By Polly Keary, Editor
It was an enviable dilemma.
By the time he’d heard back from the colleges to which he’d applied, Nicota Stevenson had acceptance letters form Bard College, a very exclusive private college that recruited the young man for a spot on the basketball team, Columbia University and Yale.
After some consideration, Stevenson chose Yale, and this fall he will embark on an Ivy League education that he hopes will culminate in a career in corporate law.
The prestigious acceptance is the result of years of rigorous academic and extracurricular work that began in about the third grade, Stevenson said last week.
“I had a really great third grade teacher named Miss Cameron,” he said. “That’s when I started to excel.”
The Stevenson family moved to Monroe and tests revealed that Nicota was reading at a college level in the sixth grade. He went on to join the National Honor Society, in ASB Leadership, as a freshman tutor in the mentoring program Link Crew, and he played on the freshman JV basketball team.
A knee injury took him out of basketball his sophomore year, but he played his junior and senior year, becoming the team’s lead scorer, as well as the team captain.
He also pulled off a perfect 4.0 grade point average, and he is one of 11 valedictorians of his graduating class.
But the extracurricular activity that has perhaps been the most meaningful is his engagement with Sky Valley Indian Education. Nicota is a Hoopa/Pueblo Native American, and his heritage is important to him.
At May’s annual Sky Valley Indian Education Pow Wow, the Stevenson family was honored as Family of the Year.
Each summer, the family, which includes parents Tammy and Chris Stevenson and three brothers, returns to the Hoopa Reservation in Northern California, and Stevenson wrote his essay for his application packet on the meaning of his heritage, describing his various communities such as his farming, school and activities communities, as “metaphorical tribes.”
He also got in touch with the farming heritage of the Sky Valley, working summers on the Furrer farm in the Tualco Valley bucking bales 14 hours a day and doing other strenuous farm labor, and riding horses with the Furrer family.
He is interested in corporate law because he is a good persuasive speaker, he said. And he hopes one day to be of use to the Hoopa Tribe, which is troubled by poverty and substance abuse problems, he said.
Nicota credits his parents for pushing him to do his best and also credits teacher Giles Stanton for helping him and other students with application essays.
He has already toured the Yale campus, and said that, though it is far from home, he believes it will be a lot of fun and rigorous enough to keep him from getting too homesick.
And he thinks it will empower him to give back some day.
“I think being around the kinds of people I’ll be around, making those connections, it will help me give to my tribe,” he said.