UCR Supports Native American Higher Education Outreach

Chancellor commits funds over three years to reach out to children, parents and tribes

Native American Education Summit

From left, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs James Sandoval, Rupert Costo Endowment Chair in American Indian Affairs and Professor in History Clifford Trafzer, UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White and Director of Native American Student Programs Josh Gonzales.

By Frances Fernandes

The University of California, Riverside, has committed to help set up an education and outreach program to shepherd Native American youth onto a path to higher education.

Chancellor Timothy P. White told the Inland-area tribal participants at Tuesday’s Native American Educational Summit that he would commit $70,000 a year for three years to the effort, using non-state discretionary resources.  The expectation is for this seed investment to lead to partnerships with many others to create a sustainable and impactful program.

White’s announcement followed a morning of discussion about poor college-going rates among Native American youth and the impediments that interrupted the education of so many of them.

Although tribal members talked about a variety of programs that helped small pockets of youngsters to advance their education, the challenge, White said, remained on how to take a larger step and create a “stay-in-the-game” program that would reach everyone.

It is imperative that every family, child and tribe have access to the information and incentives that they need to navigate a path through the educational system that would prepare them for college, White told the gathering. The information, he said, should be presented in such a way as to engage every sector of the community at their own level.

He called the seed money an antidote to the marginalization of Native American peoples.

Tribe members said that such support from the chancellor was hugely significant.

“This feels like a turning point for all our tribes,” said Theresa Mike, who runs The Theresa Mike Foundation, a scholarship program in memory of her late daughter. Her nephew Darrel is the chair of The Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians.

“This will make a real difference,” said Cahuilla/Luiseño tribe member and UCR alumnus Mike Madrigal. “If everyone (at the summit) participates, it will be successful.”

The chancellor’s perception of the obstacles that derail Native American youth from the higher education track was completely on target, Madrigal said.

Summit participants had discussed the fear of leaving the reservation and the need for personalized support systems. They said many youngsters lacked basic skills, and courses that met college eligibility requirements because teachers assumed they were not college material.

Two vital components to addressing those issues were partnerships among culturally competent stakeholders and research on ways to educate youth and create future leaders for tribal communities.

In offering to support efforts to address those issues, the chancellor has issued a challenge to tribe members to reach out to Native American students in a unique way, UCR Costo Professor of Indian American Affairs Clifford E. Trafzer said.

“The chancellor has involved the American Indian community in an engaging way,” he said. “Importantly, he has provided us with the resources to touch the lives of children, parents and tribes interested in furthering American Indian education.”

Members of the Inter-Tribal Education Collaborative will meet to plan a Website that will speak to the several constituencies and age-levels that need to learn about options for higher education, said Josh Gonzales, director of UCR Native American Students Programs. The 50 or so attendees of the summit left feeling that it had been time well-spent, he said.

“The chancellor’s investment provides a great opportunity to cultivate and strengthen the relationships with local Native Nations and Urban Indian programs,” he said. “It shows UCR’s firm commitment towards our Native American community.”

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-4756
E-mail: john.warren@ucr.edu

Additional Contacts

Josh Gonzales, Director of Native American Student Programs
Tel: (951) 827-4143
E-mail: joshua.gonzales@ucr.edu

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