25K-plus apply for CN education benefits
An online application has been established for Cherokee students who wish to take advantage of technology benefits. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Thousands of Cherokee students have applied for tech-related financial support offered by the Cherokee Nation, according to the new Education Services executive director.
“So far we’ve received over 25,000 applications for the $400 technology stipend,” Corey Bunch said. “So those are coming in quick.”
Cherokee students age 5-18, regardless of income or location, can apply for the stipend. Those funds may be used for Wi-Fi, specialized software required for distance learning, internet “hotspots” or related items.
The benefits are part of the CN’s $40 million Respond, Recover and Rebuild Education Initiative that utilizes federal funding. Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the goal is to help Cherokee students “adapt their learning through COVID-19.”
An online application is available at www.cherokee.org. Click on the blue Respond, Recover and Rebuild Education Initiative link on the front page. The deadline to apply is Aug. 7.
“There are two different ways to call or contact us with questions,” Bunch said. “We have a call bank established. The number is 918-453-5088. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re doing our best to address any questions that the citizens may have. We’re actually getting hundreds of calls and a hundred emails a day.”
Stipend guidelines state that beneficiaries must be CN citizens on or before July 13, 2020.
While the number of applications has exceeded 25,000, education officials said that an estimated 70,000 students are eligible.
Tribal leaders are urging stipend recipients to contact their respective schools for guidance on how to best utilize the funds.
“When we started on this process, we discussed making payments to schools directly,” CN Chief of Staff Todd Enlow said. “We talked about a technology store so that we could buy bulk items. We felt like, at the end of the day, it was best to put it in their hands because every school is doing something different. If they needed to buy a laptop or needed to buy a home internet service or if they needed to buy an iPad or whatever resource they needed to help their technology experience, it gave them the flexibility to do that.”
Due to the pandemic, students at CN schools and across the state spent the final months of their 2019-20 school year distance learning. When announcing the education initiative in early July, Hoskin noted that distance learning “has taken on an even greater importance.”
“The very nature of education, how it’s safely delivered in the midst of the biggest public health crisis in generations, has changed dramatically,” he said.
Concurrent enrollment scholarship student applicants will be automatically enrolled for a $750 Educational Technology program, and no additional processing is necessary, according to the CN.
“We ended up with about 5,500 scholarship applications,” Bunch said. “So we’re processing them as quickly as we can. It shouldn’t be too many more days until we have those complete. Right afterwards, we can process the $750 technology stipend for those students.”
Officials are hoping to administer the funds via “some kind of electronic transfer process,” Bunch said.
“It’s much quicker, simpler,” he added. “It will save money. Any time we send out a card or check, of course that takes additional resources and time.”
Students are expected to use the money only for technology related uses.
“They’re basically signing an assurance whenever they accept this award that it will be applied to the right purposes,” Bunch said.
Also part of the plan is an expanded voucher for school clothing and winter coats.
“For years we’ve helped low-income public schools across Cherokee Nation with a $150 voucher for school clothes and winter coats,” Hoskin said. “This year, for families that have been impacted by COVID-19, we’ll double the amount for low-income students to $300, and for the first time ever, offer a $150 voucher to students across the Cherokee Nation without regard to income and without regard to type of schooling.”