Find your passion
Rebekka Herrera-Schlichting is an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and is a member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, Sac and Fox Reservation. Herrera-Schlichting, now 25, attended the University of Kansas and received her bachelor of science in Journalism in 2014. She plans to attend law school in the fall.
When I was about to go to high school, I was at the top of the hill, overlooking my tribe’s powwow, and just cried because I thought I was giving it up all. I knew school was going to take a lot of my attention, but I knew it was the right thing to do to fulfill my passions to help my people.
Honestly, basketball is one of the reasons I came to KU. I watched the 2008 game and I was like ugh, I’m there.
Every chance I had to talk about the native perspective in my classes, whether it was 20 people or 400 people, I would raise my hand. I remember shaking and crying the first time I talked. I only graduated with 12 people and so it was nerve-wracking, but sharing the information was much more important than my feelings.
I once had someone ask me if I lived in a tipi; to me, that’s ridiculous.
One time we were going around in a class, saying what we wanted to do with our journalism degree. And I said change the world. Everybody was like, “What?” and I felt like naive saying it. I still keep saying it because that’s what I believe.
I literally thought I wouldn’t make it through the first semester. I thought I didn’t have the right study skills and I didn’t have the right background coming in. It was the first time living off the reservation, and it was scary and a culture shock for sure. I had to overcome that by realizing what differences I had and I let them empower me.
When writing papers, outside research makes you look phenomenal. Showing up to office hours and getting your face connected to your grades is a win. Put homework as a priority.
Don’t be afraid to find resources when help is needed, and don’t be afraid to speak up when you have something to say, even if you don’t think its valuable. That’s how you grow.
You have a choice in how you look at your situation and a lot of it is about perspective. My mom said, “Oh, don’t go to KU. You’re not smart enough.” Instead of feeling bad about myself, I said, "I’ll show you how smart I am."
One of my elders said to me, while I was in high school, "If you take your education seriously, that can be your way out of here and you won’t be stuck here with addiction or poverty."
We really preach and pray for future generations. So being a good role model and doing what I can for future generations just keeps me going all of the time.
Native American Church, powwows, dancing and singing at powwows, and community dinners are still some of my favorite tribal activities.
Samantha Harms is senior and an honors student from Lansing, Kansas. She will graduate in May 2017 with degrees in journalism and environmental studies, with a minor in public policy. Harms has participated in a wide variety of activities, from Media Crossroads TV shows to Sigma Kappa Sorority. In May, she will begin work as the administrative assistant in communications and public relations for the Kansas National Education Association in Topeka. Eventually, she plans to go to law school.