Phoenix, AZ – Keemesha Shay was born and raised on the Navajo Nation, and is pursuing a long-term goal of serving in her tribe’s government.
Keemesha graduated from Ganado High School on the Navajo Nation and recently received her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Service and Public Policy from Arizona State University.
Keemesha says she started college wanting to be a veterinarian, but soon realized her passion was in another area, “I didn’t grow up knowing all of things that are happening with federal Indian policy until I wrote an English paper on American Indian issues, and I changed my major to what I have now. After I started taking American Indian Studies courses I started learning more about federal Indian policy, and it just made me realize how much I didn’t know about all of these different policies. On the reservation we’re isolated in sort of a bubble, we don’t hear anything from outside communities, and they don’t hear anything from us.”
Keemesha is among the hundreds of hard-working students from across the state who have earned a scholarship from College Success Arizona. In addition to providing up to six-thousand dollars for educational expenses each year, students also receive specialized mentoring services from “Success Advisers,” (mentors). The advisers work with the students – helping them overcome academic and personal challenges.
Keemesha says her success adviser, Barbra Scrivner, provides support and guidance, “When we talk, I kind of vent to her with my struggles and issues that I have at the moment. She encourages to me to keep going and continue to do what I set out to do in college.”
She adds that the scholarship has helped the bottom line, “It has helped me very much so far – I have been debt free at college and I haven’t paid anything out of my pocket. It’s also provided a lot of stress relief, just knowing that I have this scholarship.”
Moving from a rural area to an urban area, and from the family home to a life of independence can be a difficult transition. Keemesha says, “It was very difficult my first year because there was a lot of culture shock from seeing how people dress, and the noise, and the amount of people here was a very overwhelming experience.”
Keemesha has some advice for middle and high school students on the Navajo Nation who may be considering their own college career:
“I would encourage them to listen to their elders and respect them, because they’re speaking from a lot of experience. I would also encourage them to learn about who they are, be proud of their indigenous heritage, and to learn about it as much as possible because it’s very hard to try and learn about after you move away from home, because there’s not that much out here.”