My name is Cassandra Harden. I am a graduate from Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) with an associate’s degree in early childhood education who is currently working as a Tribal College and University (TCU) research intern for the College Fund.
As part of my duties, I had the recent opportunity to attend and present at the National Family and Community Engagement Conference in Chicago. I presented with the SIPI team Dr. Danielle Lansing and Rebecca Izzo-Manymules about SIPI’s Ké’ Early Childhood Initiative: Responsive Engagement Opportunities for Native Children and Families project. I spoke about my one-year internship with SIPI’s Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” and Ké’ Early Childhood Initiatives programs and how I developed my skills of how to be culturally responsive to Native children and families. I also shared my experiences with SIPI’s early childhood education initiatives.
This was a different experience for me because I presented to both a Native and non-Native audience. I had to adjust the context of the presentation for the audience to understand Native and Navajo formal introductions, culture, language, and customs throughout the presentation. Through this experience I
learned to be more open-minded and to adjust my presentation and articulation to the audience’s understanding.
As I attended the National Family and Community Engagement Conference I gained new knowledge that helped me to think more nationally, and even globally. The conference had great motivational speakers, sessions, and discussions revolving around family engagement and community improvement. There were 1,100 people who registered for this conference representing 47 states. There were educators, parents, students, and people of all different nationalities in attendance. Our group represented Tribal Colleges and Universities, the College Fund, SIPI, Sitting Bull College, College of Menominee Nation, and Northwest Indian College, all located in New Mexico, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Washington.
As a future Native early childhood educator, I was moved by some of the statements made at the conference. Attending this conference enhanced my knowledge and awareness for the inclusion of all people on a national and local level. I certainly will utilize the experience I gained within my field and as a TCU Research Intern. It was an honor and an excellent opportunity to expand myself as a Diné student, educator, and researcher.
Cassandra is interning at the American Indian College Fund this summer in the Office of Research and Special Programs.