Education Services to address student dropout rate

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. • 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. • 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.


07/27/2015 08:21 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) – The Cherokee Humanities Course, sponsored by the Cherokee Heritage Center, is taking applications for the fall academic semester at Northeastern State University. The three credit hour course is based on the belief that by studying the humanities, individuals can develop significant skills that empower them to work effectively toward improving their own lives and those of their families and communities. The course also removes obstacles that impeded access to higher education by providing tuition, books, child care and transportation at no cost to qualified students. The deadline for applications is Aug. 10. For more than 14 years, the CHC has provided hundreds of non-traditional students the opportunity of a higher-level education by creating a curriculum in Cherokee history, language and culture. A grant from the Inasmuch Foundation has made it possible for the CHC to support the tuition cost for students to take the course for college credit. Students may take the course in the fall and spring semesters for a total of six college credit hours in Indian studies. The course intends to create a bridge to higher education by developing the skills, confidence and motivation necessary to succeed. Priority is given to students not currently enrolled in a university or those considering returning to college. Those qualifying can also receive incentives such as mileage and child care reimbursements. The class is designed to bring to light ideas and experiences that have remained quieted in general history books. The course creates a collaborative learning environment in which personal experiences and oral traditions are respected. These classes are interdisciplinary, college-level humanities courses offering credit hours through NSU. The Cherokee Humanities Course was established by the late Dr. Howard Meredith, former professor and head of the American Indian Studies degree program at the University of Science and Arts. The course replicates the original Clemente course offered in New York City by academic scholar Dr. Earl Shorris in 1995. For more information about the Cherokee Humanities Course, call Tonia Weavel at 918-456-6007 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>. The CHC is the premier cultural center for Cherokee history, culture and the arts. For information on 2015 season events, operating hours and programs, call 1-888-999-6007 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. It can also be found on Facebook by searching “Cherokee Heritage Center.”
07/24/2015 08:42 AM
FORT GIBSON, Okla. (AP) – Among the events most interwoven into the history of Tahlequah is the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Despite the towering relevance of the Trail to Tahlequah, Park Hill and numerous other communities in Northeastern Oklahoma, misperceptions have arisen during the past couple of centuries, and they persist. Furthermore, the Cherokees were not the only people forcibly moved to Indian Territory, and some American Indians relocated voluntarily. On July 15, the Oklahoma Historical Society kicked off its Indian Removal Teachers’ Institute at the Fort Gibson Historical Site. It concluded on July 17 with visits to the Murrell Home and Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill. “In previous years, we’ve been covering the Civil War since it was the sesquicentennial,” David Fowler, OHS historical site director, said. “We polled the teachers to ask what they wanted, and they said they would like to understand the Indian Removal a little better.” Enrollment included 20 Oklahoma teachers. Among the participants was Jerry Johnston, a teacher at Longfellow Middle School in Enid and member of the OHS, who descended from multiple tribal lineages. “I had ancestors on the Trail of Tears on both sides – guards and displaced people,” Johnston said. “I thought traveling in the winter was part of the punishment, but it was easier to travel in the winter. Otherwise, they would have dealt with muddy roads, storms, and even more disease.” Jennifer Crumby, a second grade teacher at Shiloh Christian School, was also in attendance. “I love history, so I thought I would come here,” Crumby said. “I actually just got back from vacation, and we took a round-trip that included Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida, and I actually saw some of the place marked on the (Indian removal) trail maps. It was interesting to pull all of that together.” Fort Gibson was often the first stop for American Indians when they arrived in the territory. “One mission of Fort Gibson was supposedly to keep the arriving tribes from fighting with each other,” Omar Reed, historical interpreter for the Fort Gibson Historical Site, said. “They were also supposed to remove white settlers in the territory, and survey and establish the boundaries for each nation.” There was less friction between the southeastern Indians than with nomadic tribes that traversed to the west, and the Osage. The 1817 Battle of Claremore Mound was not forgotten, and Reed noted that “the Cherokees and Osage didn’t get along very well.” Political turmoil sometimes preceded intra-tribal violence. From 1837 until the Civil War, boundaries were surveyed, usually by the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers or under Army escort. Amanda Pritchett and Jennifer Frazee, OHS historical interpreters at the Murrell Home, organized the Indian Removal Teachers’ Institute with Fowler. “This workshop explains how to teach the Indian Removal in classrooms,” Pritchett said. “We visit places associated with all five (civilized) tribes’ Trails of Tears and there are classroom sessions.” Pritchett said each day has a different emphasis. On July 15 the focus was the removal, but on July 17 the session stressed “rebuilding and recovery.” The OHS also wants to remind educators about the historical sites. “We want them to know what our different sites can offer their students in the classroom,” Pritchett said. “They can also come out for field trips, and we can arrange hands-on educational activities.” Pritchett said there were some common misconceptions about the removals. “Each of the five tribes has a different history on the Trail of Tears with different experiences,” she said. “They each had a different experience. A lot of people think that everyone picked up and came here, but it was really a process over a 10-year period. Really, it was longer if you include some of the voluntary removal policies that started around 1800. So it was a process of several decades and several migrations. There were 13 different Cherokee detachments, and each had their own experience.” Before visiting the Park Hill area on July 17, the teachers took a bus to the Fort Smith (Ark.) Historical Site, the Sequoyah Cabin in Sallisaw and the Drennen-Scott house in Van Buren, Ark.
07/22/2015 08:28 AM
WASHINGTON – On July 10, as part of the White House’s Generation Indigenous Native Youth Challenge, the Cherokee Nation’s 17-member Tribal Youth Council asked CN citizen and U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., to accept the Cherokee Language 2020 Challenge. The challenge asks members of their communities to sign a commitment to use simple Cherokee phrases every day for the next five years. “When they presented me with the challenge I thought ‘absolutely,’ but the lady that presented me with the challenge, I told her that if I’m going to sign the challenge, she has to make an appointment with me, at least a couple times a year and spend 15 minutes with me helping teach me the language again,” Mullin said. Mullin said while growing up in Westville, Oklahoma, he remembered an initiative the school started where they took time to teach the students some of the Cherokee language. But because he has gotten away from the language, he remember only some of it. “I can still understand it sometimes if I understand the topic that they are talking about,” he said. “We have to make sure that the history, which is part of the language, in fact all languages not just Cherokee, but other Native American languages, that it doesn’t get lost.” The Generation Indigenous Native Youth Challenge invites Native youth and organizations across the country to become a part of the Administration’s Generation Indigenous, or Gen-I, initiative by joining the National Native Youth Network, which is a White House effort in partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth and the U.S. Department of the Interior. “It’s important that we have a voice on the national level because for too long we didn’t have that opportunity. Our culture is unique to us, so it’s important that we’re able to voice our concerns on the things that impact us as Native youth,” Tribal Youth Council President Ashlee Fox said. “Without our language, we lose important aspects of our culture. It’s necessary that young Cherokees have access to tools to learn our language because they’re our next generation of leaders and ambassadors to the world.” President Barack Obama launched the Gen-I Initiative to focus on improving the lives of Native youth by removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed. Through new investments and increased engagement, this initiative takes a comprehensive, culturally appropriate approach to ensure all young Native people can reach their full potential. “It was a huge honor to have met the man that represents out great state of Oklahoma, Mr. Markwayne Mullin,” Bradley Fields, Tribal Youth Council chaplain, said. “He really encouraged me to go above and beyond the goals I have already set for myself. It was great that he accepted our challenge as well because it's just another step toward keeping the Cherokee language going for years to come.” According to the White House website, other organizations who have accepted the Gen-I Native Youth Challenge include the American Indian College Fund, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Boys and Girls Club of America, Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, Close Up Foundation, National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Child Welfare Association, National Indian Education Association, National Indian Health Board and the United National Indian Tribal Youth.
Phoenix Intern
07/08/2015 08:06 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – While the Gates Millennium Scholarship is set to end after the 2015-16 school year, college freshmen and high school students can still benefit from GMS “Know Before You Go” information sessions about making an easier transition into higher education. One such session was recently held at the Sequoyah High School in partnership with the American Indian Graduate Center Scholars. Campus Engagement Manager Gabriel Bell, as well as current and alumni Gates Millennium scholars, gave advice to new scholars about entering the first semester of college. “Before the term begins, make sure to reach out to your institution and all their support services,” Bell said. “Have conversations with the admissions office, financial aid and student affairs so that not only is the student aware of deadlines, but also the family is aware of what can occur freshman year. Reach out and be relentless in your search for knowledge because that doesn’t begin when you get to campus. It really begins prior to arriving.” Session attendees were shown a slideshow that covered topics such as preparing to enter college, how add and drop deadlines could influence financial aid and ways to study while in college. Bell shared “SQ3R” as an effective study method, which students can use to survey, question content, read, recite and review material. “If you haven’t had to study in high school, I promise that you will have to study in college,” Bell told the group. “Be open to different ways of studying by joining study groups, making flash cards and using mnemonic devices.” One dilemma college freshmen face is whether to work while in school. Current and alumni Gates scholars said some work might actually be good for students, as long as the job is part-time. The scholars emphasized applying for work-study jobs or part-time jobs affiliated with college institutions. “If you get a work-study job, they’re more willing to work around your class schedule,” current Gates scholar Corey Still said. “I worked throughout my college career, and I would much rather work for the university because they’re flexible if you need more time to complete a big project or study.” Bell agreed, saying a job can also help students get into a studying mindset. “Having a job can actually make you really consider your studies and put that into priority based on your work schedule,” he said. “If you know you have to work, then you know when you have to study to get things done.” Sarah Barnett, a teacher at Tahlequah High School who is also the executive regional advisor for the Gates Alumni Association, said her advice for students unsure about work-study is to utilize every avenue as an opportunity to not only work, but also network. “I began working at the (Northeastern State University) Center for Tribal Studies as a student, and that has actually helped me now as a professional,” Barnett said. “I’ve gone back and will become the director of that program starting next month, so things you do as a student can really lead to more professional opportunities. Don’t be afraid to talk to faculty and staff. Forming those relationships is just as important as those that you form with your peers.” The information session also touched on students who may choose to change their fields of study after entering college, which can be one of the most stressful processes for students and parents. “College in general is a transitioning experience for all students,” Bell said. “You’re developing, learning more about who you are, and all of that involves change. You might be pulled to another field. The heart is really part of that, so go with something you feel passionate about.” But Bell cautioned against changing fields too often, which could increase the length of academic programs. The last Gates Millennium Scholars applications will open at on Aug. 1 for high school seniors, but preview documents are available for potential applicants. Students must answer eight essay questions, identify with one of the approved minority groups, carry a 3.3 GPA, be Pell Grant eligible and have a nominator and recommender. More than 22,000 students completed the application in 2014 before the final 1,000 students were selected, said Bell. Of those 1,000 finalists, 150 were American Indian or Alaskan Native. Bell also showed a breakdown of tribal affiliations of 2014 scholars, indicating that of the 36 American Indian or Alaskan Native recipients from Oklahoma most were from the northeastern part of the state. “This area is really representing a big slice of the pie when it comes to new American Indian or Alaskan Native scholars,” Bell said. “If you’re Cherokee, you’re really at the forefront of that slice of the pie.”
07/06/2015 01:53 PM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Nine Cherokee Nation citizens are scheduled to attend the second annual Native Youth in Agriculture Leadership Summit from July 19-28 at the University of Arkansas School of Law. Nearly 80 youths and 15 student leaders will be participating, representing 47 tribes from across the country, said Erin Shirl, a staff attorney and visiting research professor involved with the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative. Of those participants, nine represent the CN. The program is intended to provide classroom knowledge about the roles Native Americans can play in food and agriculture, as well as how to confront special legal risks that Indian Country may face with land and land tenure. Students will also gain practical experience by touring the university’s greenhouses and food science labs, visiting the Fayetteville Farmers Market to meet farmers and touring the Chickasaw Nation’s company Bedre Chocolate in Ada, Okla. Additionally, students will visit an organic farm, meet with food sovereignty advocates and visit buyers from Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club before touring a Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Bentonville. Participating youths will also work on a group project throughout the program’s duration make a final presentation on July 27. Program sponsors cover all travel costs for students to and from the summit, where they will also receive free food, lodging and instructional program materials. The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative began in 2013 as the first of its kind in the nation to focus on tribal food systems, agriculture and community sustainability, according to the University of Arkansas School of Law website. The initiative is the culmination of work done by Chickasaw Nation citizen Janie Simms Hipp and Cherokee Nation citizen Stacy Leeds, who serve as the leadership director and dean of the college, respectively. For more information about the Native Youth in Agriculture Leadership Summit or the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
06/26/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Cherokee Nation and University of Tulsa are teaming up to conduct an indoor air quality study called “From Home to School” that will focus on indoor air quality and indoor environments in schools and homes where asthma allergens and contaminants are found. Tribal and TU officials hope to reduce those contaminants, as well as asthma episodes and related illnesses. TU Indoor Air Program research associate David Reisdorph said asthma health is a major concern for all ethnic groups, with Native American’s asthma rates being some of the highest. “This study is important because we’re focusing on that and looking at ways of improving on asthma health,” he said. He said the research is something the TU program regularly conducts research on and that this study is unique because it conducts research in the home and school. “Indoor air is usually much more polluted than outdoor air, and people spend the majority of their time indoors. For children, that majority of time tends to be in their homes and school,” Reisdorph said. “In our research we know that lower indoor air quality has an impact on health and in particular on school performance. Those with asthma and severe allergies, they’re even more impacted by poor indoor air quality because the contaminants that trigger allergies and trigger asthma is higher.” TU Indoor Air Research Program Director Richard Shaughnessy said officials are hoping to reduce health symptoms related to asthma, which will ultimately reduce the number of absent students from school. “Along with that too, one of the reasons is that this is one of the first studies related to tribal populations in terms of really making a difference in asthma-related to indoor air quality in homes and schools,” he said. For the study, officials recruited Briggs, Brushy, Cave Springs, Gore, Hulbert, Liberty, Muldrow, Rocky Mountain, Stilwell, Tenkiller, Westville and Zion public schools. Each school was chosen based on the number of Cherokee students enrolled, with the study calling for children who are in kindergarten to eighth grade for the coming school year. “We’re looking for families with children with asthma or severe allergies,” Reisdorph said. “We can enroll up to 104 families, so we are wanting to get as close as possible to that number.” Reisdorph said there would be a total of four groups, which would be study groups, control groups and a combination of both. He said all families and schools participating in the study would receive education on how to lower indoor air contaminants, a free HEPA vacuum cleaner, cleaning materials and supplies and an asthma mattress encasement for an asthmatic child’s bed. He said families or schools in the control groups would receive the education and the supplies at the end of the study. CN Health Research Director Sohail Khan said he is glad study officials are able to offer the education and cleaning items to these families. “We feel that this is good. We’re going to provide cleaning supplies and specialized vacuum cleaner, and these are not the kind that you buy in store,” he said. “The good part is that even the families who are in the control group at the end of the 12 months they get the same supplies, just not during that part. All the techniques the materials, the vacuum all that.” All groups will be visited three times during the year, each time receiving a $30 gift card for participating. Reisdorph said through the study, officials were able to hire six CN citizens who are students at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. He said these students would collect a portion of the data in the homes and schools. “So they’ll be working with Richard and I and others on the research project and they’ll be collecting a lot of the data and they’re going to be learning about field research,” he said. “They all have science backgrounds and interests in environmental health. We’re happy to have them.” Khan said the study’s goal is to figure out what works best when it comes to reducing asthma-related illnesses and be able to replicate those findings. He said officials also want to be able to produce education material concerning the study and share the results with others. “Our hope is that the potential benefit of the research is that you have healthier kids, fewer missed classes, less and less and fewer trips to the…ER, which is the most expensive way of treating anybody, fewer medication that you have to rely on,” he said. “When you improve the air quality inside the house it actually benefits everybody, not just the kid with asthma.” Families are now being enrolled for the study for the upcoming school year. For more information, call Reisdorph at 918-237-2189 or email <a href="mailto:"></a> or call Shaun West at 918-453-5363 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.