While it might feel like eons away, in just 4 days, the class of 2022 will walk across the stage in Chiles center and become a college graduate. Over the past four years many have experienced their happiest moments, many have experienced some of their hardest struggles – perhaps even both. We have laughed, we have cried, and we have grown a lot in the process.
"I didn’t know that Native people were still alive,” is a comment that many young Native Americans have been faced with many times throughout their lives. Attending a predominantly white institution life as a Native American student has proven to be both lonely and empowering, with less than 1% of UP students identifying as Native American in 2021 — making them the least represented race/ethnicity on campus. This issue isn’t new — UP has seen limited to no change in Native enrollment percentage since at least 2012.
Between the endless homework and stress of planning every aspect of your future, paired with feelings of displacement from loved ones, college has always been a time where young adults can face an onset of mental health struggles. Now add in a global pandemic, loss of social connection and the effects of extreme loneliness and grief, and it can push just about anyone to their breaking point — resulting in the college mental health crisis that we are now facing.
The sun has ceased shining brightly overhead, leaving behind only a grayish sky that greets you in the morning, ushers you asleep at night and keeps you tucked away indoors during the few hours in between. Its cold, its gray, and its rainy, and when paired with the stressful life of a college student, is a recipe for disaster.
Sitting in the corner of his parents' nail salon in Medford, Oregon, eight year-old Victor Tu heard the subtle squeak of the front door open. He looked up through the opening of the door, and across the shopping center parking lot, to a bright red sign that read, “ABK Karate.” He got up, walked across the parking lot, and began a love for strength training that would captivate him for years to come.
When Daniela Perez Vargas was 17 years old, she watched her father get deported for the third time. When he attempted to reconnect with his family, he was given three years of prison time for re-entry under Trump's presidency. “It's terrible, I hate it,” Perez Vargas said. “Because my whole life is over here, but a piece of my heart is over there.”
As students sat in classes on the first day of school, there was a collective sense of both excitement and anxiousness — in no particular order. After spending almost two years cooped up in your home, only talking to your close friends and family, and (hopefully) attending limited social events, the rates of people experiencing new or intensifying social anxiety are increasing across the nation.