BOULDER – Arian Yazzie is a high school sophomore chasing a dream through the University of Colorado's Upward Bound program.
"It's a good opportunity for me to get a head start in school, like just get a feel of how college life will be," Yazzie said.
Upward Bound is part of a federal program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The point of the program at CU is to target at-risk students on Indian reservations to encourage them to go to college.
"We serve approximately 103 students from 8 different states, 22 high schools, 13 different reservations in rural areas," Tanaya Winder, CU's Upward Bound director, said.
Yazzie is from a Navajo reservation in Arizona. She says there are too many teenagers there who do not see college in their future.
"Most of them just want to join the military," Yazzie said.
Winder says the program is designed to help kids see past the problems they face every day on the reservation.
"Like any other place, we do have a lot of problems," Winder said. "There's poverty. There's alcoholism. There's diabetes. There's a lot of different things."
The Upward Bound program brings students like Yazzie to the CU campus for six weeks, so they can experience what campus life is like.
"They have to know how to manage money when they're up here," Winder said. "Some of them have to learn to do laundry on their own for the first time. Like all of those things, it's a celebration of their growth."
Students take classes ranging from calculus to geology to video journalism. Instructor Christi Turner is teaching these students to create mini-documentaries.
"I feel like I'm giving them a way to share their story, to raise their voice and sort of become their own advocates," Turner said.
But, what she really wants them to see is that they can all thrive on a college campus.
"Here, I feel like I have a big chance to turn some lights on for them and show them what they're capable of," Turner said.
Yazzie says it has not been easy.
"I kinda got homesick for quite some time," Yazzie said. "Sometimes, I'll be in my room thinking about home and sometimes, I would cry, too."
But, she says it's been worth it because she says her dream of going to college now feels more like reality.
"I'm thinking to myself I can do it," Yazzie said.
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