Catching up with GRIC Graduates

October 20, 2017


Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News


“I always liked figuring things out,” said Jay Johnson, who graduated with a degree in math and geology this past May from Arizona State University.


Johnson is an Environmental Intern with the Department of Environmental Quality and has been working with the department since before graduating from ASU.


“Math has always interested me and always pretty easy for me,” he said, “Water was the big interest and ASU didn’t have a hydrology degree and so I decided to also major in geology to combine my two interests.”


Although obtaining dual degrees with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Bachelor in Science in earth and space exploration with a concentration in Geological Sciences was journey in itself, an accomplishment. Johnson always had the Community on his mind to do more for his people by applying his education.


He said the Community’s cultural connection to water and how it is managed today is what inspired him to pursue two degrees along with his yearning for the outdoors.


“It’s important everywhere you go throughout the Southwest and you think about [here] and how much water is important to our culture and future…that interests me the most,” said Johnson.


As an intern with DEQ, Johnson said his days are not always the same, because it has taken him from one program to another within the department.


He said, “I work with all the other programs, like water quality, waste, pesticides and wildlife. Each of these programs has provided invaluable experience about our community and what’s around us.”


The work with DEQ has taken him out to the Pee Posh wetlands in helping restore the area by planting native vegetation and taking water samples and ground water measurements.


“They offer a lot of good hands on experience and have a good group of people in every program that are very knowledgeable and have a ton of experience and are all willing to help…it’s a good place to be to help out the Community” said Johnson.


Another part of his responsibilities his assisting with the wildlife program, which earlier this summer allowed him to help Chuckwalla conservation efforts at South Mountain.


According to Johnson, getting a foot in the door before graduating from college, allowed him to apply what he learned in the classroom.


He recalled one such occasion where his knowledge from the classroom was immediately put into practice out in the field.


After taking a final exam that went over water sampling, Johnson was out at the Pee Posh wetlands doing what he had just completed on the example.


He said experiences like that are make the whole reason for going to school very exciting, because he can apply concepts learned in the classroom outdoors.


Johnson said he encourages Community members to look for opportunities that will help fund their education, such as scholarships.


“The Student Services Department is a great resource both in terms of financial and general support,” he said.


Johnson was able to have his tuition covered through AIMS’s (Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards) scholarship, but said the Community was helpful in providing funding for books and housing and a year of funding for tuition.


His experiences working out in the Community have seen the benefits of his education paying off both as an intern and ambassador for education.


Through his internship Johnson has been able to share his passion for math through science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics activities with the youth of the Community and how much getting an education can expand upon those topics.


“I want to reiterate that getting an education opens up many doors and that Community members are in such a good position from a financial perspective with the aid of the Tribal Education Department that it makes sense to take advantage of the resources available and pursue a higher education,” he said.


Johnson’s advice for Community members, who want to pursue a higher education is, “Make sure you go into a field you enjoy, if you go to school and you find out that you are interested in something else, than take the time do that, especially if it sets you up for the rest of your life.”