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Native UA mentors build the bridge for Native success

A foundation for Native high school students in Tucson
Native SOAR
Posted at 6:13 PM, Apr 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-28 21:13:00-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The University of Arizona has a native student population of three percent. A program at the university has been helping build the bridge from high school to college and other opportunities for success.

“I want to pour into my community. I’m Navajo and the best way I thought I could improve my community is by pouring into indigenous youth,” said Jobian Johnson, a lead mentor for the Native SOAR Program. SOAR stands for Student Outreach Access and Resiliency.

Director Felisia Tagaban-Gaskin said it’s grounded in indigenous ways of being and knowing. “All the articles the students are assigned are written by Native American and indigenous scholars.”

Part of the program includes mentorship that connects UA students to Native students across Tucson.

Today the program finished up the final day with Desert View High School students.

“Our main mission is to build them into strong leaders for after high school. We want them to thrive,” said Johnson.

Overall, the mentors and directors of the program aim to build a pipeline to success.

“If it looks like going to college, then that’s the avenue we’re going to push them towards, challenge them towards, and keep them accountable towards,” said Johnson.

The relationships that grow throughout the program create a space for the stories and realities of Native students to be shared.

“With that information, we’re able to advocate, we’re able to empower them, we’re able to provide agency for their voices,” said Tagaban-Gaskin.

Tagaban-Gaskin said this is just the beginning as the program continues to build a foundation for the future of Native leadership.

Reyna Preciado is a reporter for KGUN 9, she joined the KGUN 9 team in July of 2022 after graduating Arizona State University. Share your story ideas with Reyna by emailing or by connecting on Instagram, or Twitter.