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White Mountain Apache
Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

When you see Sabrena lobbying in Washington, D.C., representing the tribal colleges in meetings with her New Mexico senators’ offices, you wouldn’t know it, but this personable and positive young woman has had a very hard road to travel.

Her childhood was filled with fear and uncertainty. Ever since Sabrena can remember, her family was plagued by drugs and alcohol. “Growing up, I was in and out of foster homes and group homes, being raised by too many different people,” she said.

Sabrena was just 16 when she lost her dad. “He was the only one who seemed to care,” she said. After his death, Sabrena and her mom found themselves homeless and drifting. But Sabrena never gave up on her dream to finish high school and go onto college. Even when she and her mom lived in a tent outside of a church, she would hitchhike to and from summer school, working tirelessly to finish high school.

“I finally earned my high school diploma in 2010 but my family never celebrated that accomplishment or even congratulated me. I guess they never knew how much it meant to me.”

One night Sabrena was suddenly kicked out of a trailer she and her mother were sharing with another family. Homeless, penniless, and alone, the young girl turned to one of her father’s friends who she called her surrogate uncle for help.

He was a kind man who allowed her to stay with his family for a few months. During that time, he talked to her about enrolling in Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI). “He helped me enroll at SIPI and even bought me some supplies I needed to live in the dorm.”

With a current GPA of 3.75, this bright, hardworking student is well on her way to fulfilling her dreams. She is earning dual associate degrees in business administration and accounting and is scheduled to graduate next year. After SIPI, Sabrena hopes to earn her bachelor’s degree at Haskell Indian Nations University and then go on for her master’s degree.

Sabrina has strong feelings about the importance of education. “Education is the key. I see poverty and debt casting a shadow over my tribe,” she said. “I want to become an accountant so that one day I can be the treasurer of my tribe. I want to help pull them out of debt and poverty.”

With two young children who depend on her, Sabrina pays for school and supports her family through scholarships and financial aid. She’s working hard so that her children will grow up in a financially stable and emotionally secure home.

This diligent mom also volunteers as a daycare provider, inspiring other young moms and Native children to pursue their dreams!

Congratulations, Sabrena!




10-14-2013 at 9:17 AM
Congratulation! I'm glad you and your uncle made the right choices being given a challenging life situation. It's always great to hear good stories like yours. I am very sure you've inspired many with your story. Continue to strive higher! Best of Luck!
01-08-2014 at 8:50 AM
Sharon Broadrick
Sabrena. I sit at this moment in my 5th grade classroom in Anadarko, OK speaking to them of SIPI. My son Christopher Shane Johnston graduated 2003 from SIPI and I wish for them the same wonderful experience. If you read this, could you send encouraging words? Thanks, God Bless from Sharon Broadrick, Choctaw.
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