Denver, Colo., June 30, 2020—COVID-19 had a more devastating impact on Native American communities than others. Because only 14% of American Indians and Alaska Natives have a college degree—less than half of that of other groups, the American Indian College Fund was understandably worried about the impact of the virus on students entering college for the first time in the fall and the persistence of those already in college. Thanks to the continued support of AT&T with a $350,000 contribution to the American Indian College Fund’s Braided Success: Fostering Native Student Success from High School to College and Career program, high school and college students in the Tohono O’odham Community College in Sells, Arizona and College of Muscogee Nation in Okmulgee, Oklahoma communities continued and will continue to be supported in their quest for a higher education.
The American Indian College Fund (the College Fund) created two interlocking programs with the grant to increase Native student access to higher education and success.
Braiding Support will provide $100,000 in scholarship support over the period of one year to American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) students from Oklahoma and Arizona seeking to attend a tribal college (TCU) or mainstream institution located in their home states.
Braiding Success will develop partnerships between the Tohono O’oodham Community College (Sells, Ariz.) and the College of Muscogee Nation (Okmulgee, Okla.) and the local high schools serving their tribal communities, and employers.
In the first three years of the program, the College of Muscogee Nation partnered with three local high schools and offered three dual enrollment programs. Of the 157 Native high school student participants, 33% took college courses through the dual-enrollment program. Participants also enjoyed college visits.
Similarly, TOCC partnered with two local high schools to launch its S.T.A.R.T. program—Students Thriving, Achieving, and Rising Together. Thirty-eight percent of all partner high school students are served by S.T.A.R.T., and of that number, 42% of the students participated in the dual-enrollment program with TOCC. Students also enjoyed after-school programs and tutoring sessions.
The result was that students who participated in the TCU’s programs graduated from high school at rates more than 20% higher than Native Americans nationally.
By continuing the strong relationships forged between college the high schools and TCUs, the Braiding Success initiative also better prepares students who transition to college for an easier transition to higher education and employment.
Program managers at the TCUs are looking at ways to navigate the landscape with COVID-19, ensuring that students continue to have access to the program opportunities in a safe way to maintain the health of Native students and their communities. Program activities include college and career fairs, sponsored visits to employers to explore career opportunities with working professionals in students’ fields of interest and integrating coaching for student’s college and career success.
Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “AT&T is on the leading edge of engaging best practices supporting career pathways for indigenous students through its support of the College Fund’s student success programming. This partnership builds on our shared vision of helping students achieve their dreams.”
“AT&T has a long history of supporting initiatives that help Native American students graduate from high school and succeed in college and career,” said Tom Brooks, vice president of external affairs, AT&T. “We’re proud to further our commitment to Native communities with this contribution and connect Native youth to educational pathways that lead to careers in the 21st century workforce.”
About Philanthropy & Social Innovation at AT&T
AT&T Inc. is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. We have a long history of investing in projects that create learning opportunities, promote academic and economic achievement, and address community needs. Our AT&T Aspire initiative uses innovation in education to drive student success in school and beyond. With a financial commitment of $550 million since 2008, AT&T is leveraging technology, relationships and social innovation to help all students make their biggest dreams a reality.
About the American Indian College Fund—Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 30 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $7.72 million in scholarships to 3,900 American Indian students in 2018-19, with nearly 137,000 scholarships and community support totaling over $208 million since its inception. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit www.collegefund.org.
Reporters: The American Indian College Fund does not use the acronym AICF. On second reference, please use the College Fund.