Monday, July 27, 2009

Challenges of First-Generation American Indian Students

According to the Pell Institute, only 11% of first-generation students earn a degree within six years. There are many reasons for this. First-generation students are less prepared than their counterparts, they did not get help choosing a college that is a good fit for them, their families often discourage them from getting a higher education, and being unfamiliar with college culture, rather than immersing themselves in it, they withdraw.

For American Indian college students, many of whom are first-generation students, this problem is compounded when they attend college off the reservation or outside of their culture. Not only are they unfamiliar with the academic demands of college, but they are also unfamiliar with their culture. This is why so many American Indian students drop out of mainstream colleges if they have not been prepared to succeed at a tribal college.

The 33 tribal colleges and universities across the country are uniquely positioned to help American Indian students succeed academically. They provide small classroom environments, ensuring students get the attention and counseling they need. Students are schooled in their culture and are given the confidence and study and learning skills to accompany that confidence to enable them to finish their education, whether at a tribal college or mainstream institution. While mainstream institutions are developing student housing for first-generation students and other programs to enable them to succeed, tribal colleges have been providing the support and special coursework for at-risk students ahead of the curve.

By supporting tribal colleges, you help ensure that first-generation American Indian students are part of the 11% that graduates, and helping to improve those statistics.

Monday, July 20, 2009


This week the team at the American Indian College Fund embarks on a one-day retreat to recharge and regenerate, learning about leadership principles and applying them in our mission to provide scholarships and access to higher education for all of our students. We will be out of the office all day Wednesday.

As we set out to learn more about how to lead in the arena of fundraising to serve our communities, I would like to invite you to share some of your tried and true tested leadership principles that you employ in your studies, your careers, and your personal lives. These can be Indian leadership principles, mainstream ideas, or even those you have innovated yourself.

I look forward to hearing your ideas on leadership!

In a good way,

Monday, July 6, 2009

Education is independence

After Independence Day, one thing strikes me: if American Indians are ever going to be free of poverty and being treated as second-class citizens, education is vital.

Education does not just mean the basics: the math, the science, the language and reading skills: education also means being educated in the Indian way. Learning our native languages. Learning our traditions and ways as Indian people, and preserving them.

Why is this important to our independence? Because we were then, as we are now, strong and independent people. And to appreciate that strength and independence, we need to continue to cultivate our strengths as Indian people, preserving our languages and teaching them and our ways to our children, rather than subverting them to a dominant culture. Just as other groups celebrate their heritage while achieving great things as the part of this great democracy, so should we as American Indians. Education is the key to that freedom: freedom from poverty, and the freedom to define who we are as a people.