LARRY HENDRICKS Special at Daily Sun
One in five students at Coconino Community College is Native American.
Often times, Native American students who arrive at CCC are the first in their families to pursue a college education and may come from tough economic times as well. Hence, they might face some hurdles to get a college degree.
In an effort to increase Native American student success, completion rates, and a sense of belonging to the college community, CCC received a $ 2.1 million grant from the US Department of Education. Called the Native American-Serving Nontribal Institution (NASNTI) grant, the funds will be distributed over a five-year period.
“CCC values the sacred land on which we live and serve and the Indigenous peoples who have inhabited it for centuries,” said CCC Provost Nate Southerland. “One in five students at CCC is Native American, and we look forward to providing these students with culturally appropriate instruction, enhanced support and people-to-people skills to help them succeed in their studies. “
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According to a 2015 study from Northern Arizona University, the median household income in the Navajo Nation was $ 25,827, with 42% of tribal members falling below the federal poverty line. And when it comes to education, there is a continuing gap in high school completion and college attendance rates between Native Americans and other demographic groups in Coconino County. According to the American Community Survey 2019, 82% of Native Americans in the county have graduated from high school, compared to 98% of non-Hispanic whites. What’s more, the survey indicates that only 8% of Native Americans in the county have a bachelor’s degree or higher, while 55% of non-Hispanic whites do.
Finally, when Native American students enroll in CCC, they experience lower levels of achievement and graduation or certificates than non-Native students, especially in English and basic math classes.
Brian Francis, Senior Director of Academic and Career Guidance, who is leading the project, said, “It’s about strengthening the success of Indigenous students. Therefore, the project will honor the call to action by being named Strengthening Indigenous Student Success (SISS). “I’m really excited about this.”
The project will start in January 2022.
Francis said that over the next five years, the project will focus on three goals: increasing the success rates of Native American students in core English and math courses; increase completion and transfer rates for Native American students; and strengthen the sense of belonging to the CCC among Native American students and their families.
The intention, Francis added, is to approach education from a Native American perspective by including the ideas of home, youth, teaching and extended family in the educational process.
The project will contain three main elements to achieve the objectives. The first is the creation of Native American Success Centers at the Lone Tree Campus in Flagstaff and the Page Center in Page. There will be a dedicated space at both locations specifically for Native American students. Each center will also have textbook and technology loan libraries for students.
“It creates a feeling of being home away from home,” Francis said, adding that every Native American success center will be staffed with counselors, peer mentors and tutors. “It’s a model of an extended family, like at home.
The project will also contain a Summer Bridge program, which will offer, at no cost to students, an eight-week experience for new Native American students – 40 in Flagstaff and 20 in Page. The bridging program will require students to take an English composition course in college and a college success skills course for a total of six credits. Tutors and peer mentors will help the students. Students will also work with advisors to create an academic roadmap. They will apply for financial aid, register for courses.
The third component will include a professional development component, which will provide, during the project period, 150 full-time and part-time teachers trained in culturally appropriate teaching methods. Teachers will integrate strategies and tools into their curriculum and teaching practices.
To complete the project, Francis said CCC would convene a Native American Advisory Council, made up of leaders from indigenous communities, elders of tribals and CCC staff to advise the president and provost during the project.
Francis has had experience with the NASNTI scholarship. Prior to joining the CCC, he worked at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, which had been a recipient of the scholarship and had a positive impact on the success rates of Native American students there.
Now, CCC has that chance.
“I feel like we planted the seed,” Francis said. “Now it has started to grow out of the ground and now is the time to start growing it. It will be for the native students, but I want everyone at the college to participate in the project, and I am delighted.
Larry Hendricks is the Senior Director of Public Relations and Marketing at Coconino Community College.