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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Family's 1st Graduate Plans To Give Back
by Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan - REZNET
credits: Photo by Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan - REZNET

Candace Begody wears many hats at the University of Arizona. But one more dear to her heart is that she will be a first-generation college graduate May 2010.

"One of my mentors told me it takes a village to raise a child and it took a lot of people to help me get to where I am today," she said.

Begody, Navajo, will be a first-generation college graduate in May 2010. Upon graduation she wants to go home and volunteer in her community but her ultimate goal is to attend law school, she said.

"I could get five degrees or work a minimum wage job, just as long as I'm giving back to our younger ones and the community," Begody said.

University of Arizona Senior has a Full Plate
The UA senior currently holds the title of Miss Native American University of Arizona, was recently named one of the top 12 students at UA, is founder of the Native American Journalists Association chapter at the university and was one of nine selected nationally for the Roy W. Howard Reporting Competition. The competition includes a two-week, all-expenses-paid trip to Japan during the summer.

"It is definitely something my grandfather, parents and mentors said I could do and now things are happening like they said it would," she said.

Begody, 21, grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Ganado, Ariz., with no plumbing or electricity. She spent her childhood living in a cabin with her maternal grandmother, Lena Shirley, She was the only one out of her four siblings who lived with her grandmother.

Begody's fondest memories of living with her grandmother were weaving and hunting prairie dogs with a homemade slingshot. Her grandmother did not speak English but they communicated.

"I thought my grandma was cool and I felt special being with her," Begody said. "Now that I look back on it, my grandmother was someone I learned from."

Begody's grandmother is in her mid-eighties and lives with one of Begody's aunts in Utah.

A Role Model for Indian Country
Begody is majoring in journalism and is earning a minor in American Indian studies. She is a 2007 graduate of the Freedom Forum American Indian Journalism Institute. She has also interned at The Missoulian newspaper in Missoula, Mont., and The Navajo Times in Shiprock, N.M.

Duane Beyal, editor-in-chief of the Navajo Times, said Begody's achievements do not surprise him since he has come to expect nothing less from her. He said she is a role model not only for the Navajo Nation but also for Indian Country.

"She is getting her education and succeeding where you do not usually see Diné and other Native Americans succeeding," Beyal said.

In 2006 when Begody was a freshman in college, tragedy struck her family when her older brother, Christopher, died in a car accident. She said it was hard and there were many times at school she had to pull herself aside and cry in the restroom. Then she would breathe, pull herself together and go on with her day.

"I had a lot of nights filled with tears, questioning, pain and sadness," she said. "But I had my family and roommate Leandra who were there for me."

Family Helped her Overcome Family Losses
Begody said her parents were the biggest part in helping her get through her brother's death. She said family members leaned on one another and when it was one person's turn to pick the other up, they would.

Begody said talking about her brother and their fondest memories of him helped. Her parents also talked to her and emphasized how proud her brother was of her. They told her he would have wanted her to keep on with her education, she said.

"My brother use to tease and pick on us," Begody said with a smile. "He would say a lot of silly things and jokes."
Begody's parents, Leroy and Laura Begody, could not be more proud of their daughter. Laura recently resigned from the Department of Economic Security and Leroy is a welder. Leroy said it is a touching situation and wonders what he did or said to his daughter to make her accomplish so much.

Parents Pledge Their Continued Support
"She is my first child that is going to be graduating from college and I don't know what to say," Leroy said. "It's a dream come true."

Laura said there is no one in their family who has gone this far in school and it makes her speechless. She is positive Candace will continue to surprise their family with her accomplishments.

"As parents, we support her 100 percent on anything she does," Laura said.

Begody said many people have helped her along the way and she likes to call them her fans. She said her family, siblings, grandparents and people who have believed in her make up her fan club.

Begody said graduating from college is going to be life-changing, and it has been a long, hard road to get where she is, but it was well worth it. She has learned a lot about herself and said college is not just about graduating with a degree; it is about learning who you are.

"When I graduate it is only the beginning," Begody said. "It is the start of something new."

Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan, Tohono O'odham, is studying journalism at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is a graduate of the Freedom Forum's 2008 American Indian Journalism Institute. Last summer, she interned as a reporter at The Daily Times in Farmington, N.M.

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