University of Arizona alumna Amanda Tachine has been recognized by the White House as part of "Champions of Change," a nationwide award that goes to individuals who have launched "extraordinary" efforts to empower and inspire individuals within their communities.
The White House honored Tachine (Dine), who earned her doctorate in higher education in May, and 10 other women from across the nation on Tuesday.
"In addition to honoring these young people for their courage and contributions, the goal of the event is to inspire girls and young women to recognize their potential for leadership — as educators, advocates, peer mentors, artists and entrepreneurs — and to appreciate that they can be leaders in their own way and in their own style," the White House said in a statement.
"Amanda has led efforts in a dynamic two-tiered college access mentoring program, Native SOAR (Student Outreach, Access, and Resiliency), where Native American graduate students and staff mentor underrepresented, mostly Native American college students who also in turn provide mentorship to Native American high school students," the White House announcement also read.
Tachine, now a postdoctoral scholar at Arizona State University's Center for Indian Education, was specifically honored for her work with Native SOAR, a service-learning program she co-founded in 2005 with Jenny Lee, a professor for the UA Center for the Study of Higher Education.
"This award is for all of us — for those of us across the nation who work tremendously hard to increase college access for Native Peoples, for family and our Native elders who have prayed and continue to pray for our future generations, and for universities like the UA who do so much to support and advocate for increased representation of Native students," Tachine said.
Housed within the UA College of Education, Native SOAR connects American Indian high school students with those at the UA, who then provide mentoring and academic support to aid with student success and encourage college-going. The program is modeled after Project SOAR, which places more than 100 UA undergraduate students in Tucson-area schools, where they mentor youth to help them explore academic programs and careers while building resiliency.
About Tachine, Ronald W. Marx, dean of the UA College of Education, said: "With so many vibrant Indian communities in Arizona, we are pleased to contribute to the Native SOAR program that supports these communities and provide a high-quality education to these fine graduate students, like Amanda Tachine."
About Native SOAR, Arizona Board of Regents member Luann Leonard (Hopi and Tohono O'odham) has said: "Mentoring plays a key role in helping keep our students on our campuses, because who better than those who have gone through everything that you're going to go through to help you be a success in the university system?"
Tachine earned a master's degree at the UA in 2006 and that year began her work at Native American Student Affairs, where she served for years as the center's program director. Today her research centers on college access and persistence for underrepresented populations, specifically those who are American Indian.
Also during her time at the UA, Tachine co-authored a book chapter titled "Beyond the Asterisk: Understanding Native Students in Higher Education" with Karen Francis-Begay (Dine), the UA's assistant vice president of tribal relations.
The book, which was well-received nationally, discredits the assumption that American Indian college and university students and employees face issues that are too difficult to manage or address because they are underrepresented on the nation's campuses. The book offers a more expansive understanding of topics related to academics, student affairs, administration and other issues within higher education.
"I'm extremely grateful for the Center for the Study of Higher Education, particularly Dr. Jenny Lee for believing in Native SOAR," Tachine said, also giving thanks for the financial support that the Helios Education Foundation provided for the program.
"I'm also grateful for the Tohono O'odham, Pascua Yaqui and Navajo Nations for their continuous support," she said. "Lastly, thank you to the beautiful Native students who 'fuel the fire' for Native SOAR. They are the reason we do this work."