About Us

The Native American Support Program (NASP) mission is to increase the enrollment, retention and graduation rates of Native American and Indigenous students by cultivating an environment supportive of positive experiences for Native students at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and within Native communities.

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NASP Overview

A few words about our identity in today’s world

The Native American Support Program (NASP) provides opportunities to enhance Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders and Indigenous students’ growth and development, academic achievement, and leadership building. Indigenous teachings that emphasize the holistic philosophy are incorporated into student development to guide and instill the principles of responsibility to themselves, their education and community.

For over 45 years, NASP has assisted Native and Indigenous students earn their degrees and become leaders in their communities. It has played a key role in providing academic and professional development services to students. The services focus on enhancing student success and serving as an avenue to heighten their university and community experiences.

Student Success

NASP endeavors to contribute to the success of Native American and Indigenous students at UIC by:
  • Serving as advocates for students’ access to higher education
  • Assisting students in developing and achieving educational goals
  • Providing an environment that recognizes the diversity of backgrounds and learning styles of the students
  • Assisting students in attaining internships, fellowships, scholarships, and applying to graduate school, research and employment opportunities
  • Developing collaborative relationships with institutions, organizations, schools, parents, families, and communities to promote a setting conducive to the completion of a postsecondary degree
  • Providing support and mentoring with a purpose of developing the well-being of students through self-determination, academic success, and community service
  • Connecting students on campus and adjusting them to college life by connecting students when needed to counseling, tutoring and peer groups to help them excel academically
Meet The Team
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Cynthia Soto   /   Director

Cynthia Soto ( Sicangu Lakota/Puerto Rican), Director, earned her B.A. in Elementary Education, an Illinois K-9 Certification, an Illinois Teachers License, and a M.A. in Education-Instructional Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a first generation college student and graduate of UIC, she is well acquainted with the challenges facing Native American students and the opportunities available to them on campus, in their communities and on a national level. Cynthia has worked within education for almost 20 years from early childhood education programs to higher education.  She helped both students and adults access college resources and built working relationships that have lasted many years. Cynthia understands that for Native American students, a holistic approach is crucial to their success, and she employs this technique skillfully in her interactions with students and their families.

Program/Student Advisor –    Jonathan MeDrano

Jonathon A. MeDrano (Arapaho/Shoshone), Program/Student Advisor, is a UIC alumnus where he graduated with three Bachelor of Arts’ degrees.  In addition, he has two Master of Arts’ degrees from and is completing his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. His research concentrates on the development and expression of Native American identity and spirituality in the urban context. He has worked for various federal, state and city agencies throughout his professional career.  When his schedule permits, Jonathon continues to volunteer his efforts toward the advancement of Indigenous peoples. Currently, he is the Academic Counselor and is committed to the success of Indigenous students at UIC. In his role he has provided academic support, cultural understanding and academic guidance and counseling referrals for Indigenous students. He assists with providing programs and services that support recruitment, retention and graduation along with academic enrichment and professional development. He also assists with college transition issues unique to Indigenous students.  He also has an academic, professional and community dedication to Indigenous communities across the globe.

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Carol Parks  – Office Support Associate 

Carol Parks is NASP´s office support associate and has been the foundation of the program with a service of over 31 years. Carol has established a working relationship with key personnel from other departments and is particularly knowledgeable about policies and procedures in regards to solving multilayered issues. Besides being the backbone of NASP, Carol maintains a close relationship to current students and alumni that have since relied on her for advice and a smile.

Take It From Them!

Here’s what people are saying about us.
NASP, was my home away from home. I was welcomed and included.Heather Farina, MSW 2009
To this day I credit finding my niche in the Chicago Native community to building a strong relationship with NASP.Lori Faber, LAS 2008
NASP has allowed me to build friendships, both academically and professionally, with other members of the organization.Adam Fahey, LAS 2001
The Native American Support Program is important to me because it allows me to connect to my heritage.Michael Pak, Junior, Mechanical Engineering
The NASP is fundamental for continuing my education as an Indigenous 
Engineer. The program allows me to establish and embrace my identity while solidifying my academic path.Ninoshka Llontop Lozano, Sophomore, Engineering
I have received very positive support and influence through my involvement with the Native American Support Program.Lane Mita, Senior, Business Administration
It’s an environment where I focus on academics with advisors that care and want to ensure that we don’t fall behind in school but also one where other students talk about their heritage. I honestly love walking in the office….Horalia Armas, Sophomore, LAS