AZ - Recently, Lee Sakiestewa of Tuba City - salutatorian of his
graduating class of 2009 - sat down to talk about his struggles
and successes during his journey through college.
students face obstacles and challenges while juggling family, work
and school, and Sakiestewa was no different. Some students overcome
even bigger obstacles such as difficulties with transportation,
family tragedies, and economic hardships. Once in a while, a student
is able to overcome all that is thrown in his/her path. They exceed
in their studies, rise to the top as a leader, mentor fellow students,
and provide inspiration to all, including the faculty and staff
who watch this journey unfold.
took the time to share personal details of his struggles and triumphs
in the hope that he could encourage others who face difficulty to
not give up. When Lee was asked what some of his challenges were
while going to college, he said his biggest was the commute he made
for 20 months from his home in Tuba City to Flagstaff. He explained
that, like many families, several people share one vehicle and it
would have created a huge hardship on his family had he taken their
only car to Flagstaff.
formed friendships with several other students who commuted between
Tuba City and Flagstaff, which led to a very successful carpooling
arrangement. He described the situation where he and two fellow
students were thrown together out of circumstance into this carpool
situation and how it then evolved into study partnerships and eventually
close friendships that he had no doubt would be life-long. He said
that when life issues would surface for any of them, they would
end up sharing with each other as they rode back and forth. They
helped each other with carpooling, as well as through life traumas
many students, Sakiestewa was very close to his family. However,
when five family members died while he was in college, it created
an overwhelming hurdle and motivator to not take life or time for
reflected back on the experience and finally said with deep emotion,
"I had promised several of the people that had passed away
that I was going to go back to school and finish." He explained
that after his loss - one of them being one of his closest cousins
- he felt more than ever that he needed to finish his degree, and
to do a good job while accomplishing that goal. He said, "There
were times I'd be so tired and want to just leave an assignment
unfinished but I'd end up not being able to sleep. It would nag
and nag at me until I'd finally just do it."
concluded, "Your work is a reflection on you, and if you don't
do a good job, what does that say about you?"
explained that another big motivator was to prove to his two youngest
brothers, his mom, and step-dad that he could do it. Sakiestewa
eventually graduated from the Medical Specialties program at CollegeAmerica
with a 3.99 grade point average, earned his Associate of Occupational
Studies degree, and was awarded the title of salutatorian.
shared some advice he'd give to new students embarking on their
college career, saying, "Making friends with other students,
and communicating openly with them, and your instructors makes a
big difference." He said having that forum to share your struggles
with them (both in and out of school) made it so much easier to
get through the difficult times. He said communicating with your
instructors and other staff was important also, because they are
all there to help the student succeed.
advice he shared was "to be on time and prepared for class"
because it reflects on you as a person and as a student. Sakiestewa
always had a good work ethic. This has carried over into his professional
career as a Pharmacy Technician at the Guidance Center here in Flagstaff
where his externship led to a full-time job. He said for him, his
college experience "taught me the basic overall knowledge to
get into the health care field."
concluded the conversation by describing his most rewarding college
experience as, "meeting people and forming long-lasting relationships."