CCC alum dedicated to helping her people

Former CCC2NAU student and NAU graduate Jewel Honga aspires to great things in the future.


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Former Coconino Community College student Jewel Honga has dedicated herself to helping her people. As a member of the Hualapai Tribe, Honga understands how important it is to represent her people and help young people go to school. 

Honga began college at Portland State University in the fall of 2008, but she injured her knee and needed and recovery time.

“There was no way I could have done it in Oregon, so I had to stay,” she said. “I wanted to keep going to school, I didn’t want to stop. I can’t stay at home and do nothing, so I enrolled at CCC in the fall of 2009.”

While at CCC, Honga went to class on crutches. She would hobble down the halls and try to get her knee to stretch out and heal.

At CCC, Honga enjoyed the small class sizes and the individualized attention she received from her instructors, she said. During her final semester at CCC, she helped fellow students start the Indigenous Student Association.

“It is important for Native students just to have a place to meet with other Native students and talk about struggles that we go through,” Honga said.  “A lot of us, we leave the reservation to come to school and we have that homesickness. There’s a lot of stuff that we worry about.”

She transferred to Northern Arizona University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Management in the spring of 2015 and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from NAU in the winter of 2015. She also received a Golden Axe Award.

While at NAU, Honga worked with Center for American Indian Economic Development office and the Native American Business Association, along with participating in other activities designed to help with the advancement of Native American students.

According to Honga, the close-knit, family-oriented environment children experience on the reservations is vastly different from the environment they experience off the reservations.

Honga lived in Flagstaff until she was 4, then she moved back to the Hualapai reservation. She returned to Flagstaff in sixth grade so her mother could finish her degree at NAU.

“I remember going through that culture shock,” she said.

Honga emphasized how important it is for students to step out of their comfort zones and pursue the opportunities the world has to offer.

“I think because you grow up with your neighbors being your cousins, you’re teachers being related to you in (some way), just that (relationship) with everybody, you get really comfortable with it, and it’s so hard to maybe make the choice to want to leave, to go to a place where nobody knows you,” she said. “There’s the whole world of opportunities out there, and you just have to go out, and it will find you. You just have to go look and it will find you.”

While at NAU, Honga earned the title of Miss Indian NAU in 2014. As Miss Indian NAU, she served as an ambassador for NAU on behalf of Native American students.

The following year, Honga won Miss Hualapai and continued to be an ambassador for her tribe. Her main goal as Miss Hualapai is to educate people about her tribe.

“The pageant world is so interesting because I don’t really consider myself a pageant girl, but because I’ve won two out of the last three pageants that I’ve run in, I don’t think I can say that anymore,” she said. “I like it a lot just because you meet so many people of different tribes. You meet people who knew your grandparents, who knew your aunts and uncles through boarding school or through playing sports, and it’s just really cool to meet people.”

Honga plans to run for Miss Indian World in April. The pageant is held in Albuquerque, N.M. during Gathering of Nations and includes tribes from all over America and Canada, she said. If she wins, she will represent her tribe and serve as an ambassador for all tribes of America. She expects to continue to educating people about her tribal culture and encouraging young Native American students to go to college.

As the current Miss Hualapai, Honga tries to be involved in her community. She currently lives in her hometown of Peach Springs and works as a cashier at the local supermarket.

“I really enjoy working there,” she said. “It was actually important for me because I hold the title as Miss Hualapai. I figured if I work in the market and I see my people every day, they know I’m Miss Hualapai. In the future, I do plan to run for higher positions on my tribal council. It’s really important that they know who I am and (that) they saw me from the beginning.”

The Hualapai Tribe owns and operates the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation, which Honga plans to be a part of.

“I plan to work in different departments of my corporation,” she said. “My plan is to at least spend some time in each department. In the spring I think I want to work on the river.”

Honga intends to return to school for a masters degree in 2017. In the future, she plans to continue working with the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation and continue to find ways to help her people. 

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Category
Spotlight
Date
Tuesday, 16th February 2016
 
 

All Dates

  • Tuesday, 16th February 2016