TEDNA Success Story: Diego Provence

The mission of TEDNA, since its foundation in 2003, has been to assist Tribal Education Departments in providing culturally relevant educational resources and support to Indigenous students. One way that TEDNA has sought to accomplish this mission is by implementing the Accessing Choices in Education (ACE) Project, which utilizes Educational Specialists to provide group and one-on-one support for current high school students.

TEDNA currently serves fifteen schools across Oklahoma, under the supervision of four Specialists who each partner with a different tribe. One such school that is currently being served is Sapulpa High School, where one Specialist, Anita Pahsetopah-Smith, partners with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to provide support and resources for Indigenous students.

Diego Provence, a recent Sapulpa graduate, is one of more than 700 students who was served under TEDNA’s ACE Project during the 2023-2024 school year. Diego says that his Specialist assisted him to find a path after high school.

When asked about his favorite part of the ACE program, Diego says that he enjoyed socializing with new people and having the opportunity to discover different paths. He also described his decision-making process when determining whether or not to attend college, and the role that Pahsetopah-Smith played in assisting him with that decision.

“[She] took me and my siblings to the College of the Muscogee Nation where we learned about different careers and about the college.”

While Diego did not apply to the College of the Muscogee Nation, the experience that was provided through the ACE program allowed him to discover his options post-high school graduation and formulate a plan.

“I knew that I wanted to get my Associates [degree] so that is what I’m doing now. I have the help I need with the Muscogee Nation and my mom and tía. I’m currently at Independence Community College.”

Pahsetopah-Smith says that Diego has applied for all of his scholarships and grants, and they have ensured that he has everything he needs to succeed in the dorm and campus life. Diego also recently found out that he has earned a starting position on the Kansas-based junior college’s football team, which was featured on the Netflix documentary Last Chance U.

Diego, 5th from the left in orange shorts, with his ICC football teammates

His mom also had high praise for the role that TEDNA’s Educational Specialist played in the trajectory of Diego’s future.

Tina Provence emphasized that “the program wouldn’t be what it is without Anita. She has been there for my sons through the hardest of times. She has provided support, books, transportation. The list goes on and on.”

Tina says that not only did Pahsetopah-Smith provide educational and logistical support; she also provided emotional encouragement for Diego.

“She is the one that made Diego feel like he can do this. He could have settled but at the end of the day, his love for football and instilled motivation from Anita gave him the courage to move away from home to start the journey of becoming his own man.”

Tina also praised the resources provided by the ACE Program through their tribal partnerships.

“Coming from a single parent household, this resource is vital to my family. I am grateful that the Creek Nation cares about its tribal members’ education and provided our family with Anita. She shows [the kids] their strengths.”

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