Dr. Dakota Kay. I don’t mean to write another typical graduation post, however I believe my story may help inspire those who are struggling. I am a Navajo raised on the Navajo Nation. I’ve seen the typical problems that Native Americans face such as poverty, alcoholism, abuse, crowded houses, little food, homelessness, debt, etc. I had many legit excuses to not succeed, however I did not let that prevent me from going to college, playing college football, and graduating with my doctorate in physical therapy. Here are just a two stories throughout my eight-year journey.

While I was at Fort Lewis College, there was a situation where I couldn’t afford housing, but needed to take classes. When my parents dropped me off, I purposely lied to them so they wouldn’t worry. Luckily the library is open 24/7 to students. This is where I found a small couch under the library hidden in back. That was where I use to sleep at night. Some nights I slept by the computer, pretending that I was just taking a nap while I did my work. When the campus police questioned me, I lied to them, and they always gave me a questionable look, but they never kicked me out. I was able to find a bathroom with a shower under the chemistry building that was always open. I use to carry ramen noodles and canned food in my bag all the time. Other times I bummed on friend’s couches and floors. But, it all worked out and I was able to graduate debt free.

When I got accepted to physical therapy school, I had just enough money to cover the required fees, but not enough for housing or food again. After having the taste of being homeless at Fort Lewis College, I knew I could do it again. I told my parents that I have to go, and they let me borrow their vehicle so I could sleep in the back seat. I had the full intention of doing this for 3 years. When I got to Missouri, I bought ramen noodles, canned food, and vitamin pills. I found a Walmart by the school where I could park and sleep. And I found out where all the showers were. I was set. 

My daily routine consisted of waking up in the backseat of the vehicle, eat dry ramen with vitamin pills, cleaning up at the school restroom, going to class, going to the library to study, and going back to the back seat of the truck to sleep. Some nights I battled anxiety and some of you know because I always tried to call during those times. 

One day, my school advisor accidentally found out and he reported my situation to the president of the school. I then met with the president and told him my story of being a Native American with a goal to return to my people. He loved my story and I was given paid housing and meals for my time there. The next year I secured the Indian Health Service scholarship and got a stipend every month. In addition, I was able to find a program that gave me “free” gas cards. The rest is history.

These two situations are just a few out of the many other situations I've been through and of course there are much more to these stories. But I'm not trying to brag about my accomplishments and adversities. I want to share my story because my situation is NOT unique. There are many of us who face the same problems. I’m not telling you to do what I did or expecting everyone to have the ability to do so. All I want to do is share my story and show you that things are possible if you have the grit and determination. We all have excuses that are real and there are no right or wrong choices in those situations. 

But don’t give up. Yes, it’s the true the system doesn’t support the poor. Yes, the privileged don’t truly understand our situation. I was often told to just ask my parents for money or to tell my parents to take out loans. 

During a survey, my professor told us to stand up if your parents had bachelors degree, and I was the only one sitting. Despite our disadvantages, that doesn’t mean to complain about it and to take it as it is. Break the system. Do what you have to do to succeed. We are not entitled to anything just because of what our ancestors experienced. Yes, they suffered for us, so live your life with a chip on your shoulder, but be compassionate. Be proud of who are, adapt, play the game, make sacrifices, and succeed. It’s ok to fail, just don’t stop. I'm tired of coming home and seeing our people suffering. To you parents/caregivers, even though you may not have much, support your kids any way possible because I couldn’t have done it without mine.

I don't have kids, but you parents or single parents need to write your own story and be an inspiration to others in your shoes.

I've met many great people along the way, thank you for your support (you know who you are).