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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 23, 2003 - Issue 94


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Cal's Sanchez Helps Her Peers Live in Two Worlds

by Carolyn Jones San Francisco Chronicle

College life can be a culture shock for anyone, but for American Indian students the feelings of isolation and being overwhelmed can be enough to send them packing.

Jacqueline Sanchez"There are just a lot of challenges to leaving the reservation and adapting to the real world," said Jacqueline Sanchez, a UC Berkeley basketball player, member of the Paiute and Shoshone tribes and mentor to American Indian students. "There's academic challenges, money challenges ... just being away from their families is hard. A lot of students just go back home."

Sanchez decided to help keep those students on the higher-education track. For the past two summers, she has volunteered for a program called Summer Rez, a four-day event for American Indian high school students that's meant to encourage and prepare them for college life.

This year, 29 students from around the state stayed in dorms at UC Davis, toured that campus as well as UC Berkeley and Sacramento State, and met with American Indian college students like Sanchez, who told them what to expect from college, how to prepare and most importantly, why they should even bother.

"A majority of Native American kids don't even finish high school," said Sanchez, who grew up in Sacramento but has close family ties to the Susanville Rancheria in Lassen County. "At Summer Rez, we try to give something to work toward, try to set high goals for them, teach them how they can help their culture and their communities by staying in school."

Ironically, Sanchez didn't have a problem with the transition herself. She went smoothly from being a star basketball player at Mira Loma High School in Sacramento, to junior college and then UC Berkeley, largely because of the support she found through her teammates and American Indian student groups.

It's no fluke she fell into basketball as a calling.

"Basketball is a really big thing for Native Americans," she said. "It's an easy thing for us to get involved in because you don't need a field, you don't need money for equipment. All you need is a ball and a hoop. We all play a lot. "

She averaged 19 points and 17 rebounds a game in high school and as a freshman helped lead her team to the Capital Valley Conference title. She was team captain her junior and senior years, and a four-time all-league selection and team MVP her senior year.

"Jacqueline is a great addition to our program," said Cal coach Caren Horstmeyer. "She's an outstanding all-around player -- she can play any position, she's very versatile. She can make a considerable impact on our team.

We're looking forward to her second year here."

But instead of falling into the stay-at-home pattern of many American Indian students, Sanchez decided to get as far away as possible. She enrolled at a junior college in Chattanooga, Tenn., and after a year there won a scholarship to play at Cal; Sanchez is one of two American Indian women playing Division I basketball.

"My goal was always to get to college any way I could because I know that not a lot of Native Americans continue their educations," she said. "I want to bring my experience back to my community to improve our lives."

Now entering her third year at Cal, she's a Native American studies major and plans to study law and go into tribal government when she graduates.

"Coming to Berkeley was fantastic," said Sanchez, who's staying in Berkeley the whole summer. "There was so much diversity. I love it here."

The 5-foot-9 guard is known for her passing skills and game savvy, according to the Cal media guide.

"I've been lucky because I've always had my team to support me," she said. "But I want to help make sure other Native American students get support, too. "

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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