| Winter 2024 |

Circle of Hope

The Journey Matters

As we begin a new year, I am excited to share some new things we’ve been working on to create stronger, more meaningful ways of evaluating our work. Because Native people have not historically been included in the conversations about how to best evaluate whether a student is achieving success, or an institution is best serving students, our cultural approaches and values are not often reflected in the way both our students and tribal colleges are evaluated. We see this both in the lack of Indigenous-specific data in higher education and in the creation of culturally inappropriate or unattainable metrics that define success for both students and tribally run schools.

Happy New Year! Thank you for your continued support.

While this has been an issue for decades, today we are in a stronger position to both clearly define and document the impact of Indigenous ways of knowing and being into the way we define educational success. This is particularly important for the College Fund, as the majority of our scholars don’t fit the traditional student profile – going to college directly from high school and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in 5-6 years – which is the foundation of most measures of success.

We recently completed the groundwork to look at both student success and student support program success in ways that include our cultural approaches and Indigenous perspectives in both the quantitative and qualitative evaluation of our work. As we provide, they will achieve greater personal and professional success.

Continued Below…

Preliminarily, what we’ve seen is that student outcomes are significantly stronger when we all focus on creating the best possible journey while building strong, supportive, personal relationships with our scholars. That is when we see those traditional outcome metrics – like graduation, retention, and persistence rates – significantly increase. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us in higher education started measuring our success by how many students we inspire to fill out a college application, or how many students we can support through individual coaching, or how many lives we’ve saved through providing the pathway to an education?! When we put people first, success follows.

In the past few years, we have made the conscious decision to ask students to help us define and create the support and programs we offer to our scholars, so they have some agency over their personal journeys and how we support them – and we have begun measuring the success of our work through metrics also defined in partnership with students. I look forward to sharing more of the metrics and what they mean with you as well, so you can continue to see the tremendously successful milestones and outcomes achieved with your support.

As always, I sincerely thank you for supporting and trusting the American Indian College Fund. It is because of your generosity and trust that we can ask students what they need and then support them in the best ways possible to help keep them focused, engaged, and determined to complete their degrees.


Be sure to mark April 30, 2024 on your calendar, and save the date to attend the College Fund’s annual EATSS event at The Lighthouse at Pier 60! Taste the culinary creations of Native chefs (including James Beard Award Winner Sherry Pocknett, Bradley Dry, Anthony Bauer, and more!), experience Native dance
and music, shop for items designed and created by students attending the esteemed Institute of American Indian Arts, meet College Fund scholars as they share their life experiences and accomplishments – and much more.

Check our website for details, at standwith.collegefund.org.

By the Numbers: Our Students

  • Average Age is 30
  • 59% are first-generation students – the first person
    in their family to attend college

  • 48% have dependents, including children and other family members
  • Over 30% of College Fund scholars spend more than 21 hours per week working for pay and providing care for dependents, in addition to completing their college coursework.
  • In fall 2023, almost half  (49%) of College Fund scholars said they were facing financial challenges.
  • On a average, it takes College Fund Scholars 6 years to graduate with their associate degree and 7 years to graduate with their bachelor’s degree.

“Now I coach the youth in my community. Through our church, we also have a food box ministry and a soup kitchen. So, anything I can give back to my community, I think is helping Native American people in the future. Specifically, the youth, because there are a lot of cycles we need to break … “

Student Story: Jason Success from a Non-traditional Journey

In the words of higher education, Jason is called a non-traditional student – because he is older and didn’t start college until he was in his 30s, he has been in the working world, and he has a family to support. His journey hasn’t followed that of the traditional college student fresh out of high school; accepted to his college of choice based on the great SAT scores achieved following an intense prep class; perhaps working part-time over the summer to make a little extra spending money; already planning a semester abroad; and looking at a graduation date 4-5 years down the road. Yet, Jason’s success is just as, if not more important than, the traditional student.

Jason’s success has come via a completely different journey. The first hurdle Jason needed to jump was to put his childhood school experiences of not being seen and heard, his intergenerational trauma, and his alcoholism behind him, which he did

through reconnecting with his tribe and culture. Then there were a lot more firsts – choosing a college, filling out an application, finding
a job to support his family while attending school … but Jason never questioned the importance of an education and how he wanted to use his experiences and education to help his people. He always knew that his calling was to teach, influence, and coach the kids in his Chippewa Cree community. He will have the opportunity to impact thousands of Native youths, and most certainly save a life or two along the way.
Having just wrapped up his student teaching semester, Jason plans to work at Box Elder Elementary School, teaching the kids he loves and hopes to influence. He knows his success story will inspire them to work harder, stay focused, and perhaps make better choices. All Jason wants is to help his tribal community beat what he calls

the “res monsters” of fentanyl, alcohol, and drugs by being a strong and undeniable role model and coach to the kids in his community.

“Now I coach the youth in my community. Through our church, we also have a food box ministry and a soup kitchen. So, anything I can give back to my community, I think is helping Native American people in the future. Specifically, the youth, because there are a lot of cycles we need to break …”

It’s really important that I reach every student and I understand that every student is different, and just to make them feel comfortable being themselves – making sure they can become whatever it is they want to be. Education is like a full circle. I’m being educated now so I can educate Indigenous youth in the future. That is all possible because of you and your donations. Again, I just want to thank you for that. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for you.”

Watch Jason discuss why Social Justice is the catalyst for change.