+ SPOTLIGHT | Tim Topper
What are your tribe(s): Lakota (Cheyenne River Sioux)
Whats your age: 26
Name: Tim Topper
What are the first 3 words that come to mind when you hear the word healing?
Forgiveness, Understanding, Growth
Bio/ backstory, tell us what you DO and a bit about how you came to do it.
In my current role I get the opportunity every day to help support and affirm college students as a Program Coordinator for the Cross-Cultural Center at Chapman University in Orange, California. Each day, I get to help students grow and learn more about their own identities, help share their stories, and educate others on how to empathize and celebrate the diverse backgrounds, cultures, and histories of their peers. I am lucky to be able get to do the work I am passionate about on a regular basis as I wanted to do something more than a standard 8-5 job. From my undergrad days at Fort Lewis College to graduate school at Texas Tech University, I wanted to find a way to make a positive impact in the lives of students who struggle with identity, cultural, or social issues during their time in college and help them succeed.
How do you heal?
While there are several things that I do to take care of myself and well-being (playing the Creator’s game, eating well, spending time with those close to me) the most effective way I’ve found to heal is through conversations with others that focus on forgiving (whether it was a small accident or a big incident letting go of the negative emotion to seek empathy), understanding (getting to know a deeper meaning and impact) and growth (strategizing on how to make a positive impact).
Do your ancestors affect what you do, how you live? If so, how? Like in what way?
While my connection with my ancestors has been nearly non-existent growing-up due to living in a non-traditional household, I have been able to learn more about my ancestors and how to listen. During times where I experience a lot of stress or uneasiness about a decision, I never feel like I am alone and have support even when the odds may be against me as this is what I feel are my ancestors providing guidance.
Who are your Mentors/ role models?
Many of my role models are those who’ve worked (or are still working) to make a positive difference in the lives of students and Native community who may not have grown up in a traditional Indigenous community.
What inspires/ drives you to keep going?
My inspiration comes from the students I get to work with on a regular basis. While assisting them in program planning for the campus or having a 1:1 conversation with them, I get to see them grow and make a positive change for a better future both on and off campus.
If you could relay a mantra, message, wisdom, ism, food for thought to Indigenous 20 somethings from the US and abroad what would you say?
Don’t be afraid to be proud and share your story, your background, your struggles, as there may be someone else in the room who you can learn from, empathize with, or help each other grow.