Born and raised in the Navajo Nation by three generations of single moms, Shianna grew up strong and independent, learning everything from cooking to changing the oil in her car and everything in between. Her childhood was not easy, there was no running water, her family was poor, generational poverty was rampant. Shianna was living day to day with few ambitions toward furthering her education.
Life shifted when Shianna became pregnant with her first child, Michonne when she was 16 years old – and then a second child, Sterling, followed a year later. Shortly after the birth of her children, their father became repeatedly abusive, he was subsequently arrested and is now serving time in prison for domestic violence. Shianna knew she would be following in the footsteps of generations of other women in her life and at least for the foreseeable future, would be the sole provider for her family. She dreamed of a new life in Denver and made the move from Arizona. But finding a home and stable employment to support her dreams and her family were elusive. She ended up couch-surfing with friends, and then found herself homeless and living in a tent under a bridge with two small children. A desperate call to relatives in Arizona prompted her mother to do an online search for assistance and Warren Village popped up. A few months later Shianna moved her children, Michonne, now 5, and Sterling, now 4 into their new home.
With a safe and affordable home, child care and early education for her children, and a Family Advocate to coach her, Shianna immediately began to assess her current situation and make goals for the future. With two low-paying jobs on her resume that left her struggling, she knew she needed to focus on getting a degree. She enrolled at the Community College of Denver and was able to begin taking college courses on site through Warren Village’s College to Career Initiative. “Going to college was not something I had ever envisioned doing, it was only with the support of my Family Advocate that I endeavored to enroll, and now I’m well on my way to completing a Paralegal Associate’s degree,” said Shianna.
Shianna has found tremendous support from other residents and credits the sense of community with helping her achieve her goals. Her children have also embraced their own community in the Learning Center. Sterling, once a shy and closed young boy is now thriving and confident. Michonne is discovering her creative side and becoming a very poised young lady.
Shianna is working diligently to complete her degree in December 2021, and she upped her credit score with the help of our financial counselor. She is incredibly passionate about promoting the visibility of her heritage and life in the Navajo Nation, and after participating in a public speaking course she has gained the confidence to advocate for herself and her people.
“My goal once I am done with my Paralegal degree is to carry on studying Law—Tribal Law specifically—and Native American studies, so I can pursue a career as a Tribal Attorney, representing tribes across the country. Moving back home to the reservation to help my people has always been my mindset since the age of 12. To finally be actively working towards that, as well as advocating for my people fills my soul and makes me feel complete,” said Shianna.