she is able to live close to home to save money. It’s more affordable for her. She says that she also likes the small class sizes and really likes having more communication with her instructors and fellow peers unlike the large university setting.
Emily will be completing her Associate of Arts transfer degree in 2012 and would like to pursue a Bachelor in business, child psychology and/or Native Law studies. She says that these are her interests at this time and will make up her mind when the time comes. She does not want to limit herself, therefore leaving all her options open. She only needs a biology class to graduate, but, because of her work schedule she could not fit the biology class in for fall semester. She will be taking her elective classes until she can take the class this spring.
Emily lives on the Smith River Rancheria reservation with her parents Earl and Janelle Brown. She has an older sister and a younger brother. Her grandmother’s names are Phyllis Covey (Siletz) and Betty Brown (Yurok). She comes from the Richards and Criteser families of Howonquet. Emily states that she loves living in Smith River where she is close to all her family and extended family. “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else than where I do now. I am surrounded by my family, culture and ancestors.” She enjoys talking and being with her aunts and grandmother as well as cousins. She has had a rich cultural upbringing with lots of activities and encouragement from her family. She enjoys attending Tolowa dances and Rancheria events.
Emily says that she is highly motivated to get her higher education in that she wants to be a positive role model for her younger brother as well as her younger cousins. She also says that she believes the key to staying away from drugs and alcohol is to keep busy and attend school. Her father and mother both have college degrees and have always encouraged her to get her education. “Ever since I can remember my parents have always pushed a higher education so there was never a thought in my mind that I wasn’t going to continue an education after high school. But, my biggest inspiration was to just set a good example for the younger generations in the native community. Another form of inspiration for me was seeing all the drug and alcohol abuse around me, I didn’t want to fall into that category so I stayed busy.”
Some major road blocks that have got in her way are financial. She doesn’t qualify for Pell Grant or other financial programs because she is still a dependent on her parents income as per the federal guidelines for financial assistance. She has had to work full time as well as attend school as a full time student to pay her way through college. She says that it creates a lot of stress and strain on her in regards to budgeting and figuring out how to live which in return has an effect on her study time and grades. Although she holds a lot on her plate she still manages to carry an overall of 3.5 GPA.
Colleges generally offer clubs and groups as well as activities that all students can become a part of. Most college campus will have a Native American group or club that can offer support for Native students. Emily does not participate in any of the clubs at College of the Redwoods because there are none that she affiliates with. This is a downfall for small community colleges because it would be helpful to have an additional support group like a Native American Club. However, while in high school she participated in the Native American Club all four years and was the President for 3 out of the 4 years.
“Fresh out of high school I began work for the Tribal office as a receptionist. I worked there for over a year helping with Tribal events and became the publisher for the newsletter. I currently work at the Daily Triplicate where I have been working for about nine months. I work in the advertising department where I have the opportunity to use my skills in a variety of areas. I have learned much in such a small amount of time.”
Emily has this advice to Rancheria members who want to attend school: “My advice would be to stay focused. As a young woman, I often get discouraged with all the adult responsibilities and I have to remind myself of what’s important. There’s nothing more important than bettering yourself so you can help others. Stay focused and positive and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your support system.”
“My family has always participated in cultural activities and I thank them for that. There are many Tribal members out there that don’t participate, for one reason or another, in Tribal and cultural events the Tribal Cultural Department organizes for all the Tribal members. It’s important to know where you come from and participate because if we don’t those things will be lost. I enjoy playing shell dice games, listening to stories, hearing the regalia dance at Nee-dash and most importantly just being surrounded by Tolowa Dee-ni people.”
One of the things Emily is very proud of is that she has completed her first baby rattle in basket weaving class taught by Lena Herd and provided by the Smith River Rancheria Cultural Department. She has been working on it and finished it this past June. She said that her Cara made a gay-yu’ (baby basket) recently. Cara and Emily gave the gay-yu’ and rattle to their cousin Dionne Criteser because she just had a baby boy that they are so proud to welcome into the family. Emily added that her great-great-grandmother Alice Billie was a great basket weaver back in the day and she hopes that she has inherited Alice’s basket weaving skills. Along with basket weaving, during her spare time, she also enjoys scrap-booking, reading and making jewelry.
Emily has these words of wisdom regarding higher education: “Time goes by fast!” The beginning of your college career is the time to make decisions and mistakes so that in the future you will know what you want to be and do and then decide how you would like to pursue your plan and follow it.
Emily, through your willingness to share your story we can motivate and inspire others who are now or in the future thinking of attending college or any higher education institution. The Smith River Education Committee values the sharing of your experiences and important tribal citizens.
Submitted by Lenora Hall