I really enjoyed the parts of Maggie’s presentation on the Tohono O’odham Community College that addressed the ways in which the community college continues to reinvest in the Tohono O’odham Nation as it invests in the students. Maintaining the connection between the students and the community, while allow them opportunities to grow, thrive, and reach their own definitions of “successful,” prevents the fleeing of all students from the nation at the first opportunity, which would invest in the students while draining the nation. Instead, the students often have an opportunity to find their interests and opportunities that can be used to benefit the economic and cultural maintenance and growth of the nation.
When we were in Arizona, we frequently heard over and over the ways in which environmental problems and resource-related problems greatly inhibit Tohono O’odham life and culture. In her presentation, Maggie mentioned the ways in which the TOCC attempts to address these externally imposed problems from within by educating the students in science classes before taking them out into the community to engage directly with the problems and how to combat them. This practice not only educates the students that make up the coming generations but has potential to foster in them the passions to fight these problems on greater scales. She also mentioned how the TOCC works to connect older generations with the students through projects that work to improve the lives of the elder members of the community. These interactions serve to fight the growing generational gaps and to encourage the continued awareness and practice of traditional customs that may be lost with outside influence and generational gaps. Both of these practices, paired with the fact that the TOCC serves to educate students in order to provide better financial situations and employment options for individuals, serve to better the community as a whole and fight some of the most significant problems that the community faces. Maggie did not directly mention ways in the TOCC already addresses diet and diabetes, but I would imagine that they have considered the ways in which they could utilize this platform for education on the subject and engagement with work to combat it.
The Tohono O’odham Community College represents an effort to reduce poverty and improve the living conditions of the members of the nation in a manner created by and for the nation itself, in a way that matches the Tohono O’odham culture and community. It addresses the problems currently faced by the nation on an individual level as well as the community level, providing a holistic response. The fact that it works within and to continue the ways that Tohono O’odham life has been constructed allows it to be substantially more successful than outside intervention or influence that may have significant elements that reflect Western goals, ideology, and beliefs. Therefore, the TOCC has an ability to combat substantial community problems by investing in the individual and reinvesting in the community in ways that outside organizations and programs cannot.