When he decided to transfer to Colorado State University, Weston Jones had some concerns.
“To be honest, I was a little scared of coming to a mostly white university,” said Jones, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “I didn’t know if I would be able to find any people like me.”
He did, thanks to outreach by the Native American Cultural Center’s North Star peer mentoring program. Jones became a mentor himself, estimating that he has helped nearly 100 incoming first-year and transfer students find their way within the campus community over the past three years. He was also part of the Community for Excellence and AISES, which plans the annual campus pow wow.
Jones, a first-generation college student, had graduated high school in 2015 at age 15. He completed a year of a two-year technical certificate program and was enrolled in the Oglala Lakota College when he decided to come to CSU. He tried different majors, including neuroscience and psychology, before he discovered philosophy, in the College of Liberal Arts.
“I struggled at first to combine western culture with my traditional culture; it was hard to translate,” he said. “But then I began to see the similarities with Lakota ways: Aristotle said this, Sitting Bull said that. It helps me build off what I learn.”
Jones said his interest in science – and CSU – was sparked by visits to his elementary school by the Little Shop of Physics team, which regularly travels to reservations in Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.
In his search for Indigenous faculty to study with, he enrolled in a Federal Indian Law and Policy class taught by Roe Bubar.
“Weston has a unique ability to craft original arguments that support the position he is taking or the client he is representing as counsel in a legal forum,” said Bubar, now serving as interim Vice President for Diversity. “He brings his optimistic energy to each conversation and elevates the potential of those around him. Weston always notices when someone is left out or needs to be included and takes to heart CSU’s Principles of Community.”
That class inspired Jones to pursue a legal studies minor to his bachelor’s in philosophy.
He will be attending Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minnesota – one of the 14 schools that accepted him – in the fall, and spend the summer at the American Indian Law Center’s Pre-Law Summer Institute at the University of New Mexico, and with his degree, plans to specialize in federal tribal law.
Jones would like other Native students to know there are people at CSU who will help you succeed. “There is a path that has been paved,” he said.
And he will be taking a venerable philosophy with him on his future path: “I continue to do what I do for the next seven generations.”