Scott Willie, a member of the Navajo Nation tribe and a first-generation college student, had a difficult start in his path to a higher education. When he first began attending college in his home state of New Mexico, he found himself baffled by simple questions such as, “When and how do you tell your professor that you have to miss class?”
Additionally, Willie struggled with financial hurdles that prevented him from attending college for a short time. “I had to choose between going to school and buying food,” he explains.
Through hard work, Willie ultimately overcame his early challenges as a college student. He moved to Utah in 2016, and he is now an SLCC student majoring in biology. Willie is also currently working as a program coordinator for a University of Utah study that seeks to determine why Native Americans are more susceptible to certain diseases, including diabetes, obesity and kidney failure.
Willie credits his success, in part, to being awarded a Zumbro Family Scholarship. The Zumbro Family Scholarship offers two awards annually of $2,500 each to SLCC Native American students who are members of a Utah tribe and are working to obtain a two-year degree.
As part of his future plans, Willie has decided he wants to focus on public health issues so he can help others in his Native American community, many of whom don’t have access to health care services. “My grandmother, who is a healer in my community, helped me to understand that I want to help people,” he says. “The Zumbro Family Scholarship will help me to complete my educational plan.”
Willie is also glad to be at a diverse school such as SLCC, and he believes he benefits from learning at an institution that knows how to serve underrepresented populations and first-generation students. “SLCC helps students to see themselves as leaders and problem solvers in their communities,” he says.
Willie has some words of advice for his fellow first-generation college students who are attending SLCC:
· Talk to your family and let them know you want to be a college student and pursue your own dreams and goals.
· Meet with your advisors and counselors to let them know about your circumstances and any obstacles you may be facing in your school or home life.
· Find groups and organizations you’d like to join to make your college experience more meaningful.