Tamika: “If I Can Do It, She Can Do It”
Tamika Perez, Apache & Cherokee, has been an Early College Academy student for a year and a half, after she was kicked out of her last school after being involved in violence. Tamika’s mother worked hard to give her what she needed as a child despite not graduating from high school. “My dad never had anything to do with my life,” she says, “but I don’t think he graduated either.” When she visited the ECA, she knew she wanted to attend. “It was nice. I liked the atmosphere and the community and the people.”
Tamika is a writer, a poet, and a musician. “I started writing in seventh grade. My poems and my raps are very important to me.” Tamika has a collection of more than 100 poems she’s written over the years. “Writing just helps you get over what you’re going through. You put it down on paper and then you don’t need to think about it anymore.” Sometimes Tamika reads through her old poems to see how she’s grown. “It’s such a huge change to see where I was and how far I’ve come.” Tamika is also an athlete, and lists playing rugby for Grant High School as one of her proudest accomplishments. “We ended up the state champions. I scored my first tri, [a point in rugby] and we won our championship game.” Tamika went on to play for the Oregon Redhawks in a regional competition.
Since being at the ECA, Tamika has turned over a new leaf. “Violence doesn’t solve anything,” she says, “And school is more important than what my friends used to say. A diploma is a big deal.” Tamika is on track to graduate early, completing all the necessary credits by January 2016. She plans to attend Mt. Hood Community College to take advantage of their new culinary program. “My mom has plans to open a restaurant, and I wanna work for her. Anything I can do to give back to the woman who gave so much to me and my siblings.” When we spoke to Tamika, she was 8.5 months pregnant, and excited at creating a better future for her child. “I just want to make my daughter proud. I wanna show her that if I can do it, she can do it. I’ve already started her college fund. Even if she decides to change her mind three or four times and go for different [subjects], she’ll have the resources to do that.”
Tamika is overcoming challenges that many youth in our community face thanks to the tradition-inspired education and supports of the Early College Academy. The ECA is different than a mainstream school. We teach culture. And the results of our programs speak for themselves: over 90% of the students who come to the ECA will receive a diploma, twice the rate of Native students in Portland Public Schools. To supporters of the Early College Academy, Tamika says, “Thank you. Thank you for making sure the ECA has all these resources, the learning center, the afterschool programs. I wouldn’t have been able to pass all my classes and graduate early if it wasn’t for them, and my teachers.”
The April 8th ECA Luncheon is a unique opportunity to see how Native students thrive when we teach culture. If you can’t attend, please make a generous gift to sustain NAYA’s services by clicking here.