Hometown: Kahala, Hawaii
Majors: Physics & Engineering, Mathematics
Off-Campus Experiences (internships, study abroad):
Why did you apply for this particular internship?
I wanted to do something meaningful this summer and a service-based internship through the Shepherd program seemed like a great idea. I chose to work at St. Anne's Mission, because I wanted to see the American Southwest and experience Native American culture first hand.
How did your work apply to your studies at W&L?
I got a lot better at communicating and collaborating with people from different backgrounds. This skill will benefit me in whichever career path I choose to follow.
What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Alliance experience?
Since I grew up as an only child and had no real prior experience working with children, I did not expect to love working with the kids as much as I did. I also did not expect the poverty in the area to be as bad as it was. Many homes had no electricity or running water and a majority of the dirt roads were in horrible condition. It shocked me that places like Klagetoh still exist in the United States.
Post-Graduation Plans: I would definitely like to attend grad school, though I am not completely sure what I would like to study yet.Favorite W&L Memory: Unmasking a Cadaver. You know who you are.
Favorite Class: Introduction to Acting with Prof. Mish
Favorite W&L Event: Appalachian AdventureFavorite Lexington Landmark: The hill behind Lexington Baptist Church
Why did you choose W&L? I wanted to go to a small liberal arts school on the East Coast.What professor has inspired you? Professors Irina Mazilu and Andrei Ramniceanu
Advice for prospective or first-year students? Never let opportunities pass you by. Get involved. Go on Outing Club trips. Make memories while you have the chance.
What do you wish you'd known before you came to campus? I wish I would have known just how quickly college would pass me by.
With near perfect precision, sunlight found its way through my curtains every morning and hit me directly in the face. Throughout the summer, the sunrise served not only as my trusted alarm clock, but also as a reminder that punctuality still exists on the Navajo reservation. I come from a highly organized world of deadlines, itineraries, and agendas. "Navajo time", which is what people on the "Rez" call the tendency for nothing to happen on time, was simply one of many aspects of Navajo culture that I would quickly become acclimated to over the summer.
Roughly the size of West Virginia, the Navajo Reservation is the largest Indian reservation in the United States. I spent the summer with another Shepherd intern, Jenny Bulley, at St. Anne's Mission in Klagetoh, Arizona. Klagetoh is a town of less than 300 people and is situated near the western edge of the Reservation. Although there are no signs, it is easy to tell when you are no longer on the Reservation; just keep an eye out for liquor stores. Alcohol is illegal on the reservation, so liquor stores tend to establish themselves just outside the tribal boundaries.
By almost all economic measures, Klagetoh is really struggling. In fact, the entire county surrounding Klagetoh is entrenched in poverty. Out of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States, Apache County is one of the ten poorest. Over a third of the households in Apache County live below the poverty line and in 2010 the income per capita was only $8,986.
The primary goal of St. Anne's Mission is to indiscriminately help anybody in the community who needs help. Rather than giving monetary handouts, which could easily be used to fuel one's drug or alcohol addiction, the mission provides for people's needs directly. Throughout the summer, we delivered food boxes and bags of fresh fruit, clothing and school supplies to families in the area. Once in a while, we would help someone change a flat tire or provide someone with enough gas to be able to get to work. That way, they would not have to join the army of hitch hikers one sees every morning along highway 191. With an unemployment rate of over fifty percent, work is already hard enough to find in the area.
Another service that St. Anne's Mission provides is free labor for the elderly and disabled in the area who are unable to help themselves. Jenny and I would often find ourselves doing small projects for people all over the community. On the fourth of July, we scooped up sixteen wheelbarrow loads of sheep dung from an elderly Navajo woman's corral. On other days we would find ourselves stuccoing the side of a family's house, repairing a roof, moving a pile of cinder blocks, weeding, painting someone's kitchen or delivering water to households without running water. At night, I would often tutor a local man for an hour or two. He is trying to join the army, but has been unable to pass the military aptitude test. He had been out of school too long, so I basically had to teach him Algebra from square one. He will be taking the test soon, and I am sure that he will pull through.
Over the summer, three volunteer groups came to St. Anne's from around the country to run summer enrichment programs for kids in the area. Children would come from all over the area to be able to enjoy activities like PE games, arts and crafts and music. Every child who came also received a balanced and nutritious meal. I will never again take a balanced diet for granted. The nearest major grocery store to Klagetoh is over an hour away and the only restaurant within sixty miles is a Burger King.
Working with the children was definitely the most moving experience for me this summer. The kids we worked with were some of the most trusting and genuine kids I have ever met. Once or twice a week, Jenny and I would take the kids on outings. Some days we would see a free summer matinee movie or on other days we might take them to a community pool in Gallup, New Mexico. It really didn't matter what the outing was, most kids were just happy to get out of Klagetoh for a few hours. Even though the kids were often a handful and it was a never-ending battle to get them to wear seatbelts, I could always tell that they loved every minute of every outing.
Alcoholism is probably one of the biggest problems in Klagetoh. Many kids start drinking in their teenage years and drop out of high school. In fact, less than half the kids in the area go on to graduate from high school. Even fewer end up going to college. The societal pillars of support that usually help prevent people from becoming alcoholics are seldomly found in the area. There were at least four alcohol-related deaths during our time there. I made it my personal goal to show local children that there are fun alternatives to drugs and alcohol.
Most of the things that Jenny and I did this summer did not yield immediately tangible results. Though I will try my best to keep in touch with the friends I have met, I doubt we will ever get to see the difference we worked so hard to make. As I reflect upon my experiences at St. Anne's Mission this summer, I know that the children of Klagetoh taught me one very important lesson. Life as we know it is merely a collection of moments, and if we allow ourselves to stop and look, beauty can be found in each and every one of them. The children of Klagetoh continually manage to find beauty in the midst of poverty, shattered families and despair; even if just for a moment. There is still hope for Klagetoh.
Eíná ní hóníg'o
"Life is Beautiful"