Graduate Success Stories

Good Morning Professors,

I have been so busy but I cannot tell you how many times the gifts that you have bestowed upon me have rang in my heart and in my ears! I came to the Shiprock area to work in the homeless shelter and I just love it. I was offered a position as program manager, currently we house 42 residents and have 6 children in shelter. Next month we are moving to a new facility that will house 75 with transitional housing available, 12 units. This is the only homeless shelter/transitional housing in the 4 corners. Ok, I take it back, there is a 'wet' shelter that goes and picks people up off of the street and takes them so they are safe and do not freeze to death. That facility is in Farmington, and extremely necessary! The street inebriation is a really big issue here and a battle in and of itself.

The shelter that I am managing is really not a shelter, it is a means to gain self sufficiency. The difference in this location versus the other shelters I have worked at in San Diego, San Francisco and Salt Lake is really many of those individuals are chronically homeless where as here it is situational and the culture plays a big part in the sociological view of homelessness. I will tell you, one of the largest challenges I have faced here is that I am the only Caucasian person and was brought in to be over a staff of 12, all of whom are Native Americans and Hispanic. The staff has been less than supportive of my presence but that is just part of a new coming, boss situation, I think. I did not anticipate some of the prejudices I have experiences, how I took for granted being in the majority, now as a minority I have felt somethings I did not ever think I would feel. How odd it is to sometimes be in a room and I am the only white person in the room. I had heard of this (oppositely) and thought what is the big deal, but there really is a different vibe. I just get to remember that we are all 'one'. Not to mention gender has come into play with me as well and there have been nights that I have left here and cried. I can tell you ladies that but I wouldn't want to admit it to anyone else. :-} I really love the residents and the family environment I have here but some of the issues that have presented themselves have not been exactly what I anticipated.

I have been to some awesome funerals, Emily! Thought about you many times. As you taught me the Navajo have their own ritual surrounding death yet add into the equation each clan and the ceremony really has a variety of things to learn and appreciate about the individual, life, death and the events of their journey. Last month I went to the funeral of one of the last original code talkers and it was amazing to learn so much about the history of what this culture has brought to the development and advancement of the world. (Good Stuff Michelle)! Also, Emily I love that many of the residents are not keen on 'case management' with me, but boy I get in the kitchen and cook or do dishes, play some music and dance around and don't you know they tell me all kinds of things they would never say sitting behind a desk! You gotta love food and culture!

Generational situations here at the shelter with great grandparents raising their family members and visa versa, family units that rely and depend on each other has its own obstacles as well. Shobha, I have gone back to papers I wrote for some of your classes over the past couple of years and am so glad that I had to do some of the research I did! (not at the time but I sure am grateful now!)

In any case, I miss you all more than you know! Carry the blessing of your wisdom and your lessons that speak to my heart in all of my doings! Words cannot express the gratitude and respect I have for each of you! Also, I do not have Kendall (yoga) instructor's contact info but I do yoga with some of the residents (kids too) and it is one of my most favorite parts of my day! Trying to incorporate a more holistic healing process to this environment and yoga/meditation has been a blessing not only to the residents but to my soul as well!

Oh My Goodness, this is long, I apologize! I really miss and love each of you and am just so full of gratitude for your presence in my life!

Much love and blessings!

Taunya Bronson


History, Sociology, & Anthropology