Many Nations Academy is Community

Many Nations Academy is Community

The start of the school year for NAYA’s Many Nations Academy (MNA) is just around the corner, and we could not be more excited to welcome back returning students and to extend the invitation to new students! The school’s mission to promote inclusion, tolerance, and acceptance of all has attracted families and students from across Portland drawn to MNA’s foundation of incorporating a Native American worldview into their education.

We have openings for this school year!

The MNA serves 9th–12th graders in a student-centered learning environment with a blended high school and college and career readiness curriculum. MNA teachers have designed courses emphasizing student empowerment and academic excellence. Smaller classroom sizes, individualized attention, integration of Native traditions, wraparound services for students and their families, and partnerships with post-secondary institutions add to a learning environment that makes the MNA so special.

“I was a student who had a hard time at many public schools, constantly being moved around and not having any kind of sustainability,” said 2022 MNA graduate Ei-Shah Pirtle-Wright (Siletz, Klamath Modoc, Paiute, Nez Perce, and Yakama). “I found comfort in having Native staff who have been through what I have experienced and have started their paths in healing our Native youth. NAYA has helped a lot, but I didn’t do it just for NAYA. I did it for my family, community, and myself.”

There are additional incentives to consider before enrolling, but we think knowing the history of the school may help you decide. In 2004, the late Reynaldo España (Yaqui), a NAYA co-founder, became Education Manager. España understood there was a need to educate Native youth through a model that was culturally relevant to them. He founded NAYA’s Early College Academy (ECA), obtaining funds to convert the basement of our former offices on Mississippi Ave. into a classroom. The school has grown since that humble beginning, moving operations with the rest of NAYA programming to our current campus on NE Columbia Blvd.

The original name, Early College Academy, emphasized the goal to help students realize their dreams of going to college. And, in 2019, students chose the name Many Nations Academy, stating it was reflective of the school’s inclusive spirit, honoring students from wherever they come, however they choose to identify. This change was wholeheartedly embraced by NAYA staff and Board of Directors.

Tashina Pamela Barbosa (Kiowa Apache, Cheyenne, Jemez Pueblo, Oaxacan) enrolled at MNA their freshman year, and in the academic years following, became involved in the various programs at NAYA before graduating last year. “My family has been involved with NAYA for years through the critical housing services and family members that have attended the academy years prior to myself. Now, with NAYA’s help, I plan to study psychology and anthropology, and I have a deep passion for art, community, activism, and lateral leadership mediation,” Tashina said.

Another 2022 graduate, Chloe Marie St. Martin (Cowlitz [Upper, Lower], Haudenosaunee [Mohawk, Seneca], Chinook, Yakama [Wiscum], Cayuse, Walla Walla, Métis, Cascade/Watlalas) came to us as a senior. “While at Many Nations Academy, I found that the community was by far one of the factors of my own success, besides my own drive to achieve high grades and a better GPA. The community at MNA along with all of NAYA supported me through the year, and I know that if I need that support again, I can return. I developed a sense of family at Many Nations Academy,” Chloe shared.

MNA students have a variety of electives from which they can choose, connecting them to their passions and to their culture. Beyond the rigorous, fully accredited curriculum, the MNA offers a slate of rotating electives, including robotics, cooking, regalia-making, and other cultural arts. Teachers emphasize hands-on, project-based learning.

““MNA celebrates its students.” says Principal Lisa Otero.“Everything we do is for the best of our students. We were thrilled to fully re-open for in-person learning in fall 2021. We missed our students, and we know they missed each other, as well as the staff and community that NAYA provides. We’re looking forward to doing it all over again this year.”

There is still plenty of time to enroll! While the first day of school is September 6, interested students and parents can contact Principal Otero at who will schedule a tour and enrollment session. To learn more about MNA, including more details on why and how to enroll students, please visit NAYA’s website here.