University Program for Young Natives Brings Summer Science to the Rez

Thirty-four teens from across the country are spending the week on the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indian reservation learning how to apply environmental science practices in their own communities.

The students – who are in eighth through 11th grades – were accepted into the two-week residential American Indian Summer Institute in Earth System Science program. The institute – hosted by the University of California Irvine’s American Indian Resource Program – is the newest in more than 20 years of summer educational outreach programs out of UC Irvine geared towards Native Americans who are interested pursuing higher education.

Yolanda Leon, coordinator at the UC Irvine’s American Indian Resource Program, said this year’s youth represent five states as well as tribes that include Acjachemen, Cahuilla, Chumash, Diné (Navajo), Gila River, Hopi, Lakota, Ojibwe, and Zuni Pueblo. The students were selected out of more than 100 applicants.

“We were looking for students that were interested in earth science, had an interest in their (tribal) community, and have done well in academics,” Leon said.

Nikishna Polequaptewa, director of UC Irvine’s American Indian Resource Program, said admission, housing, food, entertainment, and educational materials are provided to the participants free of cost.

During the institute the students are receiving presentations from members of Northern Arizona University’s Environmental Educational Outreach Program as well as the La Jolla tribal council.

The students will remain on the La Jolla reservation until Saturday, July 21. The remaining week of the program will take place on the UC Irvine campus.

By Terria Smith

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