Promoting higher education among the Native youth community
Created in 1993, the AIR Programs has continuously served our San Diego American Indian community and Native youth through our after-school mentoring programs. In 2002, the AIR Programs was incorporated as a non-profit organization in response to low educational attainment among our Native youth. We have developed our mission as "the promotion and success of American Indians within education."
The AIR program uses a “Teaching through Culture” model where Native youth learn about their culture and issues affecting their tribal communities. They contemplate the root causes and deliberate possible solutions with the help of college mentors (native and non-native) on many of these issues.
Cultural identity is said to be a strong indicator of American Indian persistence and academic performance in college. The more students are immersed in their language and culture, the better they achieve academically, socially, and economically. The program provides Native youth with an understanding of the uniqueness and diversity found among the American Indian population. Native students are encouraged and prepared to be active community problem-solvers.
We are proud of our students who have gone through AIR Programs, as many are active in their Native communities. Students have gone on to become nurses, law enforcement officials, tribal council members, and more. These students have also been accepted and have gone on to colleges like SDSU, CSUSM, UCSD, UC Davis, Brandeis University, Stanford, Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona, and many more. Our program continues to flourish as we teach Native youth using a philosophy of learning and teaching through culture. Mentoring provides our Native students with the tools and resources to pursue higher education. Despite the barriers, Native students struggle with, and we continue to prepare our students to achieve success in higher education.
Our cited research shows that:
of American students graduate from high school
of those students go onto university
graduate from college
It is these key findings that have led to the creation of the AIR Programs. What makes the AIR Programs so successful is our unique approach of "teaching through culture." By educating Native youth on their culture and the issues affecting their tribal communities, they can develop and sharpen the critical thinking skills that allow them to contemplate the root causes of these issues and come up with possible solutions.
Cultural identity is an extremely strong motivator for Native youth to pursue higher education. The more students are immersed in their own language and culture, the more likely they are able to succeed academically, socially, and economically.
Through AIR Programs, we hope to create positive change for our Native community by providing them with academic services, resources, and inspiration. Our staff, mentors, and volunteers pour their hearts into this program, and we sincerely thank all of those who have supported us.