Oklahoma filmmaker urges change to Native American students: college and career

February 21, 2013

With a backpack slung over his shoulder, Sterlin Harjo easily blended in with the crowd of high school students. Perhaps that was his intent, knowing his talk with several hundred students would be about his past and their future.

Harjo was the keynote speaker at this year’s Native American Career Fair for Tulsa Public Schools high school students. Tulsa Community College’s West Campus hosted the event where students got a look at future college and career opportunities. For Harjo, who often focuses his talks on the Native American student, the message was about change.

“Find something that could change your life,” Harjo said. This Oklahoma filmmaker and screenwriter told the students not to be their own worst enemy and not let self-doubt bring them down. He said, “You can do a lot, you don’t realize it. Go for whatever you want to do and have the courage.”

For Shawnee Moses, her plan is to work with children and change their young lives. The Rogers High School junior wants to major in child psychology and attend Columbia University in New York. Kimani Williams, a Webster High School senior, admits she might change her mind, “I want to go into broadcast journalism but I want to expand my options and see if there is something else out there.”

Open-minded is how Devyn Wickson, a Webster High School junior, described himself. He was using the career fair to research possible options. “I have some ideas about what I want to do in the future as a career but I also want a second choice and to learn about what is needed,” Wickson said.

The Native American Career Fair highlighted college and career options including TCC’s Tulsa Achieves and the Native American Studies (NAS) program, an interdisciplinary program at TCC’s West Campus emphasizing indigenous perspectives, focusing on the traditions and experiences of people who have shaped our state and nation. The event allowed students to start or continue the conversation about what comes after high school. Harjo hopes that conversation is just the beginning for these high school students headed to college and a future career that could change their lives.

PHOTO: (l to r) Chasity Reese, Devyn Wickson, Kimani Williams, Noah Crutison, Shawnee Moses.