Jesse “Red Eagle” Robbins, 25, is an OCCC student who will transfer to the University of Oklahoma next spring to study Native American Studies.
With his degree he plans to go into the culture preservation department with his Choctaw Nation tribe.
So, how is Robbins different from any other student with aspirations?
Seven years ago, he was as far away from college as a person can get.
At 18, Robbins said he was arrested for dealing drugs when he was in a gang and charged with a felony.
“I was looking for a clan, a warrior society,” he said. “I thought I found it in the gang, but through my growth and transcendence above that brought on by my tribal identity, I started going to ceremonies, started learning what it truly was.”
Robbins said he will be the first college graduate in his family.
“The only person in my family to ever graduate high school was my dad,” he said.
“He never pressured me to do anything. I just saw what he did with it, I liked how he talked and how intelligent he was.”
Robbins said, these days, he uses his talents to keep others from making the same mistakes he made early on.
He is part of the group Native Nation, with a fellow Choctaw hip hop artist Chris Taylor and Anthony “DJ Pyro” Mnic’opa, a Dakota/Seminole.
“I learned about storytelling and our ceremonial songs,” he said.
“Through that, I started seeing that our native youth weren’t that attracted to the old ways. They looked at it as corny or something that the elders did and not them.
“I learned I could trick the kids into understanding how amazing our culture is. I put the elders’ message into the youth form.
“By learning my tribal identity, I saw the songs and storytelling went with that. I used that to elevate myself and now I am trying to elevate the youth above assimilation and conformity …
“At my shows there will be kids that come up to me and I can see the spark in their eyes to change. That’s what I hope they use.
“Even for me to give them four minutes of a different idea, a different way out, it allows them to think a little differently, give them a different perspective,” Robbins said.
Robbins said his father has to be his biggest influence.
“Through time, I grew and matured enough to see he was a good person. He always stood by me, he never judged me. He just showed me alternatives and eventually — luckily — I woke up.”