Student Scholarship Story

Inspiring Change Agents Mentorship Propels Emerging Native Scholar Journey

Inspiring Change Agents: Mentorship Propels Emerging Native Scholar’s Journey

Kayla Dumore wanted to stay close to home when she was thinking about college. Since she grew up in Central Point and graduated from Crater Renaissance Academy, place was an important factor in her decision making. She chose SOU as a way to stay close to family and also because of one of her influential mentors, Native American Studies faculty member Brent Florendo, guided her toward SOU as an exceptional educational choice.  

Kayla started at SOU in the fall of 2020, during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, spending her entire first year of college online. Kayla reflects on this time remarking that, “As painful as the process was, there was a silver lining. I came out a little better for it.” She is currently entering her final year as a Sociology and Anthropology major working toward certificates in Native American Studies and Ethnic and Racial Studies.  

Kayla is an enrolled member of the Klamath Tribe and also has a strong lineage of Klamath and Modoc ancestors. In fact, Kayla is the very first SOU Honors College Tribal Nations Scholar, which acknowledges exceptional Native students entering the Honors College as first-year students. These scholars have the opportunity to mentor other tribal scholars, take the lead on service projects, represent their tribes, and find mentorship from SOU faculty.  

Kayla has immersed herself in campus culture recently finishing a two-year term as the Co-Chair of the Native American Student Union. During her tenure, she helped organize several important events on campus including Indigenous People’s Day and the 30th Annual Powwow. Beyond events, the group, with her leadership, convened community meetings, provided guidance and resources to student members, and advocated for important issues to Native students.  

As Kayla has explored academics at SOU, she found her passion in research, and was recently accepted into the McNair Scholar program. She will spend the summer conducting research as part of the McNair’s summer internship program. After finishing at SOU, she is planning on going on for her PhD in Sociology or Indigenous Studies and would like to conduct advocacy research on historically marginalized communities, particularly Indigenous or BIPOC communities.  

Kayla is particularly interested in the processes of education and how Indigenous academics teach and how that affects student success. In fact, her current practicum is titled “Indigenous Pedagogy and Action.” She is interested in one particular strategy—the canoe pedagogy—that SOU faculty member Chance White Eyes employs in Native American Studies, a framework for structuring classes using ideologies from the Chinook Indian nation of the canoe. Essentially, each student plays an important role in the classroom, and each student’s roles are different, but like the canoe, the learning can’t take place if all students don’t participate.   

There is no question that mentorship in higher education is critical to college student success. Native American Studies faculty member, Brent Florendo, was instrumental to Kayla’s success by supporting her in the transition to SOU. Kayla says, “I’m very proud of who I am and I would not be here without Brent.” She continues, “He has been with me for every step of this journey that I’m on. I have been able to go to him for educational support. He is a wonderful friend and colleague. The stories he tells pull at your heart strings.”  

She says the same about the many other faculty members who have supported her and influenced her educational experience including Sociology & Anthropology Professor Jessica Piekielek and Native American Studies faculty including Brooke Colley and Chance White Eyes. Kayla says about the Native American Studies department, “The NAS community has been imperative to my success. They are my chosen family. They’ve supported me through thick and thin. Having that feeling of connection and belonging has been so important to my success. It’s helped me keep going when I felt like I couldn’t.” 

Kayla is a recipient of the Smullin Foundation scholarship, which supports students who have graduated from Oregon high schools and show a commitment to free enterprise in their education. It has had a tremendous impact on Kayla’s academics as she spent the first few years searching for funding and living with family to save money. She is grateful for the grants she has received so that she can focus on her academics and graduate without debt.  

Beyond her passion for research, Kayla is also an artist and singer. She beads her own jewelry and recently finished beading her younger sister’s high school graduation cap. In addition, she’s working on beading her first ribbon skirt. She’s also a singer and participates in Dulcet, the premier acapella group on campus. 

What she wants to tell others entering the university: “Find the things that you’re passionate about.  Be here for the right reasons. As a queer Indigenous woman, it’s not like universities have historically welcomed me, but I’m here because I deserve it,” and she wishes to tell her freshman self, “You are smarter than you think you are.”  


Nayeli is just one of many students who benefit from SOU scholarships. Invest in student growth by contributing to SOU scholarships today.