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By Hannah Gonzales, American Indian College Fund Program Assistant

Note: This blog post was intended to be published before we found ourselves amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the GED/HSE programming at TCUs that we support has halted as a result of societal and institutional measures being taken to stifle the pandemic. Still, our pride in the accomplishments and ambitions of these students stands firm, and we hope it will not be long before they are able to resume usual studies and testing!

Tribal college and university (TCU) grantees in the College Fund’s Dollar General American Indian and Alaska Native Literacy and Adult Education Program regularly report on progress of their GED/HSE programming for the term. We relish these success stories and love to dig into these narratives and data to identify where further support is needed.

We are thrilled when we learn about the successes our TCU program staff and students celebrate, such as students passing that first subject test that motivates them to go all the way, program recruitment increasing due to advertising at a community event, or students achieving the ultimate program goal and obtaining that GED certificate (and some continuing on to college to pursue a degree).

We also learn about the unique situations GED students live with as they continue their education: a young parent striving for a better life for their child, a student without a permanent residence trying to obtain their certificate before entering the workforce, or an inmate at a corrections facility working towards a brighter future.

To inform how we can better support them, it is also important we learn of the challenges our GED/HSE program grantees face, whether its lack of transportation, shortage of staff, limited student scholarships to cover testing fees, or academic barriers that impact students’ educational pathways.

Even with so many external obstacles for students, perhaps the most difficult hurdle for them is building their self-confidence and believing that attaining a GED is possible. For many students, school has been difficult, and some have been away from school for a long time. The thought of returning to school is intimidating for some, and making the first step back is a giant leap. Finding the courage to go back and pursue a GED distinguishes these students. Once enrolled, the students still have a daunting task in front of them and mustering the belief that they can push through and succeed is not a given. At the American Indian College Fund, we ask ourselves, what can we do to help students overcome their fears?

Something that struck a chord while reviewing this term’s recent interim reports was the sentiments of gratitude students relayed to project directors. Some students said that the Dollar General grant and program showed that somebody believed in them, which stirred a desire in them to prove that this faith in their success was well-founded. It is humbling to hear that the College Fund’s support is among the list of things that inspire these students to persevere and graduate, when their great potential and success stories are what inspire and push us to do our work the best way we can.

Each step forward, each milestone, and each unique story of student success is proof that, yes, our faith and confidence in this programming and these students are very well-founded. To all Native GED students and future college goers, keep up the good work!