Education Services to address student dropout rate

BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
12/22/2011 08:25 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation lost more than $500,000 in scholarship money after losing 318 CN scholarship recipients during the 2010-11 academic school year, the period for which the latest figures are available.

“We lost about 318 students between fall (20)10 and the end of spring (20)11,” Education Services Group Leader Dr. Neil Morton said. “Those students would average, because some are graduate students or part-time, they would average about $1,600 a piece. So we take 318 times $1,600 and that would be the actual loss. And we call it a loss because it is a loss to us unless the students transfer out of state or unless they drop out for a while and then come back and finish up their degree.”

In fall 2010, the tribe supplied scholarships to 2,732 students ranging from undergraduate freshman level to graduate school level. CN officials said the largest number of dropouts is at the freshman level, losing 185 freshmen during the 2010-11 year.

“Students have a difficult time managing their time when they enter college, and for most of them it’s their first time away from home, and it’s just a big step for that freshman student,” Morton said.

Education records show that 89 sophomores and 44 juniors who received CN scholarships dropped out during the 2010-11 academic year. Once the students become seniors, the dropout numbers are slim, Morton said.

Some CN scholarship funds come from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but most of it comes from tribal funds, Morton said. Once the student drops out, CN doesn’t get that money back.
“If the student drops out before the legal dropout period of the university, then we get the balance of funds returned,” Morton said. “Usually the student drops out after the second nine weeks, after the refund policy has already elapsed by the university.”
After conducting a phone survey of some of the scholarship recipients, Education Services found that the biggest reason for students dropping out was bad grades.
“The other reason that ranked high enough that it’s a concern of ours, they just didn’t turn in their papers for second semester, didn’t turn in their community service hours or forgot to send a transcript in and therefore did not receive funding,” Morton said.

Other reasons included students obtaining full-time employment and family illnesses and issues.

To address these issues and keep students in school, Education Services officials plan to assign a contact person to each scholarship recipient and will be visiting several universities throughout the spring 2012 semester.

“That will be a new service that we’re providing so that students who are scholarship students or students who are just interested in scholarships…there will be a person who they can talk to on a one-to-one basis,” Morton said. “And we are asking the universities that comprise the largest number of our enrollment in Oklahoma, their counseling centers to see if they can legally provide us documentation on the students’ progress. We would like to be a part of their intervention strategy.”

Morton anticipates that with the efforts that have been initiated the dropout rate will be significantly less.

“We think this needs to be a total effort on part of the Cherokee Nation and individual employees that know students that are in college to encourage them to stay because that first year is a social adjustment as well as an academic adjustment,” Morton said.

tesina-jackson@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000, ext. 6139

About the Author
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter.    

In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.
TESINA-JACKSON@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000 ext. 6139
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter. In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.

Education

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/21/2014 03:29 PM
STILWELL, Okla. – Forty-six years after leaving Stilwell High School to enlist in the U.S. Army, Cherokee artist Donald Vann received his high school diploma during a Veterans Day assembly at his former school. Vann was surprised with the diploma on Nov. 11 in front of hundreds of Stilwell students and former Stilwell Public Schools Superintendent Neil Morton. “I thought I was just going to be a guest speaker, so this was totally unexpected,” said Vann, who served from 1968-73. “I really feel honored and as though the circle is now complete. Just having this diploma means a lot to me, and I’m highly honored to accept it.” In Vietnam, Vann served as a door gunner for the 1st Calvary Aviation Division, dropping off and extracting soldiers from the battlefield. In November 1969, Vann’s helicopter was shot down, killing all but him and his crew chief. Vann’s childhood friend and former classmate Bud Campbell invited him to the 1968 high school class reunion. When Vann declined because he didn’t graduate, Campbell met with fellow classmates and SHS administration to officially make him a graduating member. “We really felt that Donald deserved a diploma, so we made it a point to make that happen,” Campbell, who still lives in Stilwell, said. “That got the ball rolling, and from there it all came together for us. I don’t think people truly realize what we have in Donald Vann. He was a big deal to all of us as kids, and now he’s really a big deal. It means everything in the world to me to be able to help him with this.” Students applauded Vann as he accepted the diploma. An Oklahoma Department of Education act allows veterans who leave high school to serve in World War II, Korea and Vietnam to later receive a diploma. “We had no idea that Donald didn’t have a high school diploma, so when we were made aware of that, we waived the one or two credits he lacked to make him eligible to receive one,” Geri Gilstrap, SHS’s current superintendent who signed the diploma, said. “His story is one of having a dream and chasing after it, which is something I hope our students will take note of. I hope it was a very special day for Mr. Vann.” Vann also served as a drill instructor for more than 16 cycles after recovering from his injuries and was honorably discharged in March 1973. Vann earned the Purple Heart, National Defense, Good Conduct, Vietnam Campaign and Republic of Vietnam Campaign medals for his service. After the Army, Vann pursued a successful career as an artist and is one of the most notable Native American artists today. In August 2014, he was named a Cherokee National Treasure, which is given to Cherokee artists who have shown exceptional knowledge of Cherokee art and culture. Those selected are also actively involved with the preservation and revival of traditional cultural practices that are in danger of being lost from generation to generation. For more information about Vann and his artwork, visit <a href="http://www.donaldvann.com" target="_blank">www.donaldvann.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/17/2014 12:52 PM
HULBERT, Okla. – The Hulbert Schools FFA Association will host a pie and cake auction at 6:30 on Nov. 25 in the school’s auditorium. According to the school’s FFA, there will be several pied for auction as well as members of the FFA up for auction on a labor exchange. There will also be gift baskets and items that the Ag power and technology shop class made up for bid during a silent auction. All proceeds go toward the Hulbert FFA Alumni. For more information, call Christina Bowlin at 918-708-2072.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
10/28/2014 01:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s College Resource Center is looking to expand the Cherokee Promise Scholarship Program to Connors State College in Warner. Dr. Neil Morton, CN Education Services senior advisor, confirmed the possible partnership between the tribe and the college during the Tribal Council’s Education and Culture Committee meeting on Sept. 15. CN Communications officials said Jennifer Pigeon, CRC interim director, declined to comment because details are still being worked on between Connors and the tribe. Connors State College also declined to comment. Under the current criteria for the scholarships, which are available at Northeastern State and Rogers State universities, students selected for the program take Cherokee classes and experience on-campus living together. Selected students each receive a $2,000 CN scholarship and Native American Housing and Self Determination Act-funded housing each semester. During their time at school, the Cherokee Promise scholars are expected to bond during activities as well as study together in cultural education, Cherokee language and college strategies classes. Scholars will also participate in monthly community service activities and, as they advance in the program, act as mentors to incoming freshman. Recipients have also been required to fulfill 20 hours of community service. Five of those hours must be with the other scholar students. When the program started three years ago at NSU, the CRC looked for a university to initiate the program by looking at current CN scholarship students and found that most attended NSU. In 2013, the CRC expanded the program to RSU so more students could apply for the opportunity to receive money for college tuition. For more information, call the CRC at 918-453-5000, ext. 7054.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/24/2014 01:24 PM
WINSLOW, Ariz. (AP) – On a desert outpost miles from the closest paved road, Navajo students at the Little Singer Community School gleefully taste traditional fry bread during the school’s heritage week. “It reminds us of the Native American people a long time ago,” says a smiling 9-year-old, Arissa Chee. The cheer comes in the midst of dire surroundings: Little Singer, like so many of the 183 Indian schools overseen by the federal government, is verging on decrepit. The school, which serves 81 students, consists of a cluster of rundown classroom buildings containing asbestos, radon, mice, mold and flimsy outside door locks. The newest building, a large, white monolithic dome that is nearly 20 years old, houses the gym. On a recent day, students carried chairs above their heads while they changed classes, so they would have a place to sit. These are schools, says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, whose department is responsible for them, “that you or I would not feel good sending our kids to, and I don’t feel good sending Indian kids there, either.” Federally owned schools for Native Americans on reservations are marked by remoteness, extreme poverty and few construction dollars. The schools serve about 48,000 children, or about 7 percent of Indian students, and are among the country’s lowest performing. At Little Singer, less than one-quarter of students were deemed proficient in reading and math on a 2012-2013 assessment. The Obama administration is pushing ahead with a plan to improve the schools that gives tribes more control. But the endeavor is complicated by disrepair of so many buildings, not to mention a federal legacy dating to the 19th century that for many years forced Native American children to attend boarding schools. Little Singer was the vision in the 1970s of a medicine man of the same name who wanted local children educated in the community. Students often come from families struggling with domestic violence, alcoholism and a lack of running water at home, so nurturing is emphasized. The school provides showers, along with shampoo and washing machines. Conflicts and discipline problems are resolved with traditional “peacemaking” discussions, and occasionally the use of a sweat lodge. Principal Etta Shirley’s day starts at 6 a.m., when on her way to work, she picks up kids off the bus routes. Because there’s no teacher housing, a caravan of teachers commutes together about 90 minutes each morning on barely passable dirt roads. All this, to teach in barely passable quarters. “We have little to work with, but we make do with what we have,” says Verna Yazzie, a school board member. The school is on the government’s priority list for replacement. It’s been there since at least 2004. The 183 schools are spread across 23 states and fall under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education. They are in some of the most out-of-the-way places in America; one is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, reachable by donkey or helicopter. Most are small, with fewer than 150 students. Native Americans perform better in schools that are not overseen by the federal bureau than in schools that are, national and state assessments show. Overall, they trail their peers in an important national assessment and struggle with a graduation rate of 68 percent. President Barack Obama visited Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota in June, where he announced the school improvement plan.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
10/24/2014 08:35 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Sarah Ferrell is enjoying her first year of college at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. The 18-year-old honor student is attending on a Gates Millennium Scholars Scholarship. She said her father encouraged her to apply for the scholarship, which is given annually to only 1,000 students from throughout the United States. Ferrell said she did not have high expectations of winning the scholarship, which pays for up to 10 years of college. “A bunch of my friends applied for it, and they all kept getting rejection letters and I felt really bad,” she said. The scholarship was established in 1999 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide outstanding American Indian/Alaska Native, African American, Asian Pacific Islander American and Hispanic American students with an opportunity to complete an undergraduate and graduate college education in any discipline area of interest. Ferrell said having the scholarship relieves the pressure of worrying about how to pay for school. “My friends talk about always having to deal with loans and how they’re going to pay it. I don’t have to worry about that,” she said. At Tahlequah High School, she played soccer and was a part of the National Honor Society. One of her long-time interests may surprise some people – she is skilled at shooting a traditional Cherokee bow. “I’ve never shot a compound (bow) or anything. It’s always traditional. My grandpa made them, and I’ve been doing it (shooting) since I was little,” she said. She said if she had to hunt game with a bow and arrow to survive, she could do it. At NSU, she has joined the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and is concentrating on her studies. After completing her undergraduate studies, she plans to enroll in graduate school. “I don’t want just four years. I want more than four years,” she said. She admitted she has a tough time with her science classes but does well in her math classes. She is still is considering a career in the medical field, and understands a medical degree will require science classes. Recently, Ferrell was the only Cherokee student selected to the American Indian Center’s “All Native American Academic Team.” Each year only 10 American Indian/Alaska Native students from across the United States are selected based on academic achievement, honors and awards, leadership and community service. Each student is given a monetary award that may be spent at the student’s discretion. “I had to have a lot of volunteer activities and a bunch of leadership roles, and I listed the stuff I had done through the Cherokee Nation,” Ferrell said of the application process. The objectives of the ANAAT is to increase awareness of academic achievement of Indian high school seniors among their peers, Indian Country and the public; to increase recognition of Indian student success and capabilities as a positive motivation for pursuing academic excellence and higher education; and to increase academic achievement and role models as positive influences in Indian Country. The program also means to increase teacher, administrator, parent and community involvement by recommending, nominating and supporting student participation and to increase student participation in high school academic programs and the pursuit of higher education. Ferrell said she felt good about her application to the ANAAT but still wasn’t sure she would be selected to the team because she faced a lot of competition. “I didn’t really think I’d get it because so many people apply for it,” she said.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
10/23/2014 10:52 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Talking Leaves Job Corps recently reached its 35th year with the Cherokee Nation. “The (federal) Job Corps program allows for the opportunity to improve many lives on a daily basis and has been doing so for the last 50 years,” Jay Littlejohn, TLJC director, said. As part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, the Job Corps program started in 1964 to provide a no-cost education and career technical training for low-income young people ages 16-24. The program enrolls nearly 60,000 students annually at 125 Job Corps centers across the country and, since opening the program has trained more than 2.7 million people. The TLJC was established in 1978 at Northeastern State University. It later moved to the CN Annex Building in 1991 before moving to its current location northeast of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in 1994. “With the Cherokee Nation as our contractor and the support of Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley serving as the corporate liaison, our program is able to thrive and prepare students for the workforce so they may find meaningful employment,” Littlejohn said. Job Corps is the nation’s largest and oldest federally funded career training and education program. Career training areas at TLJC include office administration, certified clinical medical aide, certified nursing assistant, culinary arts and electrical wiring and facilities maintenance. By participating in the work-based learning program, students are provided hands-on experience while spending time in a real work environment. The program provides students with opportunities to prepare for high-skilled careers while making successful transitions from training to the workplace. Students start with classwork and then they can go into the field of their choice. Students must receive 400 hours of training. “I’ve been the center director at Talking Leaves since 2009 and am very proud to say that since then we have had over 1,200 students complete a trade and nearly 900 students receive their GED,” Littlejohn said. “We look forward to the next 35 years of success.”