Sharon Chambers, Director of Tribal & Community Outreach, joined Carrington College back in 1987 when the school was called Apollo College.
She worked in enrollment services for nine years before briefly leaving for another opportunity; she returned to the Carrington flock in 1999 and has been with us ever since.
How did you move from enrollment services to working with tribal students?
While in enrollment services I met a lot of tribal counselors when they came in with students. They invited me to visit the reservations, but I never got the chance because of my other work commitments. But in 1996 I was offered the opportunity to start a tribal department at another school. Three years later the owner of Apollo heard about the students I’d helped over there, and invited me back to do the same thing here.
Tell us a little more about your work with the Native American communities.
I work with the education departments on the different reservations in Arizona and New Mexico to help tribal students transition from the reservations and pueblos to life in the city and on campus. Many of these students may have never left their reservation before, let alone been in a situation like this.
I work closely with the students until they start. I help them through enrollment, with finding an apartment and things like learning bus routes. They can be so shy it is difficult for them to ask questions. It’s really introducing them to people on campus who can help.
So you’ve built up trust with the communities?
Many of my contacts on the reservations are now friends because I’ve known them so long. Because I’ve been doing this for a while, they know they can count on me. They know I’ll take care of them and their students.
What reaction do you get from the parents of the students you help?
Most of the parents that come in have heard about me some way or another; they know my reputation and that I’ll follow through on what I say. My kids are grown, I have grand kids now, so I treat their kids how I would want my son, daughter, or grand kids to be treated in the same situation.
You recently won an award, tell us more about that?
The award was from the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs Southern Pueblos Agency. It was for my part in the development of a new, unique mobile career training program – The Collaborative Employability Training Event. It’s aimed at improving employment outcomes and extending support for residents of the Southern Pueblos in New Mexico.
Sharon Kidman, the Southern Pueblos Agency Job Placement & Training Coordinator, drove the development of the program. Her concern was that a lot of graduates return to their pueblo as soon as they leave school, and basically disappear. She wanted to do something to help these students find jobs and asked us for help.
Our Albuquerque campus partnered with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Southern Pueblos Agency and two other colleges to develop this new collaborative mobile career training program. It was a lot of work, and took a year to get started. The workshops cover employment training, networking advice, interview skills, résumé writing, motivational tips, and more.
And you’re seeing success?
We’ve now been to four of the ten pueblos, and the Governors [of the ten pueblos] are raving about what we’ve done. We don’t limit the workshops to graduates of our three schools, they’re open to all pueblo residents. The Governors were instrumental in getting us recognition through this award.
Sharon Kidman is just as passionate for the success of these students as I am, and I’m glad that the need for this program, and everyone’s hard work to make it happen has been recognized.
After so many years at Carrington, what keeps you motivated every day?
I know Carrington College can work for students who come to the school with the right attitude, and are here for the right reasons. I know that they skills that they obtain at school can definitely help them find a job, and go on to help them support themselves and their children.
I’ve been here for so long, I know it works. I’ve seen the positive effect that a good education can have on an entire family’s life, not just the individual parent who comes to school.
Please join us in congratulating Sharon on her award, and thanking for her continued commitment to our students and the Tribal communities of Arizona and New Mexico.