Agreement With New Mexico Tribal Leaders Celebrated

Lenaya Martínez speaking at the podium

Margaret McKinney/Highlands University
Lenaya Martínez, Highlands University Miss Native American Queen, speaks at the celebration for the agreement between Highlands and all the New Mexico tribes.

Las Vegas, NM – Native American students from all 22 New Mexico tribes will have better access to education at Highlands University thanks to scholarships the university provides.

The 69 full-tuition scholarships per year are part of a memorandum of understanding between Highlands and New Mexico’s tribal leaders that was celebrated Sept. 27. The MOU continues through 2020.

“We greatly appreciate the support Highlands has given our young native people, and it’s good to see so many of them here today,” said Raymond Concho, First Lt. Gov. for the Pueblo of Acoma. “It’s always a dream for every parent to see their native children go on to higher education, and we thank you very much for the work you do for our native tribes.”

Highlands University President Sam Minner thanked the tribal governors and other leaders for honoring the university with their presence at the celebration.

“The students you send to us add to the richness and diversity of Highlands,” Minner said. “We all benefit when we achieve better and more powerful understandings of their roots, their backgrounds and their cultural heritage.”

Edward Martínez, Highlands’ vice president for strategic enrollment management, played a key role in updating the 2012 agreement with the tribes in collaboration with the New Mexico Tribal Higher Education Commission.

“For some students, this scholarship can be the difference between coming to college to pursue their educational goals or not,” Martínez said. “This partnership with the New Mexico tribes allows Highlands to have more of a presence in the Native American communities and offer their students educational opportunities.”

Lenaya Martínez, the Miss Native American Queen at Highlands for 2015 – 2016, also spoke at the celebration. Martínez is from both the Ohkay Owingeh and Jicarilla Apache tribes and received scholarships as part of the earlier tribal agreement.

“This scholarship benefited me so much and took a financial load off my chest,” said Martínez, 21, a criminal justice senior. “I hope to learn as much as I can at Highlands so I can go back to my Ohkay Owingeh community and help with juvenile drug addiction issues and other negative influences like the high school dropout rate for our youth.”

Eileen Sedillo, Highlands’ financial aid director, said that since 2006, the university has awarded more than $400,000 in scholarships to New Mexico’s Native American students. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for the scholarships.

Robert Romero of the Laguna Pueblo is the Native American recruitment and orientation coordinator at Highlands. The Highlands alumnus also benefited from the tribal scholarship. He served as emcee at the celebration and also spoke.

“My grandfather says our creator has a path for us, and my Highlands scholarships were part of that path. Without them, I couldn’t have continued my education,” said Romero, who is also pursuing a master’s degree at Highlands.

The first memorandum of understanding between Highlands and the New Mexico tribes was signed in 1997. Scholarships were added to later agreements.

For more information about the tribal scholarships, contact Romero at 505-426-2049 or rbromero@nmhu.edu.