How the one once-voted "most quiet" broke out of her shell and became a campus-wide leader.
By: Faith Bollom
In the spring of last year, McCaylin Autobo was chosen to represent Oklahoma State and serve as this year's Miss American Indian OSU. This award means more than just the crown for Autobo; she has decided to use her role as a platform and make a difference not only here on campus, but outside as well throughout Oklahoma.
"It was important for me to put myself out there, especially coming from a small town and the small tribe of Wichita," Autobo said.
We are sitting in the office of the Center of Sovereign Nations, where Autobo works and a place that she has found a home in. Coming to Oklahoma State University, she loved the diversity here on campus as well as the idea of starting clean and being able to see herself succeed here.
"Being on a campus that pushes you to do more, and that is what OSU is all about, is really being able to put their students in the spotlight." This statement couldn't be more true for a shy student who once thought if she went one day without social interaction, it was a good day. This truly goes to show the impact that this center and position have had on Autobo.
Through this position, Autobo has not only grown in her self confidence, but also in her values as she has learned and sees changes in her own tribe and others in Oklahoma. A cause that is important to Autobo and one she chooses to focus her leadership toward is preserving Native American languages and Historical Trauma in Native American communities. This role allows her to visit different tribes in Oklahoma and educate on how these communities are impacted.
One example of Historical Trauma she has seen is families being separated because of boarding schools. Once they are older, the children have a hard time connecting, and drug and alcohol abuse become very prevalent.
One of the biggest impacts this has on Autobo's generation is that it has one of the highest rates of suicide in the Native American community. This summer she worked directly with the Rise program in the Wichita Tribe, and had the opportunity to learn how to support young adults going through historical trauma and ways to prevent suicide.
"I have been through so much in the past three years, and that is one of the biggest reasons I wanted to take on this position," Autobo said.
She grew up seeing a lot of things that children shouldn't be exposed to, and that has given her the ability to connect with the families in these communities. Autobo's biggest role model, her grandmother, passed away in 2016 due to stage-four liver cancer. This impacted her in a way she wasn't expecting, but has allowed her to talk about her experiences and go out to communities, like her community back home, and reach out to the young adults there. Her own personal experiences have touched her in a way that drives her to continue spreading awareness and reach out to others who have similar experiences.
Speaking to Autobo, I could tell how outgoing she was, but she says that if you were to meet her in high school you would not think she'd be doing the things that she is today. In Autobo's high school yearbook, she was once voted "most quiet." From coming to Oklahoma State University and by taking on this role, she found an outlet to grow within and says that by coming here, she has "transformed herself into a completely different person." She said when she goes back to visit her tribe and speak to those who knew her as a child, they are stunned when they realize how much she has grown and blossomed into not only an outgoing, but an uplifting and inspiring person.
When asked about one thing she was able to learn through finding a home at the center, Autobo said, "Being able to use my voice in a way that I never had before."
Autobo not only represents Oklahoma State University as Miss American Indian OSU, but she also is a member of Alpha Pi Omega, the Native American sorority on campus. And she also works for the center and is a member of the Native American Student Association. Now, a junior studying Human development and Family Science and minoring in Psychology, Autobo wears many hats and has learned how to prioritize her time with having so many roles and responsibilities on campus. She credits these roles for making her the person that she is today. She has always held respect as her highest value, which makes her not only a loved person, but a very humble leader.
As Autobo goes into her last few months holding this position, she hopes to leave a legacy as a positive and compassionate leader through her actions and be able to spread this on to future Miss American Indians. She always wants to make a positive impact on anyone that she meets.
This summer, Autobo had the chance to meet a former Miss American Indian OSU from the 1980s. She was able to learn from her and see how much this position forever changed her life. Having the power to completely destroy someone and the power to give them the ability to completely love themselves is a message that has stuck with Autobo and she hopes to carry out through not only her remainder of her time as Miss American Indian OSU, but also her life. Her story of growth while wearing this title and the ability to find a place at OSU is inspiring. It is inspiring to know that everyone has a place here at regardless of your past mistakes or who you were in high school— nobody's story is set.
Photos by: Raegan Kennedy