May 10, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterThis year's Outstanding Native American Scholar Award will be given to Rikki Harris, an Eastern Shoshone tribe member from Fort Washakie, during the Central Wyoming College Commencement ceremony Friday.
"I'm really happy I got the award," Harris said. "I was surprised because there were some very good candidates. ... It is nice to be recognized."
With an interest in helping families and children, Harris also will be receiving her Associate of Art degree in human services. Harris said she hopes to continue her education after graduation and eventually receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in the same field.
"She serves as a significant role model for not only Native American women but also the Eastern Shoshone tribe," said diversity coordinator and instructor of Arts and Sciences at CWC Sergio Maldonado. "She's also very involved in religious cermonies on the reservation."
Harris has been on CWC's president's list every semester since 2008, and her grade point average has exceeded the required 3.75 minimum to be inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, which she was accepted into this year.
Harris interned at the Riverton Women, Infants and Children office, the Department of Work Force Services and LifeNet, also in Riverton, where she was able to teach young adults life skills. Harris has two daughters of her own, 3-year-old Izelee and 5-year-old Lové.
Harris said being a mother convinced her to obtain her GED from CWC and continue attending despite the challenges she might encounter.
"At first I wasn't into going to school, but they were my motivators to get it done," she said, referring to her daughters.
Even with children, Harris said, attending school is an attainable goal, especially if a person has help from family members. Her advice to younger people is that college is not always as hard as people think it might be and setting goals helps the process.
"My ultimate goal was to graduate, but I never imagined I would graduate with honors," Harris said. "I set my goals high but achieved more than I thought I could."
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