IAIA - Institute of American Indian Arts

Student Success Stories – Past Recipients

Here are some 2012 stories of students who have previously benefited from generous donors and organizations:

Kenneth Kanesta

After dropping out of high school, Kenneth Kanesta of Cochiti Pueblo got a job working a dry foods packing plant. But he always knew he wanted more. With many of his family members Kansas University alumni, he thought the Midwest was also his destination. But at 14 he lost his grandpa. His mother died nearly two years later. Forced to drop out of high school to help the family pay bills, Kenneth wasn’t sure what his future was going to look like until he met an IAIA admissions recruiter.

“He said, ‘You aren’t doing anything, why don’t come up here for a semester and see how you like it,’ and I ended up staying,” said Kenneth, who had quit his job to take care of an aunt on dialysis at the time.

Although Kenneth had received his GED in 2007, it had been many years since he was in an educational setting. Last year Kenneth’s first year in college and it was a slightly rough one.

“I was really computer illiterate,” said Kenneth, now 25. “I didn’t know what USB was, I didn’t know how to send emails and I didn’t know how to save homework. My teacher, Jennifer Coots, she signed me up for introduction to New Media Arts and that really blew me away. We got to do a brochure and we learned Microsoft word. I really learned a lot in that class and about computers.”

Kenneth graduated this past spring with a certificate in business. He will return to IAIA in the 2012 fall semester to major in New Media Arts under a new scholarship developed by a generous donor, John Russell, who gave $500,000 to IAIA. Some of the funding has been used to establish the Chief Joseph Scholarship, created last year to aid New Media Arts majors. The competitive scholarship requires recipients to be incoming freshmen, have a 3.0 grade point average and an obligation to maintain the 3.0 GPA to receive $12,000 annually for four years. Students under the Chief Joseph Scholarship are also required to obtain a business certificate.

“Having this scholarship, it makes things easier and it’s encouraging me now, driving me to go back to do well,” said Kenneth, who says he’s not an artist but would like to use his degree to help his family market their art, including drums, pottery and sculptures, and set up a store near Cochiti and develop a website.

For others in a similar situation or those who think they can’t take those first steps into college life, Kenneth offers this advice:

“I would just tell them to gather up the strength to do it. I would tell them just to try it—it doesn’t hurt to try,” he said. “You may end up doing great things.”




Katrina Montoya

For IAIA senior Katrina Montoya, a video camera is just an extension of her arm.

“People think it’s weird if I don’t have one in my hand,” said Katrina, 23, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians majoring in New Media Arts and Creative Writing.

Katrina, who grew up in Mountainair, N.M. southwest of Albuquerque, said IAIA was her first choice in colleges after hearing about the Institute’s 3-D animation program when meeting an IAIA recruiter at a college fair in another nearby small town.

Since attending IAIA, she’s learned prose, film and cutting-edge animation techniques. She’s also traveled to Hawaii, New Orleans and New York. And she’s also been part of a NASA internship since 2011 where students design, build, test and perform a simulated lunar mission. The 10-week internship at NASA’s Florida headquarters engages her and other IAIA students in simulation and graphic design, and prepares them for an international collegiate competition, the SISO Smackdown, with other students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Tokyo, among others.

“I’ve been able to do a lot—it’s through IA that I’ve had a lot of opportunities,” Katrina said. “If you’re determined and dedicated, you’ll be rewarded.”

She said she is very grateful for receiving the Andrew Krusko Sr. Memorial Fund Scholarship last spring to help her with her goals of graduating with a B.F.A., obtaining a master’s degree in graphic arts and then eventually teach animation. Santa Fe resident Peter J. Krusko graciously established the scholarship in memory of his grandfather.

In addition to film and writing, Katrina is also interested in developing video games, which she hopes to pursue in the future as well.

“Without scholarships, I wouldn’t be able to attend school,” said Katrina, who lost her father in 2007. The only surviving members in her family are her grandmother and two sisters, one a twin.

“What has inspired me (to pursue education) has been my family,” she said. “My father was a single parent. I never met my mother. Through my father and his dedication throughout our lives, I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to him to make him proud. Everything I ever wanted do is for him and my grandmother. It’s a powerful thing to be an inspiration for your family and community. It’s so easy to get stuck in that cycle that’s seen on the reservation and in small towns.

“It’s an empowering thing—education,” Katrina continued. “And only you can do it for yourself.”