Native SOAR was established in 2005 by Dr. Jenny Lee, Professor in the College of Education’s Center for the Study of Higher Education at The University of Arizona, and Dr. Amanda Tachine, Assistant Professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Since its inception, Native SOAR has provided culturally responsive student support services beginning in middle school all the way through doctoral education, creating a strong pipeline for AI/AN scholars, educators, and practitioners. The program has been recognized nationally, including by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative.
Native SOAR is a multigenerational mentoring program that centers the needs of AI/AN
students throughout the K-20 educational system. Native SOAR draws upon asset-based AI/AN
pedagogies to provide culturally responsive mentoring and support services. Since 2014, Native
SOAR has served:
- 6,500 K-12 students
- 15 K-12 schools across Pima county
- 189 undergraduate students representing 16 sovereign Native nations and 41 majors
Undergraduate students serve as mentors for K-12 students, providing them with culturally relevant college planning information. Simultaneously, undergraduate students are mentored by graduate students to ensure each participant is holistically supported. This multigenerational mentoring model is rooted in evidence-based best practices that create a strong familial environment for both mentors and mentees (HeavyRunner & DeCellas, 2002; Tachine, 2017), simultaneously promoting enrollment in higher education for K-12 students and retention for undergraduate students.
While widespread structural barriers have historically resulted in AI/AN students lagging
behind their peers in high school graduation rates, college persistence rates, and college graduation rates, Native SOAR participants have consistently outpaced their non-participant peers in first-to-second year retention and six-year graduation rates.
Native SOAR is a premier program with a proven track record of closing the educational achievement gap for AI/AN students.
Amanda Cheromiah (Laguna Pueblo)
Native SOAR Director
Amanda Cheromiah is a Ph.D. student in Higher Education at the University of Arizona. She has served as Native SOAR's instructor for nearly four years and was recently appointed Director in Spring semester 2018. When she was an undergraduate, she also served as a mentor for 2 years. Amanda integrates digital storytelling, photography and creative teaching techniques to engage and empower students on all levels of the educational pipeline. Amanda's intended dissertation research will focus on using digital storytelling as a cutting edge method to describe the experience of Native American students who attend large, public institutions across the United States.
Felisia Tagaban (Diné, Tlingit, Filipino)
Native SOAR Graduate Assistant
As a Native Wildcat, who recently returned to UArizona for graduate school, Felisia has enjoyed the privilege of being part of the College of Education's M.A. in Higher Education program. For the past two years, she had the honor of serving as a Graduate Assistant for Native SOAR. The program and its mission aligned with her desire to increase the enrollment and success of American Indian/Alaska Native college students at UArizona. It also provided a "home away from home" experience for her and the Indigenous UArizona community. She looks forward to working with Native SOAR as she continues as a doctoral student in the Center for the Study of Higher Education.
Myrhea Sherman (Diné)
Native SOAR Graduate Assistant
First-generation graduate student from Tonalea, Arizona, studying at UArizona to potentially give back to her community by helping middle/high school students on the reservation pursue higher education to increase Indigenous student retention rates. Currently, Myrhea is gaining guidance from two indigenous scholars, Amanda Cheromiah (Ph.D candidate in the higher education program at UArizona/Native SOAR mentoring program director/VOICE member) and Felisia Tagaban (Higher Education Master’s Program at UArizona/ Native SOAR Graduate Assistant/VOICE member) to help her better serve the tribal communities. Myrhea is thankful for the guidance from her two mentors and the College of Education faculty/administrators.