with Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund
Posted Nov 14, 2017
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By 2020, it's estimated that 65 percent of jobs will require a post-secondary degree or certificate. Only 13.8 percent of American Indians have a bachelor's degree or higher. With 40 percent of this population at college age or younger, there is a need for strong support systems to further academic and professional success. Tribal colleges are working to raise college graduation rates while promoting the teaching and preservation of Native American languages and culture. A conversation with Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund. Click here for part 1 of Native Amer Education and Culture.
Traynham: Are they full scholarships, partial scholarships? What does that look like?
Crazy Bull: The vast majority of our scholarships are partial scholarships. We´re able to serve over 4,000 students, which is about 20% of the number of students that are enrolled at tribal colleges. And our scholarships range from $250 to $5,000. We have a few $10,000 and above scholarships, but those are rare.
Traynham: Is it safe to assume, Cheryl, that the vast majority of college students that go to a tribal college or university, are they first-generation?
Crazy Bull: The majority are first-generation students.
Traynham: So, one would assume that, on graduation day, the whole family is graduating.
Crazy Bull: Absolutely.
Traynham: It´s a true experience.
Crazy Bull: Absolutely.
Traynham: Do you find that when that first-generation college graduate becomes a college graduate, do they then give back? In other words, is the culture that you mentioned a few moments ago, is it embedded in a family in making sure that college graduates say, "Hey, look, I went to school. You can, too, little brother or sister or cousin or neighbor?"
Crazy Bull: That´s the experience that we have with our institutions and with our tribal community, that people, we figure, anywhere from 35 to 50 people are influenced by each person who graduates.
Traynham: 35 to 50 are influenced by one person.
Crazy Bull: Yeah.
Crazy Bull: To consider even graduating from high school, which is a huge accomplishment, oftentimes, in our communities. And to be able then to go on to college or to some kind of vocational program, you know, is something now that they know that they can achieve.
Traynham: I want to pause on something you mentioned a few moments ago about the one person having that much influence. Have you done any research, in terms of how you´re perceived by the American people, in general?
Crazy Bull: Well, we have. At the American Indian College Fund, you know, our work is to get people to support us, so...
Traynham: I assume financially, volunteer...
Crazy Bull: Financially. Mostly financially.
Traynham: Let´s pause there for a second. How can people give to you, financially? Is there a website they can go to?
Crazy Bull: They can go to www.collegefund.org and access our resources to support us and also to provide an education for themselves. Because what we discover in our research and what I know as a native person, having worked in education my whole life, that we´re invisible to most of the American public, and many people don´t realize that we´re still here, really thriving in our cultural identities and really working to build our communities and to be a part of society in a production way. So I think that people can support us with that. Sometimes you can just support us by being our ally, making sure that the needs of American Indians, Alaskan native peoples in your communities and in your institutions are being met.
Traynham: You know, Cheryl, the biggest takeaway that I am taking away from this interview, in the few seconds we have left, is that education has always been and will continue to be the gateway to a better life and a better community. Would you agree with that?
Crazy Bull: I would agree with that. You know, the ancestors of the people who are working in the tribal colleges today told us that we would put down our bows and arrows and take up the words of the white man in order to be successful, and we believe that education gives us that.
Traynham: Cheryl Crazy Bull, thank you very much for joining us.
Crazy Bull: Thank you.
Traynham: Look forward to having you back on the program soon.
Crazy Bull: Thank you, Robert.
Traynham: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Robert Traynham.