By Justin Susan

I guess the problem with pride is that it can hold wonderful moments from you. When you’re depressed or perhaps angry you fill yourself with pride. Trust me, I’ve experienced anger many times and in those moments I hold a deep stubborn pride within me.

Now don’t get me wrong, pride can be good, however, in my case it doesn’t count as good. The pride I’m going to share with is bad and I hope you can see the difference. My grandmother once said, “Why learn something if you can’t share it?” So, now it is my turn to share a story.

During the middle of the spring of 2014, I applied to a program that developed tips and skills for young students, specifically, for Native American and Alaskan Native teenagers looking to apply to Universities in the near future. I took it upon myself to fill out the essay and ask my counselor for a letter of recommendation, as well as my teacher.

Later that same year I received a letter stating that had been rejected to attend the program. The three previous months before, I slaved myself with essay drafts and letters of recommendations. The letter read: We are sorry to inform you that after careful review of your application, you have not been selected as a finalist. As I read that sentence I felt depressed. I personally thought I’d have no problem getting in. A wave of second thoughts began to linger in my head.

I’m a beginning filmmaker; I make home videos with a Nikon DSLR camera and often try to find stories or adventures I can share with people on YouTube. I enjoy creating them and sharing them. I am also a writer. I feel compulsive to state that my writing style is unique. What I mean by that is: I will one day become an author. I have worked very hard for the past four years of my life working on my craft. I shouldn’t say working on my craft, but more so I’ve been playing with my craft because I like writing. So why call it work? I feel confident in my ability to write because it’s fun, yeah, but I also write for a much more deeper purpose. I write for my ancestors, mentors, friends, and family.

Some people do things for different reasons, but I mean what I say. I come from the White Mountain Apache Tribe and my tribe is particularly below mediocre when it comes to its economy. My tribe has a high diabetic, crime, and alcoholism rate. My people’s suffering profoundly motivates me. From the 1400’s to 2000’s Native Americans have suffered. Our rights have been cheated and our history alongside our culture has been afflicted in every way.

The Native American race is limited when it comes to having a voice in the country. African Americans and Hispanic races are similar in our discrimination; nonetheless, they have such a sturdy voice in the country. So that brings the question. Why?

There are many theories and statistics that can answer it, but maybe the biggest problem is the lack of intelligence by most Americans. See, many people in the United States think we have things easy. They think we’re lazy, over weight, stupid, and drunk Indians. Which is far from the truth.

As I write I always think I’m turning up the volume for our race’s voice. I write to make a difference in the world. I believe I can change towns, cities, schools, people, and even countries just by writing. The battlefield for our ancestors was won by killing the enemy, but now times have changed. In this generation, we out educate our enemy with degrees.

So back to when I didn’t get accepted into the program that helped Native American and Alaskan Native teenagers prepare for college. As I read that I was denied, I didn’t know what to do for next couple weeks. I felt like I let my race down. That I dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I felt lost, sad, depressed, doubtful, but most of all angry. I was filled with pride. I said to myself I don’t want anything to do with that program.

I was driven by anger the rest of the year. I kept the letter and hung it up next my bed. Every morning as I started the day I would glance at it and it sparked a desire in me to prove them wrong. I can comfortably say that I really did accomplish some magnificent things then. So, the next year when the opportunity came again to apply for the program a second time I didn’t want to apply. I thought I’d get rejected and they would pass me up once more. I thought I wasn’t worth their time and I was blinded by pride. Though it didn’t go quite well with my mother; she on the other hand believed that it would be foolish for me to pass up on them. We discussed and sometimes it got ugly, but in the end I applied again.

In January 2015 I received another letter from the same program stating that I had been accepted to attend the program. I wasn’t sure what to think about it, but all I knew was that I was going to the program.

I arrived on a Sunday evening in Palo Alto, California for the College Prep Program held at Stanford University. The program was special to me and I experienced a lot of fun, but even more importantly I evolved and developed into a better writer. The program prepared me for the application process of college and took some stress of my shoulders. I got the chance to work with college admission officers and made many friends from around the U.S.

As I sat on the bench chairs waiting to board my flight home; I dazed out the windows and into the San Francisco sky. I couldn’t help, but smile. I didn’t see it then, but getting rejected from the program was a good thing. The bulk of being comfortable was replaced by the feeling of becoming a beginner again. It brought the mindset that I was less sure about everything. It threw me into the most driven periods of my life. It was disgusting tasting medicine, but I guess I needed it. Thank God for a good mother and a special lesson in pride.