Native Forward Scholars Fund announces 2023 Students of the Year

Making the Grad Campaign bestows top honors to accomplished scholars

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Oct. 19, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Native Forward Scholars Fund announced undergraduate student Peter Thais (Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, formerly the St. Regis Band of Mohawk Indians of New York) and graduate student Christina Thomas (Reno-Sparks Indian Colony) are this year’s Students of the Year.

“The Student of the Year award celebrates exceptional scholars of Native Forward who have demonstrated their commitment to their education and leadership and service to their Tribal communities. Both Peter and Christina emanate each of these qualities and more. We are pleased to call them Native Forward scholars and to recognize them as our Students of the Year,” said Native Forward Chief Executive Officer Angelique Albert (Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes).

Native Forward’s Student of the Year Making the Grad campaign, launched in 2017, amplifies the stories and voices of our scholars and highlights their impressive achievements in academic excellence and commitment to community engagement. For over 50 years, Native Forward has empowered more than 22,000 students from over 500 Tribes in all 50 states by providing scholarship funding ranging from $250 to $30,000.

Peter Thais is a member of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe on the Akwesasne Indian Reservation and is pursuing a degree in Biological Engineering focusing on Ecological and Microbial Systems and a minor in Indigenous Studies at Cornell University. He is an active member of the Indigenous community at Cornell, where he is on the executive board of the Native American and Indigenous Student Program, working as an ambassador, and is the co-leader of the Indigenous Mentorship Program, which pairs first-year students with an Indigenous upper-class mentor.

Christina Dawa Kustmana Thomas is Numu (Northern Paiute), Newe (Western Shoshone), and Hopi (Tobacco Clan). She grew up on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation in Wadsworth, Nevada, and is an enrolled member of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. She is an Indigenous scholar, vocalist, dancer, cultural activist, and language warrior, and her greatest role is as a mother. Thomas graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Minor in Biology in 2019. She is attending the University of California, Davis, as a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Native American Studies Department and earning a Designated Emphasis in Performance and Practice Studies. Thomas attained her master’s in Native American Studies from UC Davis in 2021. Her practice is rooted in the Great Basin, more specifically Northern Nevada. Her primary fields of study are historical musicology and language regeneration of Numu Yadooana [Northern Paiute language]. Thomas’ research amplifies Numu ways of making music history — privileging Numu knowledge, languages, and performance to Indigenize the music studies curriculum.

Native Forward Scholars Fund has delivered more funding in direct scholarship dollars to Native students in the U.S. than any other scholarship provider. The national nonprofit is committed to ensuring that every Native student who wants to pursue higher education has the resources to do so. Providing over $400 million in direct scholarships during its 53-year history, Native Forward has empowered over 22,000 scholars from more than 500 Tribes in all 50 states and contributed to over 1,700 law degrees and more than 2,200 Ph.D. degrees. Through scholarship funding and holistic support, Native Forward has increased the graduation rates of undergraduate students to 69%, compared to the national average of 41% for Native students, and has boosted the rate for graduate students to 95%. The organization’s alumni are among the most influential Native leaders in the U.S., including Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Pulitzer Prize finalist Tommy Orange, and Dr. Cynthia Chavez Lamar, Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.  

Contact: Sara LaBarge
[email protected]

SOURCE Native Forward Scholars Fund

Originally published at
Images courtesy of

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