Service to AIEF Scholars

The American Indian Education Fund (AIEF), a program of Partnership With Native Americans, focuses on three integrated aspects to ensure scholar success: the students, the scholarship selection committee and the objective and subjective review process for scholarship selection. The combined result is that 90-95 percent of AIEF students complete the academic year for which they are awarded.

Did you know our AIEF Scholarship Selection Committee is made up of all volunteers? These individuals come from all four directions and represent the very best in education and Native advocacy. Members of the committee carefully review more than 100 applications before convening for the annual selection process. One member, Dr. Sandra ‘Sandi’ Jacobson, who held the honor of longest-serving committee member, recently retired from her AIEF duties.

With a deep interest in Native American education and development of future leaders, Dr. Jacobson began as an AIEF donor and was quickly recruited to serve on our selection committee. A native of Minnesota and long-time resident of California, she traveled the western U.S. exploring the back-country, rural and tribal communities, and worked closely with nonprofits and government entities to implement environmental projects in Southern California. Dr. Jacobson holds a doctorate in genetics from the University of Colorado, and a unique perspective that will be missed during our annual scholarship reviews.

In considering her AIEF service, fellow AIEF committee member JoJo DuCharme said, “Sandi brought a definite perspective that most of us did not have. Her professional background was much different than most of ours and added another ‘dimension’ to the selection process.”

“Sandi’s STEM background really guided us in looking at how a student’s academic goals could tie into helping tribes and communities with environmental needs and opportunities, too,” added Bob Sobotta, another committee member.

Dr. Jacobson enjoyed remaining in touch with the AIEF committee and staff throughout the years, as they shared an understanding of how important the selection process is to a student’s future. Yet, the students – their words and their stories – kept her most engaged in the committee. “The student narrative is the most important for me,” said Dr. Jacobson. “Students who are most candid and have compelling stories backed by community service earn the highest scores.”

Dr. Jacobson also offered advice to younger students. “Do community service, take on leadership roles and reach out as a mentor. Do this within Native American organizations on the reservation, in school and with your family.”

At her final AIEF Selection Committee meeting, Dr. Jacobson reflected upon her years of service and emphasized that education is foundational for fulfilling personal capabilities, developing tolerance and hope, and cultivating leadership qualities. “Giving Native American students, particularly those who are nontraditional or from reservations with limited resources, a chance to take the next step in their education is crucial for empowering tribal communities,” said Dr. Jacobson.

In closing, Dr. Jacobson reiterated her commitment to the scholars. “It has been an honor to work with the American Indian Education Fund. This long-term commitment reflects my belief in the power of education to open up new paths for students and train visionary new leaders. It’s not about me, it’s about the students.”

From all of us at PWNA, Wopila Tanka, Dr. Jacobson! Your commitment to Native education and students will impact generations of AIEF scholars, their families and their communities in the years to come.



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