By Warren Giago
Santa Fe, NM ”“ The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is a small school located on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s a great place for students to come and learn the tricks of the art trade from trained professionals. Native American and Non-Native students from all over the world attend this institution to attain their educational goals.
One of these students is Tahnee Harjo-Growing Thunder. She is an Elected Parent Representative student from Oklahoma. She, like other students, is experiencing what it is like to be a college student and a parent. Ms. Harjo-Growing Thunder lives in the IAIA family housing with her mother and two children, who attend the IAIA Childcare program: The Nizhoni Center, which is funded by Presbyterian Medical Services. This program provides daycare services for children ages six months to three years old.
Ms. Harjo-Growing Thunder feels these services could be improved upon. “We need a program that could better service IAIA students because the college students need to be the focus of the program since it is on school grounds,” she says.
This service is provided for any low-income housing applicant who qualifies. Their company website describes their services as “quality accessible integrated health, education, and human services in response to identified community needs of the multi-cultural people of the Southwest.”
This allows for non-students who fit the low-income qualifications to use the services on the IAIA campus. This does not sit well with Ms. Harjo-Growing Thunder.
“The program is a cookie-cutter program that does not fit the needs of the student body,” she says.
Carmen Henan is the IAIA Dean of Students. She is responsible for the non-academic areas of Student Life and is a senior administrative member who oversees housing, counseling, childcare, student clubs and organizations. Ms. Henan claims that Presbyterian Medical Services (PMS) is filling the needs of the IAIA community.
“Our students have priority,” says Henan. “We let our students know when there is a slot open for children.”
The Nizhoni Center is currently at full capacity with 16 children. Out of these 16, eight are children of IAIA students.
“The reality is we don’t have enough children to fill the program,” says Henan. “Maybe increasing the age for children would be beneficial for the IAIA community.”
Nizhoni Center Director, Sabrina Moquino adds “We would like to increase the age for children attending, but we have to follow PMS guidelines, which only allows us to work with children three years and younger.”
IAIA is also working on an after-school program for kids aged, five to 12 years old. It is in the early planning stages right now, but this would be a big addition to the student body at IAIA.
“We are really trying to get this program started because we could provide an excellent service for these children and for the parents,” Henan said. “We have the facilities for the program, and all we would need is the money to pay for the staff.”
The after-school program could be a great comfort for IAIA students who could use these services to help them complete their college education, although it might not immediately aid the IAIA community because it will not be implemented until the fall of 2013.
For students like Tahnee Harjo-Growing Thunder, it is a step in the right direction. “We really need an upgrade in the services provided to the students,” says Growing Thunder. “The way things are right now is not up to par.”