The Voice of Success: An Exploration of the Lived Experience of Kumeyaay College Graduates


  • Ricardo R. Ramos Point Loma Nazarene University, USA
  • Katina Evans San Diego Christian College, USA
  • Carolina Ramos Cajon Union School District, USA



Native American, Higher Education, Persistence, Student Success, Kumeyaay, Retention


This phenomenological study ethnography aims to examine the lived experience of Kumeyaay Nation college graduates in higher education. Specifically, the study investigated factors that twelve Kumeyaay graduates perceived as contributors to their persistence in academic attainment within six years of enrollment for a baccalaureate degree at a four-year institution. Four themes emerged from the data analysis and were labeled as follows: cultural and identity revitalization (learning about tribal history and language), discovering the leader within (student leadership participation), a support network paradox (family values in contrast to community values), and what is the alternative? (limited opportunities as motivation). The research findings unveiled implications for practice in higher education, such as empowering students with knowledge of cultural traditions and the Kumeyaay language, fostering opportunities for leadership development, establishing Native American community-center support networks, and fostering mentorship and opportunities to give back among college graduates from the Kumeyaay Nation.


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Author Biographies

Ricardo R. Ramos, Point Loma Nazarene University, USA

RICARDO R. RAMOS, Ed.D, is Assistant Professor and the Program Director of the Master’s in Higher Education program at Point Loma Nazarene University. His research interest revolves around culturally responsive learning experiences, higher education persistence, and online curriculum and instruction Email:

Katina Evans, San Diego Christian College, USA

KATINA EVANS, J.D., is the Vice President of Academic Affairs at San Diego Christian College. In this role, she leads the academic division which includes traditional undergraduate, online undergraduate, teacher credential, graduate, and professional development. With a unique business, non-profit, and law background, Dr. Evans is a strategic leader with business savvy. Email:

Carolina Ramos, Cajon Union School District, USA

CAROLINA RAMOS, M.A., PPS, is a school counselor in the Cajon Valley Union School District, where she empowers students with wellness skills and creates an environment of belonging. Her research interests are social emotional development, sense of belonging, and inclusive educational environments. Email:


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