Native Fraternity At U of A Takes On Challenge
A Native American fraternity at the University of Arizona in Tucson has taken on the challenge of trying to counter the low student retention rates among American Indians on campus. Beta Sigma Epsilon now has eight active members with a goal of creating an atmosphere on campus where Native students can feel at home.
Joshua Lucio, a 24 year old microbiology major from Zuni, New Mexico was a member of the first pledge class and feels that adding new members to the fraternity is a positive sign that members are helping one another to find their place on a large college campus.
American Indian students have the lowest rates of retention of any minority group on campus because of the culture shock in the transition of leaving a reservation to attend college in a large metropolitan area. About 64 percent of Native students go back to the “rez” after their freshman year in comparison with 79 % of the overall population.
I know the feeling! It’s called “homesickness”. I left a small town of 790 people in northern New York state way back in 1944 to attend the U of A. At that time, there were 2,500 students on campus and Tucson had a population of 39,000 which added up, to me , as a move to a major metropolitan area. Wow! And look at the place now.
Lucio asserted , “Our organization helps to alleviate that feeling by having members join and stick with the organization until they graduate. We’re all her to help each other.”
Though it's fairly new, the group has had success, with 90 percent of its members staying in school. Some have left the fraternity or transferred to another college, but very few have dropped out, said Julian Billy, the fraternity president who joined two years ago.
"Since I was new to the U of A, I wanted something to make sure I was more involved with the campus," said Billy, a Ganado native who came to the UA after working for the Indian Health Services on the Navajo Nation.
There, he noticed the computer system was obsolete, which inspired him to get a computer engineering degree so he could return and improve it. He's had two summer internships there since he started at the UA.
Ryan Chee, a 21-year-old aerospace engineering junior, said the fraternity's community service focus drew him in. As a member, he gets to interact not only with fellow American Indian students but join in service projects that benefit other American Indian communities.
"What drew me here was how enthusiastic they were," said Chee, from Lukachukai. "It's definitely been easier being involved in a community." Without the fraternity, Chee would have kept to himself on campus, but now he's become much more social and has better communication and networking skills.
"What we're creating now is our own type of network, and we hope to utilize that in the future when we get more alumni," said Lucio, a former fraternity president.
Billy said that, as the group grows, it will develop an endowment to fund scholarships for American Indian students and work more to reach out to high school students around the state.
Last spring the fraternity won the Inter-fraternity Council's award for most improved grade-point average. According to Billy, Beta Sigma Epsilon was founded by Navajo students Nathan Pryor and Eric Riggs and last year, a chapter started at Northern Arizona University. Students at Arizona State University and the University of New Mexico are working to start chapters.
This column has been edited for length and content from an October 11th article in the Arizona Daily Star bylined Eric Swedlund.
Voting Rights Update - 10/18/05
From: Beth Fraser – firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted by Sunshine Archambault
Action needed to stop Congress
The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a bill next week that would punish non-profit organizations for doing voter registration. The Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE) regulatory reform legislation (H.R. 1461), includes the Affordable Housing Fund, which would provide funds to build and preserve affordable housing.
A group of representatives that includes Minnesota Representatives Kline and Gutknecht have attached an amendment to this legislation so that nonprofits and public organizations would not be eligible to receive these grants if they do or have done voter registration in the past 12 months or are affiliated with a group that has done voter registration in the past 12 months. For-profit organizations, on the other hand, are specifically exempted from these requirements.
Please contact your Representative today. Call 1-866-864-NHTF (toll-free) and ask to speak to your Representative¹s Legislative Director or Housing Staff to deliver this message:
"I support the establishment of the Affordable Housing Fund in the GSE legislation, but I have learned that language that will restrict an organization¹s right to engage in voter registration may be included in H.R. 1461 when it goes to the floor for a vote.
*I oppose any language that restricts voter registration and freedom of affiliation by non-profit and public organizations when using their own funds.
*I urge Representative ______ to tell House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Financial Services Chairman Mike Oxley (R-OH) to reject these restrictions and bring the bill to the floor for a vote without this language."
Thank you - Beth
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