Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Native Students

Today I attend The American Indian/Alaskan Native College Student Success Symposium.

The initial presentation was a study that was conducted regarding the typical challenges that are faced by many Native students, and what can be done to help ensure success.

The statistics presenting were astonishing. On average, out of 100 Native students in this country, only 50 will graduate from high school. Roughly 19 of those will enroll in a 2 year college and another 19 will enroll in a 4 year university. Only 7 will earn a Bachelor's degree. Only .3 (yes, three-tenths) will earn a Master's & .3 will earn a doctorate level degree.

Wow. How tragic.

There are so many problems that need to be addressed in Indian Country and access to education needs to be towards the top of the list.

When they surveyed students, one of the common themes that kept showing up was financial difficulties. The generational poverty that many Natives have to contend with often leave students with no financial support system. Financial aid helps pay for tuition and fees. However, it is often not enough to cover living expenses and transportation. The study found students that were having to hitchhike for miles to get to campus or working multiple jobs to make ends meets, while juggling classes. Childcare and expenses were a recurrent issue, and one that I understand from experience. There are many meetings and activities that I simply cannot attend because I cannot take all of my children with me & I simply cannot afford to pay for any additional childcare. One student was quoted as saying something to the effect of it being difficult to focus on college algebra when she's sitting there trying to figure out how she's going to be able to have enough diapers to get the baby through the week.

I don't have answers to how to fix these problems, but I understand all to well how real they are. At this moment, I'm choosing to draw strength from looking at those numbers and knowing that I will be the .3, no matter what it takes.

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