MCC American Indian Institute celebrates 35 years of service to indigenous students

MESA, Arizona – April 21, 2022 – The Mesa Community College American Indian Institute celebrates its 35th anniversary from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m., April 27 at the Clock Tower/Lawn at the college’s Southern and Dobson Campus, 1833 W. Southern Ave., Mesa. The event is free and open to the public.

The celebration honors the founders of the MCC American Indian Institute (Aii), student leaders, athletes and Native American staff and faculty. Festivities include a native blessing and traditional dances. Food and beverages will be served while supplies last.

Garrison Tahmahkera, who led the founding of the American Indian Center, now the Aii, in 1986 and served as its director until 2003, will be honored during the celebration. Tahmahkera is recognized across the nation with a multitude of honors, including being inducted into the MCC Hall of Fame in 2019.

Another honoree, the late Loretta Damon, a longtime MCC advisor who passed away from COVID-19 complications in November 2021. Damon retired in 2015 after working more than 30 years in the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD). Her generosity and selflessness stretched beyond the borders of campus, as she established and maintained ties with tribal educators, administrators, and students throughout Indian Country.

The Aii, established in 1986, aims to minimize transition difficulties American Indian students may encounter when leaving their home areas. The Aii assists Native American/Alaskan Natives students in the areas of enrollment, scholarship, financial aid, student involvement, leadership and advisement.

Currently, Aii has the largest Native student population of all MCCCD colleges, serving all 22 Tribes of Arizona, as well as more than 30 out-of-state tribes throughout the U.S. and Canada. The Institute strives to include community engagement, university collaboration, resource development, K-12 collaboration, student support services and networks, building Tribal relations, outreach and recruitment in its annual strategic goals.

Aii successes include:

Learn more about the MCC American Indian Institute at

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Media contact: Dawn Zimmer, 480-461-7892,

Mesa Community College is nationally recognized for university transfer, career and technical programs, civic engagement, service-learning and innovative approaches to education. On average MCC students provide 23,000 hours of community service annually. For more than 50 years, the college has served as a resource for education, workforce development and lifelong learning. Host to more than 25,400 students annually, MCC offers degree and certificate programs at its two campuses and additional locations through a combination of modalities. MCC is transforming how it champions student success through Guided Pathways with Integrated Support Services and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. MCC is a Hispanic Serving Institution with nearly 50% of its students being the first in their families to attend college. MCC has the largest indigenous student population of all the Maricopa Community Colleges; its American Indian Institute serves students from the 22 federally recognized Arizona tribes as well as out-of-state tribes. The diverse student body includes hundreds of international students from around the world. Award-winning faculty are dedicated to student success, providing the education and training that empowers MCC students to attain their goals. Located in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, on the traditional territories of the O'odham, Piipaash and Yavapai Peoples, MCC is one of 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District. Visit to learn more.

Mesa Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) --

The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) is an EEO/AA institution and an equal opportunity employer of protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or national origin. A lack of English language skills will not be a barrier to admission and participation in the career and technical education programs of the District. MCCCD does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in its programs or activities. For Title IX/504 concerns, call the following number to reach the appointed coordinator: (480) 731-8499. For additional information, as well as a listing of all coordinators within the Maricopa College system, visit

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Publication Date: 
Thursday, April 21, 2022