Pyramid Lake Paiute member overcomes challenges to achieve her goals | NevadaAppeal.com

Pyramid Lake Paiute member overcomes challenges to achieve her goals

Jarrette Werk | First Nation's Focus

Loni Romo (Pyramid Lake Paiute, Tohono O’odham and Pima) graduated this May from UNR.

RENO, Nev. — Loni Romo knows a thing or two about adapting to tough situations.

Romo, 32, an enrolled member of Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, is a mother of two who recently graduated with the Class of 2017 from the University of Nevada, Reno.

"My dream job would be working strictly with Native students," Romo said in an interview with First Nation's Focus in June. "I would just love to be able to see our own succeed."

Romo's path to higher education is not your traditional story — taking the scenic route is how she describes her journey.

Growing up in Wadsworth, Nevada, she, like many other Native children, attended Natchez Elementary School.

"All of the cultural aspects were my favorite part about going to Natchez," Romo said.

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When junior high approached, with hopes to better prepare herself for high school, Romo decided to attend school 20 miles away in Fernley.

Soon after transferring, Romo realized school was different off the reservation.

"I was considered 'the Native girl,'" Romo said.

Because she was away from home and family, she said she began to get discouraged, only doing enough with her studies to get by in order to be eligible for sports.

Romo's path took an unexpected turn when she gave birth to her first daughter, Michaela, the summer before her junior year in high school.

Romo was determined to finish high school more than ever, but that was easier said than done, considering she was now a teen mother on top of being a student.

"Dealing with people who were so negative, saying I was a typical Indian girl who was never going to amount to anything, was hard," Romo said. "I was damn sure I was not going to drop out of school."

Despite the odds stacked against her, Romo graduated on time. After receiving her diploma, Romo's counselor approached her to say, "I can't believe you actually did it," she recalled.

Romo was at a loss for words — not only at his comment, but more so because it was one of the few times her counselor had spoken to her.

After graduation, Romo attended Truckee Meadows Community College to receive her Associate of Arts in General Studies.

She then took a job working with Native youth as a Student Graduation Advocate for high school students in the Washoe County School District.

During that time, Romo had her second daughter, Emileigh.

"While I was working in all these schools, I would tell my students to go to college, but yet I wasn't leading by example," Romo said.

After being unexpectedly laid off, Romo had the urge to go back to school, this time attending UNR.

The first semester back at college was a difficult one. Romo was placed on academic probation, and she nearly had to dis-enroll.

But that scare lit a fire underneath her, she recalled.

"I couldn't stop. I knew I had to finish to be where I want to be," Romo said.

After a few years, she graduated with her Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Development and Family Studies.

Yet, Romo's educational journey is not over. She was accepted this summer into graduate school at UNR for Counseling and Education Psychology.

Her dream is to work specifically with Native American students, so she can see more of her own people continue their pathway to a higher education.

Jarrette Werk (Aaniiih) is a journalism student at the University of Nevada, Reno, and works for the Sierra Nevada Media Group as an intern, writing and taking photos for First Nation’s Focus. Email him at intern@firstnationsfocus.com.

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