Elijah Watson knows he wants to go to college. He also knows it will be difficult to leave home on the Navajo reservation if he does.
The 17-year-old was reminded of the tough decision he’ll face next year when he participated in a weeklong celebration in March of his cousin’s Kinaalda, a hallowed Navajo ceremony marking a girl’s transition into womanhood.
“I’m afraid because it’s really hard to leave my family,” he said, noting that college would mean he’d be away from taking part in the same rite for his little sister and participating in other important tribal ceremonies.
To reach students like Watson with higher education aspirations, a growing number of universities are offering programs to recruit and prepare Native American students for a transition to college life that can bring on a wrenching emotional conflict as they straddle two worlds.