This fall, UCR’s Native American Student Programs (NASP) received the largest donation in its 38-year history in the form of $1.28 million from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. The grant was awarded in recognition of efforts by the NASP to increase youth retention at the collegiate level and promote awareness of Native American customs and cultures.

NASP hosts the annual Gathering of the Tribes Summer Residential Program, a weeklong immersive experience geared towards Native American youth which aims to bridge the gap between primary and secondary education by introducing students to everyday college life. In addition to their youth programs, the organization accomplishes its core objectives through providing students, faculty and local communities with many resources and educational events. In an interview with the Highlander, Director Joshua Gonzales explains the many resources provided by NASP and how they will make good use of San Manuel’s charity.

Gonzales illustrated how the grant will contribute to supporting students at UCR stating, “part of the grant will go towards scholarships, providing scholarships for students that identify as Native American that are in need and then the other part of it will go help to support the summer program too.” He also explained the need for more faculty to support the program, adding that “unfortunately we’ve always been understaffed here at the office.” Gonzales confirmed the money will be used to “get another … program coordinator to help with all the work that we do in here.”  Regarding the work that they do for UCR and surrounding communities, Gonzales said the NASP is “doing retention, helping the students.”

Another cornerstone of NASP is bringing awareness of underemphasized Native cultures to both the student body and the community: “We provide the events as a means for educating the campus, and also off campus too.” Elaborating upon NASP’s overall objective, Gonzales stated, “we’re here as a center for students, for all students really … to learn, to understand.” He stated that many are unaware of their heritage, saying, “there’s people there, there’s a lot more to it than ‘the casinos.’” Gonzalez believes that “one of the things San Manuel recognized was the work that we’re doing through our office is bridging that gap, trying to provide opportunities.” Many of those opportunities are available through the inclusive events hosted throughout the year.

The major NASP events of the year are the Spirit of the Tribes 5K race, summer program and UCR Pow Wow; however, many other programs are hosted frequently, such as the Medicine Ways Conference & Bird Singing Gathering, Drum Circle and Native Jam Nights. Wellness Wednesdays at the HUB are also partnered with NASP, where they host basket-weaving as well. NASP encourages students to get involved and get educated, and, as Gonzales puts it, “what we try to do is bring awareness, that’s why we’re here as a center for students, for all students.”

Native American Student Programs is located at 229 Costo Hall and is open for all every weekday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.