Arizona State University
Emery Tahy will finish his master's degree at Arizona State University this December.

Student Spotlight: Education Is Key to Future Tribal Leadership

Arizona State University

Emery Tahy left his home at age 16 after a high school counselor told him he’d be better off learning a trade since he was failing in school. Now he’s finishing his master’s degree at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona while working toward his goal of becoming a tribal leader.

Tahy’s journey through life has taken him from the small Navajo reservation community of Westwater, Utah, to Job Corps where he learned the value of working hard and to the university where he discovered a passion for American Indian Studies.

Learning electrician and iron worker skills through Job Corps served him well after high school, but he always felt like there was something missing from his life. Then the bottom fell out of the economy.

“I learned a lot from that experience and I will always have a trade, but I felt that there was a void. There was something missing,” Tahy said.

When construction work dried up during the recession, he worked for Native American Connections in Phoenix that introduced him to research and aiding American Indians in the city.

“I felt like I would have more opportunities if I had a degree,” he added. “I feel like education is the key to being successful.”

Taking classes at a community college began to fill that void as did transferring to ASU to earn his bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in American Indian Studies.

“I’m really passionate about politics,” he said. “I felt like I was always engaged in what was going on in the world while doing construction, but I felt left out. Education was what was missing.”

American Indian Studies classes taught him about tribal governance and led him to the realization that he could give back to his people and his nation through education. He’ll finish his master’s degree this December.


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