For more than 15 years, Johnson & Johnson has been an active supporter of the American Indian College Fund through its Johnson & Johnson Tribal College Scholarship Program, employee giving program, and special event sponsorship. Through these programs, Johnson & Johnson has donated more than $326,000 to make higher education a viable option for today's Native youth.
Students from more than 11 tribes attending more than eight tribal colleges studying veterinary technology, environmental science, nursing, human services, public administration and computer aided drafting have benefited from Johnson & Johnson's scholarships.
Jimmie says, "Challenges and choices are made every day in our lives. I learned early in my life. I was raised by my grandmother. Through sports in junior high wrestling I met a person who recruited me to a high school in Utah. At the tender age of 14 I found myself on a bus going away from everything I knew. I was not sure it was the right thing to do. I missed home already. Everything was different around me, the environment, the people, the clothing, and the new home. I had memories of my grandpa and grandma at the doorway of our hogan in the middle of the desert. I remember their faces seeing me off as I was driven away. I woke up on a bed with clean white sheets and in my own room. Right from the front yard grew trees and grass. I could not smell the familiar earth and hear grandma's voice. The voices were unfamiliar and so far away. I had to climb stairs to finally see the new faces around me. In the days to follow I struggled with the feeling of being homesick for the first time in my life. I thought of going home many times, but somehow I convinced myself that it was okay. Later in the years I returned home," Jimmie says.
When he made it back, "Things were different; perhaps it was because grandpa was no longer there. He was the brick that held all the pieces together. Although I was glad to see my family, especially Grandma, I knew things were different. My trips home became only visits. I had left behind my family and my culture, but I knew I had my identity and teachings of my grandparents instilled in me. My grandmother was very traditional in every way. At the time, I was a child and I did not understand how important the things were that she was telling me."
Jimmie continued, "It was the words that they shared with to me and their teachings that got me through the loneliness. I also realized then that the prayers and discipline they taught me would play a huge part in growing up far from my family. I spent six years there. I began feeling divided between two worlds. I felt like I was trying to hold onto something yet I was pulled in another direction. I think I lost sight of who I was and tried to be who everyone expected me to be. During that time I also lost sight of my goals and found myself confused about many things. When I graduated and attended a little bit of college, I decided to return home. I tried to get educated, yet I found myself unfocused. I finally decided to find myself. There were troubling situations I found myself in. I was doing all the things that I was told were wrong and I knew these things would not benefit me," Jimmie says.
"I went back to Grandma and she was able to guide me again. It did not happen overnight. One day I reflected back and realized that for many years I had lost ME. I had lived part of my life in confusion; I forgot who I was and I was just being someone that others wanted me to be. It took some time and my love ones were patient. Today, I have found that my culture and tradition was my foundation. I have returned to college to earn my associate of arts degree in Environmental Science and Diné Studies. I think that our environment is important and raising awareness in preserving it is essential for our people everywhere. And although I have an interest in the science field, I believe that our culture is as important and knowing my culture and language would be my foundation in succeeding in my educational endeavors."
Jimmie says after graduating, he wants to help his community, his people, and his three sons, like his grandmother did for him. "With an education I would be able to have a secure financial situation for myself and my family. Most importantly, I would like to be a positive role model, as a father, for my sons."
Jimmie looks back on the lessons he learned from his grandmother, and says, "As a child, I remember waking every morning to the familiar sound of Grandma's voice. There was always the warmth of the home fire. I knew I could count on a hot meal. We did not have much, Grandma and I. When I look back now, it did not matter, because Grandma provided me with all the comforts of home. She taught me discipline through working for what we needed to sustain our livelihood. She taught me prayers and how to endure through faith. She taught me to be strong by standing for what I believe. It was my Grandma who molded me with her unconditional love, her kindness, and her knowledge. When I returned home she was always there with open arms. When I decided to find myself again she was there to embrace me. Grandma passed on a few years ago at the age of one hundred and four. It was through her eyes I found who I am."
Jimmie says, "I would like to say Ahee'hee (thank you). You are giving me an opportunity to better myself to become an asset to my family, my people, and my community. I will put forth my best effort in accomplishing my goals and dreams. Your contribution is truly appreciated. In return, may the creator return to you many more blessings."