Cheston Bailon’s road to ASU began on the other side of the world. He grew up as a member of the Navajo and Santo Domingo Pueblo Indian tribes. After high school, Bailon joined the United States Marine Corps. His brother John, a freshman at ASU at the time, was inspired to enlist as well. They deployed in spring 2005 attached to the Lima Company 25, 3rd Battalion — a group of soldiers who, in the seven months they spent in Iraq, became the most engaged marine deployment since Vietnam.
The dirty, impoverished towns they traversed in Iraq affected Bailon and his brother, reminding them of their own Native American communities back home. They returned to school in fall 2006, motivated to make a change. “As soon as we came back to ASU, we hit the ground running,” Cheston says.
In 2006, Bailon secured the Rosenzweig Scholarship, an endowed gift offered to American Indian students and coordinated by ASU Professor and Special Advisor to the President on American Indian Affairs Peterson Zah. Working with Zah and the Pat Tillman Foundation, Bailon and John developed a program to impact the lives of young Native American students. “Marketing is usually about matching product A to customer B,” he says. “Instead of a product, we want to develop people to their full potential.”
Through their program, they invite Native American high school students to ASU, offering them an immersive university experience. The high school students speak with advisors in their areas of interest, become acquainted with the price of textbooks and school supplies, and travel around the Tempe campus. Bailon says the goal is to make sure students are comfortable, so it’s not so much of a culture shock when they get to ASU. In the first year, four students came and seven came the year after. The Bailon brothers’ program has good potential to improve the retention of Native American students.
In addition to their major success, the brothers also founded a fraternity, Phi Sigma Nu, which Bailon hopes will continue the Native American student program that he and his brother developed. Bailon graduated from the W. P. Carey School of Business in spring 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and future plans to start a nonprofit. Though he was always driven, Bailon says it was his scholarship that truly inspired and validated his purpose. “We want someone to have been changed by what we do,” he says.