“The students that I heard from recognized the value of education and leadership. All of these young people are gaining the skills they need to succeed, and in the process of doing that, they are serving as a great example to their peers. Many of them shared stories about how they have encouraged their friends or family members to get a higher education, and I think this is a great approach to getting more Native American students into the higher learning system and good jobs.
If young people see firsthand the empowerment that comes from education, I think they will start flocking to these schools. I was really impressed by the obstacles that some of these young people have had to overcome to get to where they are today, and their perseverance and dedication to their studies was inspiring.
As I was listening to the students share their stories, I was proud to see that they shared a strong desire to receive a high quality education without losing touch with their rich culture. One young woman (Mary Baker), for example, told me that she is studying to become a caterer of traditional foods.
This demonstrates how higher education can be used as an instrument to strengthen Native American culture. She is using her newfound skillset to introduce Native American cuisine to surrounding areas, which was really impressive. Tribal colleges are a great way for young Native Americans to come together with their peers and gain the skills they need to give back to their communities and compete in the global economy. In gaining an education, these kids are taking the steps they need to achieve success while also strengthening ties to their culture.”