NASC continues to support Native students

12/21/2018 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Jade Hansen, Native American Support Center advisement and career specialist, left, and NASC Outreach Coordinator Shelly Dreadfulwater have an “open door” policy when it comes to Native students visiting the second floor of Northeastern State University’s John Vaughn Library for services. PHOENIX ARCHIVE
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The Native American Support Center is located on the second floor of Northeastern State University’s John Vaughn Library and offers Native students several free services, including mentoring, tutoring and academic advisement. PHOENIX ARCHIVE
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Native American students who are struggling or wanting to get ahead of the curve at Northeastern State University need to look no further than the second floor of the John Vaughn Library on campus.

The Native American Support Center calls the library home and seeks to provide Native students the support needed to complete a higher education degree.

“I just want to get the word out because these services are free, and not every student here has this opportunity like what we’re providing here to Native students,” Jade Hansen, NASC advisement and career specialist, said. “It’s right in their backyard if they would just reach out to us, and we’re more than happy to help out.”

The program is under the Center for Tribal Studies and replaces a program that was culturally based, NASC Director Shelly Dreadfulwater said.

“This time around the main focus of our grant is improving our retention and graduation rates,” Dreadfulwater said. “We have that seventh generation point that we’re looking toward. Helping these students, we’re not only helping them, but we’re helping their children, their grandchildren, be more successful in the future.”

The program is in its third year of a federally funded five-year Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions grant. The grant is given to schools with high Native student populations but not Bureau of Indian Affairs-affiliated.

Several free services are offered to Native students regardless of tribal affiliation.

“We offer tutoring. We have regular academic advisement. We have a mentoring program,” Hansen said. “I just think of what kind of program this is and how I wished I would have had it as a Native student, even if I felt like I was succeeding.”

The NASC’s mentoring services have also expanded to cater to not only freshmen but also sophomores and transfer students.
“We have hired five peer mentors that are also Native American and that are upperclassmen,” Hansen said. She said each mentor has around 10 students they advise and contact weekly. “They bring a lot of tools in to get the students that they’re tutoring involved in things on campus and be more involved in our Native organizations.”

Once a month mentors and mentees meet with Hansen to participate in workshops on topics such as financial aid and career exploration. The NASC also participates in NSU’s Academic Early Alert System to help students receive tutoring services in areas such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, English, history and Cherokee language.

“When students may be having an issue in one of their courses an alert is created,” Dreadfulwater said. “We receive that alert, and we reach out to those students to get them into our area to let them know of the services that we offer so we can try to get tutoring or whatever it is they need.”

The program will track the retention and graduation rates of students who use their services with the hope of increasing graduates. Officials also said it has taken on new initiatives for its third year including, a civic engagement component, student speaker series, financial literacy conference, and an enhanced career component.

‘We are also starting a Native Student Ambassador program at NSU, with such a high Native student population at NSU, it’s important that our incoming students have leaders on campus to help guide and offer assistance throughout their educational journey,” Dreadfulwater said.

The NASC also promotes cultural events and helps students contact tribes for assistance if needed, and works with NSU’s language programs to teach students the Cherokee and Creek languages.

Program administrators also visit the NSU Broken Arrow and Muskogee campuses each week and by appointment, respectively.

“We are and we want to be an information hub for the students,” Dreadfulwater said. “If a student is having an issue, we want them to come to us. We will help them make those connections to other areas so they can get the answers they need. That could be on campus or even off campus.”

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