South alum speaks about activism and path to Columbia


On June 7th, South alum and recent Columbia graduate Elsa Hoover spoke to students about her journey to college. Photo: Lisa Ramirez

Shadia Nurein and Tatiana Burch

Elsa Hoover,  a 2013 South graduate came to South this past week to speak to students about her experiences moving to a new city and how she got there. Hoover recently received her bachelor’s degree in architecture Magna Cum Laude from Columbia University. Hoover was also a part of New York City Stands With Standing Rock, a group of indigenous activists based in New York who joined forces with the activists in Standing Rock who were protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Hoover was also recognized by her university for her leadership with the King’s Crown Excellence award for civic responsibility. She explained to students the reality of applying to college and helped explain what to do to step out of your comfort zone. “It wasn’t the things I was really good at that got me excited it was the things that was like what if I could do that,” explained Hoover.

Although Hoover was nervous, she knew she had to share her story. “I’m in a special place now where I can reflect on where I’ve been in the last four years and the last eight years of my life and where I grew up and how this place shapes the decisions [students] made since I was here,” explained Hoover. She explained how being a South student helped shape her as well. “Being a South High student and being concerned with the world around me is still something that I care about and I hope that I’ve done something in my own life [that] will also make someone else’s decisions and their path after high school a little bit easier,” said Hoover.

Students gained information about how to prepare for life after high school and getting into college as well as confidence. “I think I gained self esteem and confidence [from the speech]. It’s pretty crazy how she was from South and it’s really nice hearing from someone who came from the same place and ventured off to New York and came back to talk about her success,” explained junior Deangelo Pryor.

Pryor who was having second thoughts about getting involved with his Native culture and Hoover’s speech encouraged him to be. “I was thinking not even getting involved in any Native American events, I was thinking about probably going to an art school and totally moving away from the lifestyle I used to have but her applying Native American situations to her journey in college. I think that now seeing what she did, and what she accomplished, I’m going to try and get involved in more Native American events as well.”

Hoover also related to many of the students as she spoke about her experiences that she went through which many juniors and seniors are going through now. “I’m kinda going through how she was talking about going through colleges and figuring out which college was best,” explained junior Melisanda Tucker

Hoover’s speech impacted students and specifically Native Americans students by showing them it’s possible to do what they want and to fight for what they believe in. Her advice to students is “you never get to fix everything right away, you never get to make one decision that changes your whole life, which also means you can’t fail everything all at once. Either you’re always making the decision to keep trying or to give up on something and honestly sometimes giving up on something that doesn’t work for you is the right choice,” she explained.  “When you’re in college and you’re an adult, there isn’t a right way to do thing, just the right way for you. You’re always deciding who you are in that moment…and how you can put yourself in a place that’s healthy for you, that makes you confident, that feels like a challenge. If you direct yourself towards the things that feel scary, but also good, in my experience you usually end up in the right place even if it’s not what you expected.”