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Student Story: Mary Ann Matheson

[SPOKANE, Wash.] The COVID-19 pandemic changed the course of Mary Ann Matheson’s life.
Originally, Matheson was attending Spokane Falls Community College to become a teacher, but she changed her major after seeing the effect of the pandemic on her tribal reservation.
“I was inspired by the pandemic and how crazy things were on the reservations, so I wanted to learn to care for my people,” said Matheson, 27, an Indigenous woman.
She decided to work in the medical field and will graduate with a pre-nursing degree in June. She plans to transfer to either the University of Washington to get a Bachelor of Science in public health or to Spokane Community College for an Associate’s degree in nursing. Matheson hopes to use her degree to work in a clinic or Indian Health Service at either the Colville or Coeur d’Alene reservations. If she gets a degree in nursing, she plans to work in a hospital near one of the reservations.
“I realized that what I really wanted to do was help my people be healthy in whatever way I could or try to improve our system because it’s bad,” she said.
Matheson grew up in the Coeur d’Alene reservation until she was six years old. When her parents divorced, she moved to the Colville reservation where she lived until she was 18. She now lives outside of the reservation with her six-year-old son.
“I realized that, if I went to school, I could improve his life, my life and the lives of other people,” she said.
SFCC opened up a broader view of the world for Matheson. She credits the classes and her instructors for bringing different viewpoints, all of which will help her be a better medical professional.
“Before I came here, all I knew was reservation life, but Humanities (classes) taught me different perspectives of different people that I could bring into hospital life,” she said. “They’re people and not just body parts. It could be the worst day in their life and knowing how to communicate with them makes it easier on them and you. Also, with a co-worker or doctor.”
Matheson also became involved with SFCC’s Red Nations Club, which focuses on Native American culture and beliefs. This year, she is the most involved member, according to the club’s advisor, Darlene Rickett. Matheson helped organize the college’s annual Pow Wow, which draws in tribes from around the region – including the Coeur d’Alene and Colville tribes –  and some as far away as Montana and Canada.
“I’m happy I came into the club because it is more of a community here,” Matheson said. “I found all these cool people and am taking all of these classes where I’m learning a bunch of stuff.”

Matheson is proud to be graduating and took part in the Native American graduation ceremony at Gonzaga University in April. She believes it’s important that her son saw her go to college and graduate.
“I’m happy he sees that people care about learning. SFCC is a good place to be,” she said. “Your education is something no one can take away from you, and you can go very far in your life.”
Community Colleges of Spokane’s Native Land Acknowledgement Statement
We are honored to acknowledge that the Community Colleges of Spokane, and our main campuses for Spokane Falls and Spokane Community College, are located on the traditional and sacred homelands of the Spokane Tribe. We also provide services in a region that includes the traditional and sacred homelands of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Kalispel Tribe and Nez Perce Tribe.

We pay our respect to tribal elders both past and present as well as to all indigenous people today. This land holds their cultural DNA and we are honored and grateful to be here on their traditional lands. We give thanks to the legacy of the original people and their descendants and pledge to honor their stewardship and values.
CCS provides education and services in a six-county region of Eastern Washington, operates Spokane Falls Community College and Spokane Community College and is the largest provider of Head Start and Early Childhood Education in the region. Each year, nearly 30,000 people – from infants to senior citizens – are provided educational services by CCS.

Posted On

5/31/2023 9:46:28 AM

Posted By

Rachel Román



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