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NAYA Nurtures Native Youth: Early College Academy

Posted by Sagarika Ravishankar

Even though SVP’s focus is on Readiness for Kindergarten, we can’t help but put our hands together when one of our investees showcases their amazing work. Last week we attended NAYA’s Eighth Annual Early College Academy Luncheon to celebrate the student’s accomplishments over the past year.

In particular, we’d like to congratulate NAYA on their visionary program that offers a blended high school and postsecondary curriculum, small class sizes and individualized educational options for each student. The academic programming integrates Native culture, family and community outreach, and partnerships with postsecondary institutions. Native American students in Portland have the lowest graduation rates, resting at 35%. In contrast, NAYA students achieved  a 72% graduation rate in 2016.

Student Perspectives

The most impactful moments at the luncheon were when the students told their stories and spoke their truths. We heard from Paulina Eckley Gutierrez (Inupiaq), who is set to graduate early due to her journey with NAYA. She’s lived a turbulent lifeand NAYA has been there for her, helping to stabilize her life and support her ambition.

“One of the first things I learned as a student at NAYA is that we honor diversity, and we give honor where honor is due..our education in the Early College Academy is diverse. It is not just about what the United States government wants us to learn. We are hands on; here we learn in a culturally relevant way. We as a people are relational. Historically, we learned through interdependence versus the individualism that is expressed in public school classrooms.”

Paulina expressed  that her connection to NAYA went beyond educationNAYA has touched her life as a place of education, but also as a place of community, caring, trust and respect. With no dry eye in the audience, she said, “I feel included here, I feel welcome here, and I feel like a priority here at NAYA.”

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