A college visit isn’t only a rite of passage for high school students. Many community college students also visit universities and colleges when they are looking at their next step in their education journey after earning a bachelor’s degree. But for the same reason that many Native students living on remote Indian reservations choose to attend a tribal college or university, such as affordability and location, a college visit is often out of reach.
Thanks to the American Indian College Fund’s Native Pathways to College Transfer Program, three Native college students attending Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC) in Cass Lake, Minnesota traveled to Durango, Colorado to visit the Fort Lewis College campus, a private four-year college that offers a tuition-waiver program to American Indian students.
The students’ first stop was a campus dining hall with a Native American Center staff member and Fort Lewis alumnus to put them at ease and to learn what to expect. Next they visited the Admission Office to learn about the transfer and admissions process, campus resources, and how the Native American tuition waiver program at the college works. They were also able to see a breakdown of how LLTC courses had previously transferred into Fort Lewis and learn about the active lifestyle of Durango residents, who enjoy 300+ sunny days per year. The campus visit coordinator also arranged a meeting with a professor in the engineering department for a student interested in that program.
The students also enjoyed a campus tour. The weather students visited labs, classrooms, the Student Life Center, and campus housing to get a feel for campus life. The tour ended on the rooftop of the Student Union overlooking the campus. The students enjoyed their tour, given by a college senior. They felt she gave great insight into campus and community life in Durango. “It was so helpful to hear about how close the campus life and the town of Durango were. There are so many cool things that happen on campus, added with the events that happen in town, too, including the exposure to food, music, and outdoor recreational activities that you can’t get at other schools,” LLTC first-year student Anthony DuBois said.
After the tour, LLTC students headed to the first floor of the Student Union to visit the Native American Center and meet with the Wanbli Ota student organization. Fort Lewis College has an average of 1200 Native students each semester from more than 150 different tribes and nations. Students learned that Fort Lewis has nine Native student clubs and organizations including American Indian Business Leaders, the Native American Outdoors Club, and Indigenous Feminism Rising.
The LLTC Academic Advisor said one of the most memorable things about the campus visit was seeing so many different Native students around campus. Second year LLTC student Joni Tapio said, “I had never heard of Fort Lewis College before, but getting the chance to see a college that felt a little bit like a tribal college in that it was smaller and had all of these resources for Native students was really inspiring. And when I brought back and shared about what I learned and saw, now other students at LLTC want to go out to Colorado and take advantage of the tuition waiver after they graduate from LLTC.”
The students and staff at LLTC are thankful to the American Indian College Fund and Fort Lewis College for the opportunity to learn about options for continuing their education.