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JSF Indigenous Student Excellence Scholars excel and give back at Toronto Metropolitan University: Part 2

The following article was submitted by Toronto Metropolitan University. It is shared here with permission.

JSF Indigenous scholar and student-athlete spends summer mentoring students back home

Following closely in the footsteps of Johnson Scholar Cody Anthony is Saije Catcheway, who has recently completed her second year of a Bachelor of Commerce, studying Business Management and Law.

Catcheway cites coming to Toronto to study and join the Varsity Women’s Hockey team as a “dream come true.”

She too is a recipient of the JSF Scholarship, which Catcheway says reinforced her belief in herself. “This gracious gift showed that my hard work is paying off and relieved a weight from my shoulders,” she says. “I’m grateful for being able to continue my education while knowing that I’m able to pay my living expenses and my transportation home.”

Catcheway is Ojibwe-Cree and returns home for four months in the summer break to Skownan First Nation in Manitoba to mentor students from Grade 3 to Grade 7 through speaking engagements and athletics. Her mentorship initiative is funded by the Ted Rogers Student’s Society Leadership Award.

Education on the reservation only goes to Grade 10, but – thanks to a scholarship – Catcheway, who was born and raised in nearby Winnipeg, had the opportunity to attend and graduate with honors from an all-girls private school. Soon after, she attended college in the U.S., but the high tuition and cost of living led her to leave. She thought her dreams to pursue post- secondary education and play college-level hockey may have ended, until she was accepted to study business at TMU, which she says was always her number-one choice.

She emphasizes that “in the TMU culture, athletics are at a very high standard, but as a student athlete, ‘student’ comes first, academics come first.” Balancing both academic and athletics has helped her hone her time management skills to balance school with practice, training and traveling for hockey games. In the process, she has also been awarded the Ontario University Athletics Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award in 2023.

She feels she’s at TMU “for a reason” and wants to continue to be a role model for her First Nation community and culture, who along with her family have been supportive of her goals.

This summer, she hopes to also mentor the high school students and consult with the Skownan chief, counsel and teachers about expanding opportunities, perhaps online, for learners past Grade 10.

“I want to inspire these kids to further their education. I want to be a role model to promote inclusivity, change and opportunity, especially for Indigenous women in the workplace,” Catcheway says. “I can’t stress enough that you’ve got to love what you’re studying and be passionate about your goals in school in order to do well and to have fun.” She hopes to pursue a law degree after graduation.

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation continues to make higher education accessible for three additional Indigenous students who are studying Professional Music, Midwifery and Sociology at TMU and who are passionate about making a positive impact in their communities.

JSF Indigenous Student Excellence Scholars excel and give back at Toronto Metropolitan University: Part 1

The following article was submitted by Toronto Metropolitan University. It is shared here with permission.

Cody Anthony is the first JSF Scholar to graduate from Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) in Canada. He is one of five Indigenous students at TMU whose academic and career dreams have become tangible and achievable thanks to support from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

“I’m so grateful for the Johnson Scholarship Foundation award. It gave me peace of mind, so instead of worrying about meeting basic life necessities, I got to focus my attention on Indigenous initiatives and community impact,” he says. “It has prepared me for a lifetime of community work, which is exciting.”

Anthony identifies as a mixed urban Indigenous person, whose father is Dene with roots from the Deh Gah Got’ie Kue First Nation in the Northwest Territories. In May 2023, he graduated from TMU’s Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) with a Bachelor of Commerce with Honours in Business Management with an interest in Pre-Colonial Indigenous Entrepreneurship and Modern Economic Reconciliation.

“A lot of people don’t know the history of business or commerce between First Nations groups before colonization in what we now call Canada. I had the opportunity to work with the Indigenous Advisor at TRSM, Michael Mihalicz, to help develop an e-learning module called ‘Indigenous Entrepreneurship: A community-driven approach to new venture creation,’” says Anthony.

For this project, he gathered archaeological transcripts and evidence of trade amongst First Nations before 1941. “We did business differently, which was really cool. Gift giving was important, as was equity amongst relationships and partnerships. And leadership meant caring for one another.”

Mihalicz, who in addition to being the Indigenous Advisor in the Office of the Dean, is also an Assistant Professor, Entrepreneurship and Strategy Department in TRSM, says:

“Cody moves fast and efficiently, and I was really impressed.” He adds, “He has some incredible ideas and is committed to creating space for Indigenous Knowledges to exist within TRSM. Cody is also committed to bridging the cultural divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples at TMU through community-building activities that bring everyone together in a way that maintains the integrity of our identities and voices. One really big initiative that he founded was the inaugural Reconciliation in Business conference in 2022.”

The conference was spearheaded by the Ted Rogers Indigenous in Business student group, which Anthony also founded. His vision for the conference included uniting Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Toronto to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call-to-Action 92 by accelerating the fight for Indigenous economic sovereignty and self-determination and against the economic injustices Indigenous communities face, by closing the socioeconomic gap, and by unlocking the emerging C$100-billion annual Indigenous economy.

Mentorship at the heart of the JSF Indigenous scholar experience

Anthony credits mentorship opportunities as being key to his success at TMU.

“I’ve had a lot of amazing people support me in the journey. I could always depend on Michael Mihalicz,” he says.

Mihalicz first met Anthony through the Indigenous Student Welcoming Committee, where TRSM advisors reach out to welcome all incoming Indigenous students.

Mihalicz introduced Anthony to Sana Mulji, Senior Advisor for External stakeholder Engagement and Strategic Partnerships with Indigenous Initiatives. Mulji recruited Anthony to join the Indigenous Initiatives team, which works to integrate Indigenous art, curriculum, Knowledges and worldviews at TRSM, and she was key in helping Anthony run Reconciliation in Business 2022.

“Sana was imperative to my whole student experience, and she has helped my personal development so much,” says Anthony.

He also credits fellow student Hadia Siddiqui, Vice President of Speaker Relations of TEDxTorontoMetU, for her mentorship and guidance in producing his February 2023 Tedx Talk, titled “The Future is Indigenous,” which connects his personal experiences with the history of entrepreneurship and trends towards prosperity for Indigenous groups. The talk is scheduled to be released in Spring 2023.

“Hadia is an incredible student and helped me craft the perfect Ted talk,” he says, adding that there are others who served as invaluable peer mentors throughout his academic journey.

“I had the opportunity every single day to go out there and meet new people and be part of different projects, and have a huge network of incredible people that are going to support me down the line,” he says. “I wouldn’t have been able to get that without the scholarship.”

Now that he’s graduating, Anthony jokes that the first thing he is looking forward to is sleeping in during the summer. After that, he’s planning a career in advocacy, Indigenous entrepreneurship, economic development and, eventually, politics. “I’m really interested in supporting Indigenous youth and speaking up for the voiceless.” His advice for Indigenous students who follow in his footsteps: “Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to bring your Indigeneity to Toronto Metropolitan University.”

Native Forward Scholars Fund Leader Angelique Albert Joins 
Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s Board of Directors

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation (JSF) is pleased to announce that Angelique Albert of Native Forward Scholars Fund has joined the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Albert (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes) has dedicated her career to serving Tribal communities. As Native Forward’s chief executive officer, she leads the nation’s largest scholarship provider to Native students, which has distributed more than $350 million in scholarships to students representing over 500 Tribes across all 50 states.

“The Johnson Scholarship Foundation has a strong legacy of partnering with organizations across North America to enable students to pursue greater educational and career opportunities,” said Robert A. Krause, the Foundation’s CEO. “Angelique Albert brings over 25 years of experience as a leader in nonprofit, philanthropic, business and government industries. The Foundation will look to her for insights on how to better serve our program areas, including Indigenous communities.”

Albert is a 2014 graduate of Gonzaga University’s Master of Business Administration in American Indian Entrepreneurship (MBA-AIE) program, which was created in 2001 in partnership with the Foundation. The program was designed to meet the unique needs of Indigenous students living on reservations and spark economic growth.

I am beyond thrilled to join the Johnson Scholarship Foundation Board of Directors,” Albert said. Investing in society by creating opportunities for access to quality education and fulfilling careers is a true passion of mine. I am excited to join this wonderful organization and help create brighter futures for people from all walks of life.”

Alberts career began by serving her own Tribe as a legal intern, a court-appointed special advocate, and a chief juvenile probation officer. Before working at Native Forward, she was the executive director of the Salish Kootenai College Foundation and associate director of American Indigenous Business Leaders.

Philanthropic roles include serving as lead Native American program officer for the Beaumont Foundation of America and external grant reviewer for the Case Foundation. She is a member of the Obama Foundations My Brothers Keeper Alliance Advisory Council. She is also an executive officer of the Southwest Association of American Indian Arts board of directors and an advisory member of Gonzagas MBA-AIE program.

For more information about the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, visit jsf.bz. For more information about Native Forward Scholars Fund, visit nativeforward.org.

Two Pathways Mashteuiatsh projects forging new links

The following article first appeared on Pathways to Education Canada’s website. It is shared here with permission.

To give students a sense of belonging, Caroline Lambert, director of Pathways Mashteuiatsh, often adapts programming to fit the needs of youth within the local community. For example, Pathways Mashteuiatsh offers a series of workshops focused on activities such as crafting healing dolls and making traditional regalia. 

Residential school survivors participated in the healing dolls activity when it was first organized by Pathways Mashteuiatsh’s program partner, Puakuteu. During these workshops, Elders were given the opportunity to craft a doll. The creative process allowed survivors to talk about their experiences in the residential school system and the emotions it brought up. Caroline was so moved by the intersection of creative work and personal expression that she decided to include this activity as part of Pathways Mashteuiatsh’s programming.  

“Working with the Elders made us realize that the impact of the residential schools continued from generation to generation. It is still affecting young people seven generations later, just like the philosophical principle of the seven future generations. That’s why we decided to incorporate this activity in Pathways Mashteuiatsh’s programming,” Caroline explains. “We work with a kukum (grandmother) and a trained facilitator. They help address many topics by working with the dolls and it opens up conversations about young people’s well-being and their feelings.” 

Pathways Mashteuiatsh integrated a second activity, initially organized by program partner Puakuteu, into its programming: Traditional Teachings and Regalia. This activity focuses on the making of regalia, the traditional clothing and sacred accessories worn during powwows. Women and Elders from the Mashteuiatsh community wanted to pass on their knowledge to future generations, and Caroline saw an opportunity to offer a new activity to youth in the Pathways Program. “Through making the traditional dress, youth learn more about their culture and the history behind it,” Caroline shares. “And from a mentoring point of view, it’s a chance to work on skills like patience and attention to detail.” 

Both projects were met with great success. The healing dolls made by Pathways students are at the center of the Ilnikueu/Healing Dolls exhibit at the Mashteuiatsh Amerindian Museum. Caroline is pleased with the transformative impact the project had on students’ well-being. “Students said they cried and laughed, experienced a lot of emotions, and ultimately grew through this activity,” Caroline recounts. “It’s not easy to talk about feelings, but this project made it possible.” 

The regalia activity concluded when the first cohort of participants wore their regalia at the Grand Entrance of a powwow. It was a moment of shared pride that Caroline and Pathways Mashteuiatsh students will never forget. “The Grand Entry is like a red carpet,” Caroline explains. “The graduates were so proud; it was so beautiful to see. Everyone was watching. It created a buzz, and the other kids said to us, ‘Let’s go, I’m going to dress up next year, I’m going to get involved in the powwows.’” 

Every day, projects like these remind us of the power of working with partner community organizations across Canada to deliver the Pathways Program. Pathways Mashteuiatsh has operated in this community through partnership with Puakuteu, Women’s Committee of Mashteuiatsh since 2013. We are grateful for our partners’ support in helping more young people graduate from high school. 


For more information about Pathways to Education Canada, visit pathwaystoeducation.ca.

 

Field Tested: A groundbreaking field camp opens Earth sciences to students with disabilities

The following article was written by Alisson Clark and first appeared in the University of Florida’s Explore Magazine on November 17, 2022. It is shared here with permission.

The drone wouldn’t fly. The wheelchair-accessible van spun its tires, digging into the dusty gravel. And the men with shotguns refused to leave.

Standing under the baking Arizona sun, Anita Marshall took a breath. Over the past week, she had overcome international travel disasters, technology struggles, wildfires, even interference from a pair of nesting eagles, to provide hands-on experience for aspiring scientists whose disabilities excluded them from traditional field courses. Now her students had assembled on the edge of a 400-foot crater outside Flagstaff, eager for what some had been told they’d never have.

Conferring with her team of instructors, Marshall, a University of Florida geologist, reboots the drone. A delegation convinces the men using the site for target practice to move to a different area. The marooned van will have to wait, because the 18 students — some here in the desert, some joining remotely — are keen to do some science.

“They need this. If they don’t have experiences like this, we’ll lose some amazing minds out of our field,” Marshall says. “I don’t want that to happen.”

Anita Marshall is a UF geology professor who teaches disability-inclusive field courses. She is standing in the Northern Arizona desert and wearing a blue windbreaker and khaki pants.

“These are the students that are being pushed out of our discipline,” says UF geologist Anita Marshall, pictured at a site in Arizona where she offers inclusive, accessible fieldwork opportunities for disabled students.

If you care about clean water, climate change, energy, sustainable agriculture or other areas that rely on earth scientists, neither should you, Marshall argues. But earth science degrees often require a physically taxing, six-week camping trip far from medical care and even electricity. It’s a deal breaker, not only for those with mobility limitations, but also chronic fatigue, digestive issues, even severe food allergies — not to mention family or work responsibilities that prevent them from disappearing into the wilderness for half the summer.

With a $440,149 grant from the National Science Foundation, she launched GeoSPACE, an accessible field camp that’s opening geosciences — the least diverse STEM field — to people who might not fit the mold of the mountain-scaling explorer conquering the wilderness.

That’s the very image that drew Marshall to the field, until a near-fatal accident changed her trajectory.

Now she wants to reimagine field camp from the ground up.

“I don’t want field camp to be a barrier,” she says. “I want it to be a springboard.”

People Before Rocks

The drone is finally cooperating.

“Fly my pretty, fly!” Marshall says, handing the controls to Francesca Butler, a geology student from the United Kingdom. Because Butler uses a wheelchair, she’s been excluded from fieldwork at her university. Butler says GeoSPACE’s summer 2022 pilot program has allowed her to feel “like a real geologist.”

“I was almost in tears when I was able to get out in the field for the first time,” she says. “I think this is going to be the blueprint for the future.”

After exploring the trails leading around and through the crater, Butler is getting a bird’s-eye view of an outcrop rippled with striations of red, brown and black that reveal the desert’s volcanic past. Drones are one way Marshall brings the rocks to students. She also leverages satellite imagery, live high-definition video and the messaging platform Discord to put students in the middle of the action, whether they’re exploring the outcrop, working from a high-tech base camp beneath a pop-up awning, or joining remotely from home. After a half day at the site, they’ll return to a La Quinta in Flagstaff to review their data, learn about high-precision GPS mapping, and eat a home-cooked meal that accommodates all participants’ dietary needs.

It’s the opposite of a typical field camp, where forgoing comfort — and technology — is as much a part of the experience as the science.

But as Marshall is fond of saying, the rocks don’t care if you slept in a hotel.

“Chug your water, guys, that was a lot of dry air,” Marshall says from the driver’s seat on the way back from the field site.

The 15-passenger van rattles down a washboard road, every rut reverberating in bone-jarring judders. Pebbles ping the undercarriage like popcorn in a pan. Getting out of the classroom and into wild places like this is a cornerstone of field camp, and where research shows many students start to feel like real scientists. But for students with disabilities, who represent about 20% of the undergraduate population nationwide, it can also be an enormous source of stress. If they can’t get the accommodations they need to participate, they may have to change majors. That can lead students with less-visible disabilities to hide them, putting themselves in danger — a pattern Marshall knows well from her own experience. With this trip, she’s setting out to prove that the rigor and the joy of field camp can come in an accessible package.

It took a year of planning and scouting to organize locations and logistics. Each site needs passable roads, wheelchair-friendly surfaces, strong cell service for streaming video, and proximity to accessible hotel rooms and bathrooms. If a site doesn’t offer a meaningful field experience for everyone on the trip, it doesn’t make the cut.

UF student Francesca Butler operates a drone in the Arizona desert. She is wearing a light blue tank top and is using a wheelchair. Pictured next to her is Anita Marshall, a UF geologist who is wearing a blue windbreaker.

In her years of advocating for inclusion, “a lot of times you feel like you’re hitting your head against a brick wall,” says Marshall, pictured with student Francesca Butler. “This is the first time I felt like we actually put a crack in that wall.”

They also try not to spend more than half a day out in the elements, as their enthusiasm can tempt them to push beyond their limits — another pattern Marshall knows well. Throughout undergraduate and most of grad school, she relished the physicality of her fieldwork-heavy earth science program.

Then, on the night of her department’s awards banquet at the University of Arkansas, a drunk driver hit her as she was unloading her pickup truck. She nearly died at the scene and again at the hospital. When she regained consciousness, her left leg was crushed. So, she thought, were her dreams of becoming a field geologist.

“One of my very first thoughts when I woke up in the hospital was that my geology career was over,” she says. “I had never heard of a geologist with a disability. I didn’t see any path forward.”

A year of reconstructive surgeries followed. Her father quit his job and moved closer to campus to help. He and her sister became her field assistants, gathering data from places Marshall couldn’t access. When insurance hurdles delayed getting a wheelchair, her grandfather offered his.

“He would get himself all comfy in his recliner and I would leave for school in his wheelchair, do my classes, and then come back and give him his wheelchair back. We knew the clock was ticking to finish my master’s work. It was a big family push to get me through my degree.”

A member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Marshall sees that community approach as central to her work in inclusion.

“Individualism is really foreign to a lot of Indigenous viewpoints, and Choctaws are no different in that. You’re always looking out for the needs of your family and your group. That very much influences my philosophy on field courses,” she says. “Rocks are cool. People are better. Take care of your people, and the rest will come.”

After graduating, Marshall learned to walk again. She got a job teaching geology at a community college. She loved it, but the repetition was very different from the far-flung places and extreme environments she had imagined. For seven years, the same introductory geology class, the same National Geographic video about volcanoes. Then one semester, something about that video jumped out at her. One of the scientists, severely injured in an eruption, had resumed his research after a long recovery.

“He’s doing it,” she recalls thinking. “Maybe I can do it!”

She started applying to Ph.D. programs, got accepted, and a year later was headed back out in the field.

Things did not go smoothly.

A group of geoscience students take measurements in the Arizona desert.

At GeoSPACE, Marshall (second from left) ensures each student can meaningfully participate without having to mask their disabilities.

The Trouble with Field Camp 

On the rim of a volcano in Nicaragua, the doctoral students gathered for a lecture about the geological features around them — all but Marshall, left straining to hear from the other side of the crater. She had gone as far as her reconstructed leg and chronic fatigue allowed, farther, really, pushing beyond the point of safety, not wanting to be left behind. As the students walked past her on their way back, one rolled his eyes.

“I don’t know why she even bothers,” she heard him say.

She felt alone. But when she examined her situation like a scientist, she realized she couldn’t be. In student surveys, 22% of high schoolers with disabilities say they’re interested in STEM careers. By the time they’re in undergrad, just 10% are still pursuing STEM jobs. Among master’s students, it dwindles to 6%. Marshall clearly wasn’t the only one getting the message she didn’t belong.

“The more I dug, the more I realized how little was being done and how this was a massive unspoken problem.”

Marshall knew she’d never regain the physical aptitude of able students. But with her new perspective, she started to wonder if the grueling physicality wasn’t central to the work, but merely the culture. Field camps have been slow to evolve, says Ellen Martin, UF’s geology department chair. As geosciences went high tech, field camp at many universities retained an emphasis on hand-drawn maps and physical prowess.

“There are instructors who try to make it as physically demanding as possible,” Martin says. “If that’s not the part of geology you’re going into, that’s not relevant at all.”

As a field geologist, Martin sees value in traditional field camps, but also recognizes that “we don’t all have to be men in flannel shirts with beards and rock hammers running around in the woods. Finding a way to have a more diverse field camp gives options for people who are interested in other aspects of the science.”

Although not all geoscience careers require fieldwork, many geoscience degrees do — as do employers, who may look for field experience because of the pivotal role it plays in building students’ skills, confidence and networks.

The answer, Marshall realized, wasn’t to do away with field camp, but to recenter it on skills students actually need. Without that, talented young scientists would continue to leave the field.

“It makes me die a little inside when I meet these amazing students and realize that they are being shut out of our discipline,” she says. “They’re innovative. They’re creative. They’re resourceful. We’re actively pushing them out, and that just kills me.”

The National Science Foundation agreed, funding two years of GeoSPACE as part of its mission to reach those excluded when science careers aren’t accessible or inclusive. NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan calls them “the missing millions.”

“We are leaving tons of our talent behind,” Panchanathan said at a visit to UF in May. “We need all of it to unleash innovation and prosperity for all.”

Programs like Marshall’s are important for student retention and a sense of belonging and acceptance in the field, says Brandon Jones, NSF Program Director for Geosciences Education and Broadening Participation programs.

“The GeoSPACE program is using creative approaches to ensure that people with disabilities can participate fully and meaningfully in field experiences,” Jones says. “GeoSPACE involves students in developing the field experience and creates a network of mentors to support and encourage them.”

Mission: Inclusion

At the crater, teams of students fan out across the landscape, tackling the research questions they designed with the remote students. A remote option was critical to be truly inclusive, Marshall says, as some students’ disabilities won’t allow them to participate even with accommodations.

Shivani Dattani is a UF student studying geoscience. She's wearing a black top, has brown hair and is surrounded by a desert landscape.

Shivani Dattani at V235, an extinct volcano and GeoSPACE site.

The virtual participants serve as mission control for the group, introducing each new site based on satellite data, thermal imagery and Google Earth. In-person students act as the astronauts exploring the surface of another planet, gathering data that requires closer observation. It’s an apt analogy for this otherworldly landscape, and relevant to the course’s focus on planetary geology. But at its core, it’s a strategy to ensure everyone, regardless of their level of physical participation, has an integral part in the mission.

“I know that feeling of being left at the van while everyone else goes to do cool stuff,” Marshall says. “I don’t want another student to feel like I felt.”

Rutgers student Shivani Dattani returns from a sun-scorched ridge flanking the crater, taking a moment in the shade of the van to reflect on getting her first field experience through GeoSPACE. After a personal trauma, Dattani struggled to regain her footing in academia.

“This has really helped me bridge that disconnect from the year I missed,” she says. “It’s easing me back into what I really want to be doing: academic research. I feel like there might be a space for me in the scientific community.”

After receiving more than 70 applications from around the United States and six countries, Marshall realized how many types of students also felt like outsiders.

“Not everyone in our group identifies as disabled. They come from many walks of life, many different identities, and they all feel traditional field camp is not a great place for them.”

Marshall’s goal of broadening access resonated with UF geology graduate and GeoSPACE project manager Yesenia Arroyo, who joined the team which includes UF professors Steve Elardo and Amy Williams, plus geologists from Arizona State University, Central Connecticut State University, the University of Cambridge, the U.K.’s Open University and Rutgers University.

GeoSPACE program manager Yesenia Arroyo takes notes while out in the Arizona desert. She's wearing a beige sun hat and a light blue shirt.

GeoSPACE program manager Yesenia Arroyo, a UF graduate, was drawn to Marshall’s mission to diversify Earth sciences.

GeoSPACE program manager Yesenia Arroyo, a UF graduate, was drawn to Marshall’s mission to diversify Earth sciences.

“What she was saying about accessibility really struck a chord with me as a geologist with various intersectionalities myself,” says Arroyo, who is Black and Hispanic. “She definitely has the mission to get geologists of all shapes and sizes out here. It shouldn’t be stopping you from participating in something you love.”

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees.

‘Almost a cruel joke’

In 2018, her Ph.D. complete, Marshall started looking for a faculty job. Wrapping up her presentation on inclusive fieldwork at one interview, she asked if there were any questions.

After a long silence, one professor raised his hand and asked, “Why? Why bother?”

While most people don’t say it out loud, plenty share his assumption that disabilities impact a tiny portion of geoscience students. Because many disabilities aren’t outwardly visible, faculty members might assume no one needs accommodations. Sometimes they’re right, because those who do have concluded that they’re not welcome and changed majors. When students request accommodations for fieldwork, they often face resistance, Marshall says. As executive director of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity, she hears these stories constantly from universities in the United States and beyond. For example, one student whose manual dexterity limitations made it hard to take notes asked to use a tablet in the field. The request was denied.

Beyond disability, students with young children, financial constraints, or mental health considerations can see a traditional field course as an insurmountable obstacle. Try asking your boss for six weeks off, then paying for the course while you’re not working, she says.

“It really was designed for students from a bygone era — mostly male, independent students who had the financial and social ability to disappear for six weeks. For modern students, it’s increasingly hard to do that. The financial barrier is huge. The time barrier is huge. And six weeks is a long time to go without your support network. To make that a required component to finish a degree seems like a pretty large request.”

Back at the hotel, the group gathers for a taco buffet in the lobby, still buzzing about their day in the field.

“Don’t get used to this,” Marshall laughs, referring to the allergen-safe food, the laundry facilities, the comfy beds. She knows many of these students will go back to programs that require more than she can provide. GeoSPACE puts the all-important field experience on their resume, but as a two-credit course, it can’t replace the typical six-credit requirement on its own. At UF, students can replace the traditional course with another option approved by the undergraduate coordinator. An injured student was able to fulfill the entire 6-credit requirement virtually, an option geology chair Martin says is available to others who need it. But few universities offer such alternatives, which worries Marshall.

“I don’t want to take them out to have this amazing experience, get this little glimpse of how things could be, and then kick them back to the real world where they still can’t get through their degree programs,” she says. “That would almost be a cruel joke.”

Instead, Marshall wants other universities to use GeoSPACE as a model, leveraging everything she’s learned to develop inclusive, accessible two-credit modules on different topics. UF is considering adding a two-credit option during spring break, Martin says.

“I’m amazed by the impact Anita’s already had,” she says. “It’s making a lot of people think. I suspect a lot of places will realize it’s to their benefit to offer programs like that for their students.”

If they do, we all stand to benefit.

“We can’t keep courting such a narrow sliver of humanity and then expect to tackle these big, complex problems that affect everybody,” Marshall says. “We have to move forward with all the voices. And not just for the science, but because it’s the right thing to do.”


Photos and video by Brianne Lehan/University of Florida

 

Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Celebrates Month of Service

The following article was submitted by the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program of the School District of Palm Beach County. It is shared here with permission.

The Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program of the School District of Palm Beach County helps students build their college and career readiness through mentorship and college coaching.

This year in the program’s college and career readiness clubs, students had the opportunity to give back to their campuses by developing and implementing a school-based community service project. During the November 2022 and January 2023 College Readiness club meetings, scholars were tasked with identifying and organizing an activity that would somehow impact their school campuses.

In February, 11 club schools of the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program (TSICJS) implemented or began their community service projects.

Jupiter High School students celebrated their custodians. When asked how the activity impacts their school and peers, Kimberly Lopez-Vasquez stated, “This activity helps our custodians know that they are appreciated and loved for everything they do.”

Brenda Garcia-Corona reflected, “I enjoyed seeing all the Jupiter High custodians happy with all the nice words that were being told to them, and seeing them have a great time with [one] other eating food.”

John I. Leonard High School students also chose to celebrate their custodians. “I enjoyed the smiles on everyone’s faces and how there was so much laughter,” said Nan Mildort.

“What I most enjoyed was eating and watching the custodians dance and have fun,” said Daniella Estrada.

“I got out of my comfort zone and read my card out loud,” said Lake Worth High student Isabel Avila Ochoa. “I helped out [by] putting stuff on the tables and helped with posters; I liked the feeling I got seeing the cafeteria workers smile and realize how much we truly appreciate them.”

“I enjoyed looking at café workers being happy today and I am glad that we did it for them,” said Micaylove Atis, Lake Worth High School.

William T. Dwyer student and cheerleader Ze’Rhyeahh Bradly remarked, “It felt great seeing all the coaches have a smile on their faces.”

“What I enjoyed most was seeing how appreciated the coaches felt and it really touched my heart to see them smiling,” said Abd Al Sami Abukhalil of William T. Dwyer High School.

The most I enjoyed while participating in this service project was the collaboration among the students who were also participating in this lovely service project,” says Palm Beach Gardens High School student Ali Hayder. “This activity allows students in the school to feel more pleased about school and themselves. It also helps support the idea that the school and TSICJS will always have our backs.”

Working as a group to celebrate others was fun. Bryan Bacallao, Forest Hill High School.

“We began with a budget and then we decided on the flowers that would be planted. We also laid out all of the materials that we would need and agreed on the date we would start. I feel that it would make people feel that they would have a safe, positive space to relax at during lunch or in the morning. It could be a hangout place that could allow different groups to connect with each other, and uplift the school’s spirit,” said Elisha Jackson, Palm Beach Gardens High School.

Other schools used the month to begin their projects. Village Academy plans to spoil their bus drivers during the month of March. Palm Beach Lakes plans on rolling out the red carpet for the visiting 8th graders by welcoming them into their family. Glades Central High School began designing their bench painting project. They plan to paint eight benches in the front of the school with inspirational phrases and school spirit.  

Santaluces High and Pahokee High are both implementing paint projects to beautify their schools. Pahokee spent the month of February [learning]  how to paint the school’s sidewalk appropriately. Santaluces spent the month designing their canvas art meant to add décor to the school’s media center.

Santaluces High School student Josh Octave designs his canvas art that will be hung in the school’s media center.

The Take Stock/Johnson Scholars were able to pay it forward at their home schools by developing and implementing projects that were impactful. Implementing these projects helped bring more awareness of the program to the schools.

Support for our scholars was gained by administration, staff, and other students, who are already brainstorming ways to impact their campuses next year.


Gbolade George is an Instructional Specialist with the School District of Palm Beach County’s Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program.

Philanthropy Lifts the Disability Resource Center and Students it Serves

The following article first appeared in Florida International University’s newsletter, and it is shared here with permission.

Many students face daunting challenges when they enter college: academic difficulties, financial problems, and major and career choices, just to name a few. Some students face additional challenges that require customized learning services and individualized attention. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) at FIU helps ensure that students with special needs have access to needed guidance and services to help them succeed.

The DRC serves more than 3,600 FIU students and strives to promote their success by working in collaboration with community stakeholders, students, faculty, staff, and administrators to foster diverse learning environments that are accessible, usable, inclusive, and sustainable. Private philanthropy is essential for the DRC to provide these services, and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation is among the key organizations whose support has helped the center expand its services and reach more students across campus.

“Our partnership with FIU is a testament to the achievements that students with disabilities can attain when they have the resources they need,” said Robert A. Krause, CEO of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. “FIU is among the institutions leading the way to ensure accessibility.”

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s support of nearly $2.2 million to FIU over the past decade has funded nearly 1,200 scholarships to 650 students. The Foundation also funds scholarships to students with disabilities at all the other universities in the State University System of Florida. According to DRC Director Amanda Niguidula, “the Johnson Scholarship Foundation has opened countless doors for our hard-working students associated with the DRC.”

Christy England, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the State University System of Florida, added: “The State University System of Florida is passionate about student success. We are grateful for the community support our institutions receive, which betters outcomes and enables longer-lasting impacts for our students.”

Analia Camarda

Marc Buoniconti, a well-known community leader and philanthropist who has had a national impact on disability awareness, recently created a new endowment to assist students. This endowment will enable eligible FIU learners to graduate on time and enter their profession of choice. Buoniconti, the founder of the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center, is a national leader in fostering support to cure paralysis. “My passion is to give hope to countless students who have the will and drive to succeed but lack the financial resources to cover their costs,” he said.

FIU junior cybersecurity major Analia Camarda, who is deaf, is just one of many students benefitting from Johnson Scholarship Foundation support, which helped bridge a financial gap she experienced. Camarda was able to surmount the special learning obstacles presented during the COVID-19 pandemic and to keep pace with classwork using sign language interpreters, live captioning computer apps, and the assistance of professional note-takers.

With a passion for networking with her peers and having participated in multiple tech-based internships – including at Microsoft and Sentinel One – Camarda is well on her way to achieving her dream of working for a major tech firm. She is also actively involved on campus, participating in student organizations such as Women in Cybersecurity and Upsilon Pi Epsilon, and she is an inductee of multiple honor societies.

Roger Bendana

Junior Roger Bendana credits a Johnson Scholarship with helping him concentrate on his studies and to pursue his passion for working with animals by participating in the summer biology program at Zoo Miami.

“The scholarship really helped me to just stay focused on school and not have to worry about work,” Bendana noted.

He said the DRC has been a great support system that connected him to support networks across campus, such as the Peer Mentorship Program – which he found so valuable that he intends to become a peer mentor himself now that he is an upperclassman.

“Generous donors like the Johnson Foundation and Marc Buoniconti provide the critical resources to ensure that every FIU student can attain success,” Niguidula said. “We are thankful for their support to our students and the DRC, which will enable them to have better and more meaningful lives as a result.”

 

 


Todd Ellenberg is Director of Campaign Communication for the Florida International University Foundation.

 

Mentoring Through the Important Conversations

I met Neiry nearly six years ago at the orientation for Take Stock In Children. She was there with her mom. I told them both right from the beginning, I plan to be with you all four years of high school, unless something takes me away from mentoring. They both looked at me and smiled.

Neiry was very shy, but over time, we built an incredible relationship and understanding of each other. We both looked forward to seeing each other every week during the school year, and over the summer we kept in touch via text. Neiry had a few challenges over the course of the four years of high school, but she found her way with the help and guidance of TSIC. We talked about ways to overcome what she was facing. We talked about goal setting and communication. By “we” I mean me and the team at Take Stock – we were all involved in Neiry’s success – it takes a village!

Neiry and Mentor Danielle Basinski

One day we met up during her senior year and she looked nervous. I asked her what was going on. She said, “I have been talking to an Army recruiter, and I think I am going to join the Army.” I was in shock, but I remained supportive throughout our conversation. For years we discussed her getting a college degree in engineering, so I was completely taken aback when she said she wanted to join the Army.

Next, she needed to tell her parents. We talked it through and how to communicate this to them. After she had the conversation with her mom and dad, her mom called me, and we talked it through. They both asked me to come to the recruiting office with them to meet with the recruiter, and I did. What an honor it was to be asked to go with them and ask questions on their behalf to make sure she was making the right decision.

We still message quite frequently, and I am so proud of her. She has been in the Army now for two years, is currently enrolled in college classes and is getting ready to be deployed to Poland for a period of time.

Mentoring with Take Stock in Children has been one of the greatest highlights of my life in volunteering and I feel so fortunate to be a part of such an incredible organization.

Mentoring is a key component of the success of every participant in the Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County Program, a grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation. Each year more than 350 mentors participate in the program. If you would like to contribute as a mentor, please contact Kimberly Briard at KBriard@takestockpalmbeach.org.


Danielle Baskinski is a mentor with the Take Stock in Children program.

Tribal Colleges – Providing Native People with Access to Choice, Visibility and Control

This article was first published on the website of the American Indian College Fund, a grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation. It is one of many organizations that facilitate educational opportunities for Indigenous people, a focus area of the Foundation. JSF also has worked directly with tribal colleges and universities across the country to expand educational opportunities for Indigenous students. The article was shared with permission.

Fall is back-to-school time for college students all over Indian Country. It is a time when I pause and think about how important tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) are and how critical it is for mainstream institutions to have support readily available for Native students.

In June, I shared thoughts about the meaning of tribal sovereignty as symbolized by our tribal flags and by the flags of tribal colleges. Now as the fall semester has started across schools nationwide, I have been thinking about how TCUs represent sovereignty and enact sovereign rights.

From their very existence and through the ways they serve students and communities, TCUs are models of tribal sovereignty. Sovereignty is a legal term that emerged to frame the rights and responsibilities of Tribal Nations. I think of sovereignty as reflecting our inherent rights as people—our right to speak our languages, inhabit and have access to our homelands, and to retain our Indigenous ways of living. Because the missions of TCUs are grounded in providing access to traditional knowledge, practices, and values, their programs strengthen sovereignty.

We can also think of sovereignty in terms of self-determination, providing Native people with access to choices, visibility, and control over our own decisions and resources. Tribally chartered institutions, like most TCUs, are established under the authority of tribes to establish their own education systems as acts of self-determination.

American Indian College Fund student ambassadors and scholars. © 2022.

Both students who attend TCUs and the communities these students serve benefit in both symbolic and practical ways from their institutions’ commitment to sovereignty and self-determination. Nearly all TCUs are place-based and are located on or near tribal homelands. Our very locations reclaim lands. The education TCUs provide is restorative, helping Native students to overcome the troubling, often harmful educational effects of boarding schools. Our commitment to revitalizing cultures and languages, fostering extended family relationships, and building economies means Tribal Nations can be healthier and more prosperous. I have always appreciated that one of the most valuable characteristics of TCUs is the community they serve—comprised of the people and the land as a primary source of knowledge.

A few years ago, the College Fund, in collaboration with the Gallup Purdue Index and with funding from the Lumina Foundation, surveyed TCU alumni. Those of us who work with TCUs were not surprised that the survey revealed TCU graduates were two times more likely than their peers to thrive when it came to elements of well-being, such as feeling motivated, enjoying their work (purpose), feeling supported and loved (social), having financial security (financial), having a sense of belonging and relationships (community), and enjoying good health (physical). These survey results affirm that TCUs matter in ways that are critical to self-determination and sovereignty.

Students attending mainstream, often predominately white institutions must also have the attention and support that TCU students receive. They are entitled to this support so they can also receive an education that helps them be healthier and more prosperous.

Students are supported through representation and visibility. When students see themselves reflected in the curriculum and in the faculty, staff, and public actions of their institutions they thrive.

The purpose of education for tribal people is both well-being and self-actualization and supporting the ability to govern ourselves, which is affirmed by many scholars and educators. This occurs more naturally at TCUs because of their programs and locations. Attaining this goal of education at a mainstream institution requires a more conscious effort—not just from the faculty and staff at the institution—but also from the students who attend them.

Native people have a right to go to school wherever they wish, and while the College Fund is deeply committed to TCUs and to the continued establishment of tribal higher education institutions, we recognize that access to an education for Native students must be more broadly supported. When we support Native students in achieving their educational dreams at all higher education institutions, we strengthen Tribal sovereignty.

As the fall semester brings many good things to Native students everywhere, please join me and the College Fund by supporting Native students and advocating for their inclusion and success. Visit the College Fund’s website, www.collegefund.org, to learn more about Native students, tribal colleges, and our work at the American Indian College Fund.


Cheryl Crazy Bull is CEO and President of the American Indian College Fund.

Mentoring Pays Dividends – a Mentor Reflects on Connecting

I am a retired “people” person who is very active with church work, children, grandchildren, photography, tennis, investments, and travel. I have been a lifelong learner and am still learning. I consider education one of the keys to success in life and the ability to help young people reach their potential as a great opportunity and privilege. In 2010 a tennis friend of mine mentioned Take Stock in Children. I asked for more information and he told me how much he enjoyed the mentoring, the successes he had in helping students prepare for college and the friends he had made. He then said, Take Stock In Children needed volunteers to be mentors for local high school students.

After learning about the great work Take Stock does in Palm Beach County and in every county all over Florida helping high potential, low income students get the resources they need to graduate from high school and go on to college, I decided to become a mentor.

My first mentee in 2010 was Jason Kerr. I was very nervous before our first meeting. Would I be able to help? Would I be able to connect, develop rapport and inspire Jason to do his best? Of course I had taken TSIC training, read their mentoring program materials for goal setting, establishing accountability, and maintaining respect. I also had met TSIC leadership and was impressed with their experience and quality. But …. would I be able to turn their plans into progress for a millennial several generations out of my era?

One of the first things I learned about Jason as we began to get to know one another was he was a huge Miami Heat fan. He was a collector of Nike tennis shoes and actually did a little online business buying and selling them at unbelievable prices. The biggest shock to me was when he told me – and he was a sophomore – that he had never cracked a book and his GPA was 2.2.

I told him about growing up in the hills of Tennessee in a house without running water or electricity, about building my self-image and confidence by studying hard and graduating valedictorian of my senior class of 136. That led to a work study scholarship to the University of Tennessee, and I dropped out after three years to join the Marine Corps. While in service I got married, and my wife and I had our first daughter. I told him everybody thought that was the end of my college career but it wasn’t. We struggled, but I went back to UT and won a Bachelor’s in Engineering and then a master’s at UF. I told Jason progress in life seldom comes in a straight line. Never give up!

In order to develop even more rapport with Jason, I began watching the Heat regularly. Each week we would discuss all the stats and prospects for the playoffs. My wife began watching too! Although she has never shown any passion for sports, she soon became a Heat fan. She is now rabid about “her” Heat, and we now watch every game. She knows all the competing teams, players, and stats far better than I.

I encouraged Jason to start studying at least an hour a night. We talked about time management and how much time could be wasted without a plan and discipline. I told him the story of my kids going to summer school and taking classes that would allow them to take AP classes or have time for extracurricular activities like band, the school paper or drama. He got an after school job at LIDS. He decided to study Nursing at Palm Beach State College. His grades started coming up. He graduated with a 2.9 GPA.

After graduation Jason enrolled in Nursing at PBSC and took a job at the Cheesecake Factory. We still get together 2-3 times a year. Jason started out as a busboy. He is a fast learner, good worker, outgoing and energetic. Before long he was given the opportunity to be a baker and learned to make all the specialty desserts. He works thirty hours a week and goes to school although at a reduced course load. The first time we met him last year for lunch he was all excited. He had bought himself a new Volkswagen. The next time last year when Jason met my wife and I for lunch he surprised us again. He brought his new girlfriend. She was cute, friendly and ambitious and also a student at PBSC. My wife and I were really impressed with how my young mentee was growing up.

A few days after Thanksgiving I got a text from Jason inviting me to lunch. He wanted to discuss investments. I was happy. I love to talk about investments and the stock market. I know what you’re thinking. The stock market is no place for a young guy starting out. But Jason had figured out that bank deposits, CDs and money market accounts paid nothing and wanted an introduction to investing. Jason had also switched to a Business Accounting major and would get his AA degree in the spring. I asked him about his girlfriend, and he said she had dumped him. Why? Because he wasn’t getting through college fast enough!

But the good news is Jason has moved up to bartender at work and learned how to make all the drinks. Like I said, success rarely comes in a straight line: he was working about 30 hours a week, not making much progress in his business program when a friend told him about Palm Beach State’s Automotive Service Technology Career Certificate Program. Jason jumped at the opportunity to take the certificate course and work at a dealership at the same time. He began to excel at the technical course work and loved the hands on part. At the dealership, they started him out doing oil changes and there was a lot of sitting around while they kept the experienced techs busy. He wasn’t too happy until he finished at PBSC and moved to another dealership and began removing and installing entire engines on warranty. He was now growing in confidence and making a decent living.

As time moved on Jason stayed busy, found a new girlfriend, fell in love, started a family and began thinking about the next step up in his career. He had his eye on a service advisor position. This would be a full-time job working with the customers and best of all it comes with a salary and benefits which a family man needs. Family man indeed! Jason and Gabby welcomed Olivia into their home in October 2021.

I contacted Jason recently.to get an update. He sounded so excited. He changed dealerships several months ago and got his service advisor position and “Olivia is getting so big!” This sounds like success to me but something tells me Jason isn’t done yet.

By the way as I write this my wife is waiting for me to come watch the Heat with her. In the meantime this 82-year-old is very happy with his 30-year-old friend who is proving that even today one can still achieve the American dream.

Mentoring is a key component of the success of every participant in the Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County Program, a grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation. Each year more than 350 mentors participate in the program. If you would like to contribute as a mentor, please contact Kimberly Briard at KBriard@takestockpalmbeach.org.


Bill Brohawn is a mentor with the Take Stock in Children program.