The University of Arizona (UArizona) College of Education's Native Student Outreach Access, and Resiliency (SOAR) is a nationally recognized, high impact multigenerational mentoring program and service-learning course. Grounded in Indigenous teachings and ways of knowing, our program and course centers the needs of Native students and provides engaging and effective programming for students, families, and educators at no cost.
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 UArizona, and Dr. Amanda Tachine, Assistant Professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. In addition to providing culturally responsive programming and services, Native SOAR strives to support and create educational pathways for students from middle school through doctoral education. Our goal is to create a pipeline of Indigenous graduates, scholars, educators, and practitioners. The program has been recognized nationally, including by First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher initiative and in 2022, Native SOAR was also awarded the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Community's "Outstanding Student Support Program Award."
Since 2014, 256 undergraduates have served as college mentors who represent over 50 majors. UArizona undergraduate college students enroll in the HED 397C: Native SOAR class in the fall and spring. They care about giving back to communities by serving as college mentors to Indigenous youth. 90% of college mentors identify from over 20 sovereign Native nations. College mentors are also mentored by graduate, professional, and community mentors.
Our mentors care about giving back to our communities. Since 2014, Native SOAR has:
- Dedicated nearly 7,000 hours’ worth of near-peer one-on-one direct mentoring to more than 6,900 kindergarten through 12th-grade students throughout the Southwest
- Served over 140 elementary, middle, and high schools primarily in Arizona
- IN-PERSON MENTORING: College mentors meet one-on-one or in small groups with Indigenous youth. Open to Indigenous middle and high school youth in Southern Arizona.
- VIRTUAL MENTORING: College mentors meet one-on-one or in small groups with Indigenous youth via Zoom. Native SOAR graduate students oversee the virtual meetings. Open to middle and high school students in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado.
- CAMPUS VISITS: In the fall and spring, one-day events are offered to Indigenous youth and their families at UArizona. Participants learn college information that helps them prepare for their future. Open to all grade levels.
- VIRTUAL CAMPS: We offer virtual camps designed to engage Indigenous kindergarten through 12th-grade students throughout the year. Camps are open to students in the Southwest.
- PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES: Native SOAR staff facilitates virtual and in-person Indigenous-focused educational workshops for Arizona educators and communities.
Felisia Tagaban Gaskin
Felisia is Diné (Navajo) of the Tódich'ii'nii (Bitter Water) and Tachii'nii (Red Running Into the Water) clans, she also is Tlingit and of the Wooshkeetaan (Shark) clan. Felisia is a doctoral student in the Center for the Study of Higher Education. In her former roles as a Native SOAR graduate assistant (2018-21) and as a Sunnyside CATS (Connecting for Access and Transition Success)coordinator (2021-22), Felisia worked directly with American Indian/Alaska Native high school students and their families to support their pathways into higher education. During her service, she found inspiration to pursue her research interests, which include studying the embedded (and often invisible) effects of colonization and assimilation in educational settings. Through her work and her future research, she plans to create solutions by disrupting harmful institutional practices and by problematizing the systems, structures and policies that offer little to no support for Indigenous students. As she continues to advocate for Native students and communities, she is honored to work alongside the Native SOAR team, campus partners, community leaders, and allies.
April (she/her/hers) is Diné and her family is from the Inscription House community. She is Latina born for the Tachii'nii (Red Running Into the Water Clan) and her naaliis are Tódich'ii'nii (Bitter Water Clan). April has spent the last five years serving Northeastern Arizona in her role as Interim Director of Early College Programs for Northland Pioneer College and is super excited to be a part of the Native SOAR program. April is also a doctoral student in the COE’s Center for the Study of Higher Education and studies spaces of higher education through a Native Womanism , TribaCrit, and quant data perspective.
Yá'át'ééh (“Hello” in the Navajo language). My name is Denice Tsinajinie and I come from the Navajo Nation. I grew up in Saint Michaels, Arizona and my clans are Tsi’naajinii (Black Streak Wood People), To’tsohnii (Big Water), Kinyaa’aanii (Towering House), and Ta’neeszahnii (Tangle Clan). I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Studies with a minor in Psychology from the University of Arizona.I am currently pursuing my Master’s in Higher Education at the University of Arizona. I am also a graduate assistant with Native SOAR!
Kierstyn is a member of the Navajo Nation with family originating from the Seba Dalkai and Tselani communities. She participated in the first cohort of Native SOAR in spring 2014 and served again in spring 2015. A year later, she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and Public Policy and a minor in American Indian Studies. From 2017 to 2022, Kierstyn served in the Tucson Unified
School District’s Native American Student Services Department, providing support and advocacy to Native American students and families in the K-12 setting. Influenced by her family’s educational advocacy in their communities and her work in TUSD, Kierstyn is now a first-year student in the Master’s Higher Education program and has come full circle by serving as oneof the graduate assistants for Native SOAR.
Haeden Nguyen is one of Native SOAR's Graduate Assistants, specifically in charge of Digital media and Marketing. They graduated with a Bachelor's in Business Management from Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. Currently, they are pursuing a Masters in Higher Education (also at UArizona) and is expecting to graduate in Spring 2024. Through this program, they want to represent and support marginalized students in their higher education journey, while continuously expanding their cultural knowledge and individual identity. They are grateful to be a part of the Native SOAR team this year and look forward to serving the students and the community.