Help Mitigate the Challenges Native American Students Face

Attaining a post-secondary education is a rewarding goal for anyone, but holds even more meaning for Native American students. Only 70 percent of Native American high school students earn their diplomas, compared to a national average of 82 percent. Only 13 percent of Native American students earn a college degree, facing a number of challenges that the average student does not encounter.

Many Native students do not even consider college, believing that college is not an option, but rather a dream out of reach. The majority of Native American students considering college today are also often the first in their families to do so. Additionally, contrary to public perception, a college education is not free for Native Americans.

All of these factors are why we created the American Indian Education Fund program, taking action to ensure Native American students can get the support they need to accomplish their goals for post-secondary education, service and self-sufficiency. Specifically, PWNA and AIEF services focus on motivating students to consider college, and helping students pay for college and stay in college until graduation.

More than 200 college students are assisted each year through AIEF scholarships and supplies, as well as emergency funds to offset unexpected expenses – from vehicle repairs to emergency travel home – that can challenge a student’s ability to stay in college once they’ve started. Additionally, AIEF’s challenge grants service encourages partner colleges to raise scholarships specifically for Native students, motivating them with matching grants up to $20,000. The AIEF program increases both college access and retention for Native American students.

One such scholar that persevered in school is D’Aryn, who was awarded an AIEF scholarship in 2014 as a freshman at Black Hills State University. In her junior year, she was awarded a second AIEF scholarship, easing the financial load needed to complete her biology/pre-pharmacy degree. In recent years, D’Aryn endured significant losses, including two grandmothers and a cousin. Even in her grief, D’Aryn remains steadfast so she can help others with health issues, knowing that she can serve her people as “someone they can confide in.” Soon to be the first member of her immediate family to graduate college, once her degree is obtained, D’Aryn plans to apply for pharmacy school and pursue a career serving her tribal community as a pharmacist.

“Getting scholarships means everything to me and my family,” says D’Aryn. “Being a first-generation college student makes it that much more rewarding when I receive scholarship funding. The AIEF scholarship is different because they don’t just give you money to pay for school; they actually care about how you are doing.”

In addition to her scholarship, D’Aryn receives a giant holiday stocking filled with various necessities for school, signed birthday cards, care packages of snacks, books and toiletries and calls from AIEF staff and volunteers.

Help us keep hopes high for Native American students. Together, we can show them college is a realistic and attainable goal, no matter what obstacles they face, and there are people who care and want to help. Whether you donate to the AIEF scholarship fund or secure gift-in-kind donations to provide necessities like books and supplies for students, you are making an impact and helping to nudge that 13 percent a little higher. Learn more and donate today!

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