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UNLV - Bringing Together a Heritage and a Career

UNLV - Bringing Together a Heritage and a Career

Graduate student and instructor Crystal Lee started a nonprofit organization to pair American Indian youngsters and mentors.

The medicine man was gravely ill. He didn’t know it yet. Neither did his family. Justin Lewis' declining health cast a heavy shadow over that Thanksgiving in 2005 when his family gathered at his daughter’s home in Dilkon, Ariz., deep within the Navajo Nation. 

It was a rough time for granddaughter Crystal Lee, too. She was 25, working as a researcher for the National Institutes of Health branch office in Phoenix. But she was torn between pursuing a graduate degree, perhaps a medical degree, and coming home to “The Rez,” the Navajo Reservation, where the full-blooded Navajo woman had been born and raised. She had never felt comfortable at Arizona State, where she earned her undergraduate degree; compared to The Rez, where she treasured the support of her family and culture, it was an alien planet.