Finding a Special Mentor

July 27, 2011

Growing up on the Navajo reservation in Northern Arizona and coming from a family that had never pursued higher education, Candace Begody didn’t think of her future in terms of what she might do in the world.

But one special mentor — a high school chemistry teacher who, in her words, “encouraged me and told me of all the great things I could accomplish” — helped put Candace on the path to a different life story.

Candace took his words to heart and enrolled at The University of Arizona, where she discovered a galaxy of possibilities she’d never considered.

“Until I came to the U of A, I never realized how much I hadn’t thought beyond the borders of the reservation,” Candace recalls.

Now, as a journalism major and reporter, Candace isn’t just actively shaping her own story, she’s bringing light to others, particularly those of the Navajo and other first nations.

“Telling our stories, including the stories of the Native American community, is important because it has implications for policy and economic development,” Candace explains.

Like any good journalist, Candace recognizes the importance of differing perspectives. “Diversity means having multiple lenses,” she says. “With multiple lenses, one can see the world better than someone with a narrow view. If a newsroom is diverse, more points of view are reported and people are more informed about issues.”

But for Candace, diversity isn’t just about good reporting, it’s about a more meaningful personal journey.

“Diversity helps us to see beyond what we are programmed to see so that we can make wider decisions in our everyday lives,” she says. “Diversity changes the way I look at the world and helps me to better understand my place in it.”

Even as her understanding of the world deepens, Candace is working against misunderstandings around her. As the current Miss Native American University of Arizona, she speaks to many organizations about stereotypes of Native Americans and serves as a role model to other students and youth.

For Candace, this spirit of giving back is a natural response to the gifts she’s received.

“I’ve been very fortunate to meet the right people who have really guided me to something beyond what I expected of myself,” she says, not aware, perhaps, that she is already likely to become one of those people — akin to her own high school chemistry teacher — for some future student at some crossroad not yet arrived.

Candace Begody, UA Student, Creator and Editor of Native Perspectives, Founder of the UA Chapter of the Native American Journalists Association and Miss Native American University of Arizona