by Faith Price, Assistant Director


WSU’s Native American Programs received a grant through the Nez Perce Tribe’s Local Education Program Fund for the fourth consecutive year in support of the Native American Student Ambassador Program.

Four current Native students have been hired as ambassadors to assist with outreach to prospective Native American students.  The 2018-19 ambassadors are: Jaissa Grunlose (Colville Confederated Tribes), Austin Kicking Woman (Yakama Nation), MyKel Johnson (Nez Perce), and Sara Mills (Colville Confederated Tribes).

group outside of CUB
Austin Kicking Woman, (l) student ambassador, shows Native high school students around campus as part of the EXCEL camp.

Being an ambassador, “can show other Native kids that don’t think college is within their reach that Natives can go to school and accomplish anything they put their mind to,” said WSU senior Austin Kicking Woman.

The ambassadors travel to local Native communities to give presentations and participate in college fairs, serve as tour guides when Native students visit WSU, and make personal calls to prospective students to answer questions about the Native student experience at WSU.

Kicking Woman has one more year at WSU before he will graduate with a general studies degree, emphasizing human development, humanities, and digital technology and culture. He went to college because he wanted to have a different path than some older relatives he saw get caught up in drugs and alcohol.

He first was exposed to WSU when he visited campus for a summer camp. This past October, he had the opportunity to give back as a camp counselor for Native high school students during the annual “Exploring College Emerging Leaders” (EXCEL) camp. Twenty-three Native high school students spent the weekend at WSU taking part in a variety of workshops to expose them to different college majors. The ambassadors served as camp counselors and also were panelists answering questions from EXCEL participants on what college is like.

“It was a good experience in being able to talk to students about what it’s like to be a college student,” said Kicking Woman.

youth at the WSU table at the STEM Fair
Austin Kicking Woman and MyKel Johnson talk to youth at the Nez Perce Tribe STEM Fair.

Most recently, Kicking Woman and fellow ambassador MyKel Johnson spent a day at Lapwai getting kids excited about science. The WSU table at the Nez Perce Tribe STEM Fair featured simple wind-up robot kits and liquid nitrogen.

“When I went to Lapwai I was so thankful to be promoting an institution that values our homelands and Indigenous people,” said Johnson. “I remember being a senior in high school unsure what the future held in Pullman. Now, everything has come full circle for me. I know that as a people we have so much to offer higher education from knowledge to insight. It is my hope that we continue to challenge the systems and rewrite our narratives.”

If you have an event you would like the ambassadors to come to in your community, please contact WSU Native Programs Outreach Coordinator Tony Brave. The ambassadors are also happy to give tours and host campus visits!

Qe ‘ci ‘yéw ‘yew  to the Nez Perce Tribe for supporting programming for Native students at WSU!

Read profiles of the 2018-19 ambassadors here.