Native American and indigenous cultures play an important role in the history of our country. For Priscilla Ortiz, celebrating her heritage has always been an ongoing effort.
As a member of the Kumeyaay Nation, more specifically the Luiseno/Payomkawichum tribe, Priscilla grew up speaking Iipaaya on the Rincon Reservation. Throughout her childhood, she attended a variety of youth programs, learning everything from bird dancing to bird singing.
By the time Priscilla graduated high school, she decided to further her education by attending Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. “I was studying social work and was gearing up to go into business management before the pandemic hit,” she says. “Because of Covid-19, I was sent home with 72 hours notice.”
Moving Back to San Diego from Kansas
Once Priscilla moved back home to San Diego, she witnessed many of her siblings struggling with online learning. She shares, “I ended up taking a year off from school and helping kids on the reservation learn during the pandemic.”
She also noticed the many gaps in public education and the lack of resources for both Native and Hispanic students. However, Priscilla was excited to learn more about the opportunities offered at Kumeyaay Community College (KCC).
Starting in August 2020, Priscilla began taking classes there and credits her professors, including Ms. Dillard for helping take her education to the next level.
Priscilla is currently working alongside her cousin and long-time KCC instructor, Stan Rodriguez, to develop and refine a language immersion program with an emphasis on the Kumeyaay perspective. According to Priscilla, “This program will be more intensive, going beyond just teaching colors, numbers, shapes, and animals.”
She’s also excited to share that more and more KCC students have been participating in the program over the last year.
Though Priscilla already has a ton on her plate, she is even engaged in work on the Kumeyaay Garden and Village, a project that aims to help students learn about the symbiotic relationship that exists between the tribe and the land.
For a while, she was on the social work route, but her focus has now shifted to education. “My plan is to transfer to UCSD, enroll in their educational leadership program, earn my B.A., then M.A., and eventually teach at Cuyamaca” she says.