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‘They Are Not Alone.’

Native American network helps alumni and students connect through community.

Photograph by Coleman Neal, NC State

Justin Richardson ’15 came to NC State from Hollister, N.C., growing up in the small Native American community of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Like many in the community, he was the first in his family to go to college.

As a student, he got together with other Native American students for fellowship and helped create Miska Waya, a drumming group. (“It’s an awesome way to de-stress,” he says.) Now Richardson is helping alumni from Native communities connect with one another while supporting students who are adjusting to life at NC State.

Justin Richardson ’15

Richardson is president of the Native American Alumni Network. He first got involved not long after graduation: He and some recent grads were at a meeting of the network when the president said he was stepping aside. “We were still trying to figure out how to be alumni, out in the real world,” he says, but he and others in the group stepped up to take leadership roles.

The network is seeing renewed interest these days. The group held a back-to-school picnic last fall, and held a tailgate before the Homecoming game against Clemson (in conjunction with the Latinx Alumni Network) and a welcome reception at the Park Alumni Center.

Students are always invited, and that connection is important, says Richardson, who is assistant director of recruiting for the College of Engineering. Around 150 students at NC State are Native American, many from small rural communities. Arriving at NC State “is a huge culture shock,” he says. “In my own personal experience, I struggled. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to . . . We want to show students that this is possible and to let them know that they are not alone.”

Helping students connect with each other and their culture “can be as simple as food and fellowship,” he says. “Community, and building the community up, is very important in Native culture.”

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