The 9th Annual Native American Education Symposium was held in William W. Philip Hall Nov. 16. Elders, educators and students gathered to eat, listen to speakers and participate in various workshops. The purpose of the symposium — originally formed in 2009 — was to address indigenous students on campus, enlighten others about native culture and background, and to promote ways to implement indigenous diversity in colleges. Students from various local middle and high schools also attended the event.
Nedralani Mailo, the program support supervisor for the Center of Equity and Inclusion, explained the goal of the symposium.
“We wanted to highlight ways that educators and students can be activists,” Mailo said. “Whether that’s through art or by bringing more indigenous ways of teaching into the classroom.”
Besides being able to hear from the keynote speakers — Sui-Lan Hookano in the morning and Asia Tail in the afternoon — the symposium also featured two breakout sessions. DJ Crisostomo, a pre-college coordinator, and Vanessa Frias, a pathways to promise fellow, led a workshop titled “It’s All About You.” The pair spoke about their personal experiences as indigenous and native college students. The goal of the workshop was to help students feel prepared in applying for college and discover what career paths they want to pursue. It also aimed to make students feel more welcome and ready for college life in general. They shared their individual stories of hardships and spoke of ways to ease the transition between high school and college.
At the workshop, each table of students were given a paper to write about places they hoped to visit. They were able to discuss their responses amongst each other and with the entire group.
“We are in this space as family,” Crisostomo said while students shared during the workshop. “When your family members are talking, give them that respect. We have come through an awful lot of stuff to be where we are in life. As you are sharing something very serious, give them that respect.”
Students then discussed their career goals with one another. Afterward, Crisostomo and Frias shared their own job experiences. Crisostomo’s parents were born and raised in Guam while Frias’s parents were from Mexico. Crisostomo told attendees about his first career, which was running the house arrest program in Pierce County.
“It sucks, actually, to lock people up that look just like you,” Crisostomo said about his time there.
Frias shared her story about high school and college, where she worked multiple jobs in different cities and overseas before returning to Washington state.
As Frias presented her slides, she referred to “Unidos Podemos,” the English translation being “United, we can.”
“My family is really rooted on the idea that you cannot make it on your own, but you definitely have your family who always has your back,” Frias said.
Both Frias and Crisostomo wanted to leave important advice with the students. Frias encouraged guests to make everyone feel welcome anywhere they go.
“[Be] an active listener and [be] empathetic [rather than] sympathetic, knowing [that] everyone has a different story,” Frias said. ”Listen … actively without having to share your own personal experiences and get into the moment of ‘Is it appropriate for me to share my own story?’”