Samantha Cruz ’25
Samantha Cruz is a Yaqui first-generation immigrant and student from south San Diego. She balances her multidisciplinary interests through majoring in art practice and conducting geographical research as a Miller Scholar. Samantha is a proud Kurt T. Shery High School alum and currently mentors Shery students who are interested in pursuing higher education. An incoming community college transfer student, Samantha has been the recipient of numerous scholarships, grants, research programs, internships, and apprenticeships this past year, including an inclusive trip to present her research on MMIWG at the 2022 SACNAS NDiSTEM Conference. Samantha is determined to deconstruct and rebuild systems that have previously neglected underserved populations and she is relentless in her advocacy for fellow survivors, especially Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit folks. Examples of this work at Cal include the abolishment and reconstruction of the former Student Organic Gardening Association farm and former student housing conduct committee process. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, she plans to attend graduate school to continue her research of Indigenous environmental justice. Growing up crossing the border, Samantha never imagined that she would actualize her family’s wildest dreams for her by pursuing higher education, all while being so far away from their homelands.
Cody James McCook-AhTave ’25
Cody James McCook-AhTave is an enrolled member of the Ute Indian Tribe, Uncompahgre band. Cody is a re-entry transfer student who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s in sociology. Cody intends to continue his education after his bachelor’s; he has his sights set on an MSW so that he can further his work with Indigenous communities with a focus on Native LGBTQIA+ and two-spirit advocacy work. Cody has led the planning and execution of multiple life-saving events revolving around suicide prevention and Native LGBTQIA+ and two-spirit community gatherings. Through his work, Cody hopes to not only bring awareness and understanding but to also build safe and sacred places where Native LGBTQIA+ and two-spirit individuals feel supported on their return to the circle.
Paloma Saldana ’24
Paloma Saldana attended her first sweat lodge ceremony when she was one year old. During the ceremony, a Mexica priest grasped her by the arm and leg and baptized her in the central fire three times. He pronounced that she was blessed in the name of the world’s peace and reunification. Two decades later, Paloma has learned that achieving peace and reunification takes hard work. If we want our interconnected web to sustain, we must reconnect individuals with themselves and others. To do this, Paloma became a certified advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as she pursues a career in medicine. Through this, she learned how to remind people of their sovereignty and the joy of chemistry. Paloma is a passionate scientist because she is Native American. As a future physician, she will work as a healer with the knowledge that the medicine around her is a gift from her relatives. We have this wealth of medicine due to our ancestor’s participation with the natural world. She intends to work directly with patients to be their bridge back to tranquility and connection to their families. Honoring her first sweat lodge ceremony, Paloma commits her future to caring for all of her relations.
The Cal Alumni Association Native American Scholarship (CAANAS) is a one-year award that recognizes Native American students at UC Berkeley for their leadership, community involvement, and contributions to the Indigenous community.