Education can create jobs. It can reverse generations of health problems and revitalize communities. When you educate a person, you give them the pride of their nation’s past along with possibilities for their future. You give them both the tools and the spirit to change everything around them for the better. The "Help a Student Help a Tribe" public service announcement campaign shows how your support of the American Indian College Fund helps provide Native American students with education so they in turn can help their tribes.
The campaign features the stunning photography of Anne Menke and videography of Joe Pytka.
Click on the ads below to learn more about each student.
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I’m from Pine Ridge Reservation. I’m going to Oglala Lakota College for nursing and medicine. This is my first year and I’m still a freshman.
I’ve always had an interest in biology. I used to get in a lot of accidents when I was small and I was afraid of needles and stitches, so I’d try and patch it up before my mom found out and took me to the hospital, and I always helped my friends out when they got cuts and bruises. But what really got me into medicine and nursing was my grandma. When my grandma got cancer I really wanted to understand it better and see how I could help her with her diet and things like that.
I see a lot of people getting either bad health care or negligent health care, or maybe just health workers are just overworked around here. I’ve known people who’ve waited eight hours to see a doctor and had to be turned away because it was closing time and the doctor’s schedule was too full and he didn’t have enough time to see them. People have had to wait days, sometimes even weeks, to see a doctor for simple or even dangerous things like spider bites or snake bites. I actually know people who have almost lost limbs because of that.
I feel more of our people should not only learn medicine and become good at it, they should come back to the reservation and practice, which I’d like to do. I would maybe go to a big city for a few years so I could have lots of cases and a heavy work load so when I come back to the reservation I would have a more workable knowledge of medicine. I’d like to take it in stages, learn medicine, become a nurse, and once I have a good workable knowledge of medicine I’d go to college to one day be a doctor on the reservation working with Native patients, helping the people, and helping my family.
The electives I chose are Lakota language and Lakota art. I’d like to learn how to make bead work because I used to dance powwow dance grass and fancy when I was little and I’d like to get back into that, but I outgrew my outfit and I want to make my own. I took Lakota language because it feels like one of the last few things that we’ve got to hold on to and it’s really important. My grandparents spoke fluent Lakota and English was their second language. I need to learn about it because I couldn’t even talk to my grandparents because they spoke pretty much all Lakota all the time.
My dad is a full-blood Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation and even for him, English was a second language. My dad’s family is descended from John Fire Lamedeer. He was a medicine man and a great storyteller. He told a lot of the old traditional stories that you see printed in books about the pipestone and the people. I’m kind of proud of that because if I come from great roots, it means that I have great potential. I’d like to think that with somebody like that in my family, maybe one day I can be one of the storytellers of my people. My mom is an Ottawa from Michigan. My mom and dad met at a Sundance and then they went to Haskell Indian Nations University together in Lawrence, Kansas. My brother and I were born down there. We traveled around to powwows all around the country. We finally settled down in Michigan and started going to sweats and ceremonies and met a lot more of our family. I remember going to the council meetings and camps and they’d teach us to make birch-bark canoes and how to do ash-splitting to make baskets. I’ve got a mixture of woodland and prairie in me and I’m pretty proud of that.
Getting a scholarship and going to a tribal college gives me an opportunity to learn as well as learn my language and my culture; not only mine but other tribes’ cultures, too.
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Growing up on the Lummi reservation, I became interested in teaching when I was about in 7th grade. I was working in a summer program where I watched little kids throughout the day and took them on field trips and played sports with them. I liked interacting with the kids and the looks on their faces when they learned something new. Now I am attending Northwest Indian College on the reservation and am working towards a degree in early childhood development.
I want to teach kids here because at the reservation school a lot of the teachers don’t understand what is going on culturally and why the kids act the way they do. Many kids on the rez grow up being taught by non-Natives. A lot of the kids end up in trouble because they don’t have a role model to show them their culture and teach them about their tribe and why they’re important. When I was younger I was a problem child myself. I am Lummi so I understand what they are going through. It will be good for them to have not just a Native teacher, but a Native male teacher from their home town. There aren’t many male teachers in early childhood education and there are not that many Native teachers out there.
In addition to teaching young kids typical subjects, I can also teach them about canoe pulling, one of our traditions. When I first started canoe pulling our coach taught us how you have to stay in stroke and act as one in everything you do. We run as a team, eat as a team, and practice as a team. If something bad happens to us during the day we have to clear our minds before we put the canoe in because we don’t want a bad mind out in the canoe. I’m the stroke, so I sit in front and everybody has to paddle at the same speed as me. It is my job, as we say, to wake up the canoe. As everybody else is getting their paddles, I’m in the water and have to get the head and sides of the canoe wet and talk to the canoe and wake it up to let it know we’re going out.
The hat I am wearing in this photograph is also part of our traditions. My grandma made it. When you make a cedar hat there’s a lot involved. You have to go up to the mountains, pray, collect the cedar, and thank the tree for sacrificing itself for the hat.
There are various types of cedar hats. Some people make baseball caps and here at Northwest Indian College students make graduation caps. The one I am wearing is a powwow and potluck hat. In some coastal reservations it defines where you stand in the tribe: some hats are low and some are really high. Mine is medium and represents that I am a male leader in our family because my grandpa died and my father’s not around, so I perform the male responsibilities of the family even though my sisters and aunts are older than me.
When I got my American Indian College Fund scholarship award letter I read it and my eyes and heart lit up because it helped out not just me but my family. It helped pay for childcare for my son and daughter and transportation to school. Without this scholarship I would have to stop going to school and start working. This scholarship is a really big help.
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I am Navajo and live in Tselani Springs, Arizona on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Northern Arizona. I am of the Towering House Clan born for the Tangle People Clan and my maternal/paternal grandfathers’ clans are of the Bitterwater Clan.
In the summer of 2006 I married my husband, Patrick, in a reservation wedding in Blue Gap, Arizona. Marriage was a new life to me, but a whole new outlook on family took front of mind. In the summer of 2007, I gave birth to my son, Kennedy. Soon after, I followed my husband to Nevada. Two years later, my daughter Ava was born. I was a stay-at-home mom and wife.
In the spring of 2011, the economy and housing market in Las Vegas took a sharp nose dive, and my husband lost his job. That very next day, we ended our lease and packed up the kids and drove nine hours home. I asked my mom to watch my kids for three days while we returned to Nevada and packed our life to return home to the reservation with just the essentials and the hope for a better life.
We moved to the one-room 16’ hogan (Navajo round house) in the isolated region of central Navajoland. There is no running water, electricity, or refrigeration at the hogan. We haul water and firewood weekly and built an outhouse. I have installed two windows, a door, glass block windows near the door side (my creativity), and a Native pattern in stucco for siding. I have applied for electricity and water services. I’m proud to be home.
Still, I knew there was something missing—a college degree. My passion to get an education was still there, but after we returned, I told my husband I didn’t know if I could go back to school after so many years. I would probably be the oldest in my class and as usual we couldn’t afford it. I didn’t have a job to pay for school, the roads might be bad to commute, I couldn’t afford gas, and he was still unemployed. He told me, “You can do anything if you put your mind to it. I know you can do this.” He is supporting my decision because he says he knows how important my education is to me. He said, “The Creator is looking out for us and the kids will always appreciate your sacrifice. You are proving to them how important school is to you and is for them as well.”
I knew that going to a tribal college would be beneficial to me, my people and future Native generations. I have never regretted a single semester. My educational endeavors are built on self-determination and the importance of education for my family and self. I have struggled far too long to go through any more hardships. I know life will always have its ups and downs, but there is always hope to learn, strive, endure, conquer, and succeed.
I plan to earn my associates' degrees in liberal arts and social and behavioral science at Diné College. I want to continue to earn my bachelor’s degree in Navajo/Diné Indian Studies, and would like to teach young folks the heritage and beauty of the Navajo culture, language, and arts.
A dream is built on the hope, faith, love, and generosity of the people who believe in the dream. Thank you for your support of American Indian scholars.
Sydnee is working towards earning her associate’s degree in office technology at Oglala Lakota College. Although she knew she wanted to go to college, she says she was undecided about what to study when she first started school. After taking a few introductory classes she learned she likes working with computers and technology, and she found her calling as a business major.
School is fun for Sydnee. She says she likes meeting people, learning new things, and she even enjoys her heavy load of computer programming, but concedes, “Right now it’s hectic. I have a midterm in accounting, word processing, records management, and computer literacy.” However, “It’s made me a better person, wanting to go for more and achieve more. It’s a great feeling…you gain a lot of independence working on your own. I think it changed me a lot.”
Attending school near her home on the reservation was important to Sydnee, who lives in Kyle and plans to live and work on the reservation after she graduates. “Living on the reservation can be sometimes tough, but you just have to work things out. I love being who I am; I love where I’m from. I love being Lakota. I’m proud of who I am.
Sydnee says her American Indian College Fund scholarship helps her a lot since she is a student and she doesn’t have a job and says she is thankful to the people who help her and other students, stressing that their donations help a lot of students on their journey, and “that’s a great thing.”
Charles and Carl are brothers. Born two years apart and inseparable while growing up (despite the usual rivalries and fighting that young boys experience), today the brothers attend college together at Oglala Lakota College in Porcupine, South Dakota.
There, Charles (pictured, left) is studying nursing and life science, while Carl (right) is studying natural science. The brothers appear in a public service announcement for the Help A Student, Help A Tribe campaign for the American Indian College Fund, which depicts how scholarships for Native students can help them in turn to help their tribal communities.
Both brothers say they are driven to help their community on the reservation, where they grew up. Carl says, “Honestly there are not too many good things about living on our reservation. I think it’s the second-poorest county now. There are not many good influences or good activities for the youth... I’d say it was a hard life for me growing up, but I had Charles on my side all the time.”
Carl adds, “We have a thing we call ‘living on a good, red road,’ being respectful, drug and alcohol free—but that doesn’t describe many of the people around my age.” He cited the specter of poverty on the reservation, drugs, alcohol, and his father’s example as keeping him and his brother on the path to success. “I hope to somehow help the reservation I lived on my entire life with my degree, someway, even if it’s a small contribution on my part.”
His brother Charles says, “I hope to come back and work as an ER physician. That’s what I’m working towards.”
In addition to studying their respective majors, the brothers also enjoy their Lakota language classes,
which have helped keep them in touch with their culture and its values. But learning the Lakota language alone isn’t enough to fully immerse themselves in Lakota culture. They say, “The heart and mind have to be into the ceremonies and getting through, life’s a struggle as a Lakota.” Charles adds that, “Just knowing who we are, what we did, and how our ancestors held themselves” make him proud to be a Lakota.
Without scholarships, the brothers say they wouldn’t be in school at all, and would be looking for low-paying jobs on the reservations, if they could even find them, due to the high unemployment rates on the reservation. The young men use their funds for tuition, books, and expenses at home while they go to school full-time.
Charles said of his scholarship, “It’s really a big help. I’d like to thank the donors, really, for the help.”
Carl added. “Yes, just thank you. You have no idea how much it actually helps.”
Wade Medicine is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a third-year student at Oglala Lakota College. As Wade worked as a cook, he began to think about wanting more from his life. He realized college was a way to escape the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse in his life. He decided to go to college to be a teacher of the Lakota language, following in his mother’s footsteps.
Even though Wade’s mother is an educator, pursuing a college education wasn’t easy for him. Wade couldn’t afford college without financial assistance, and he struggled in his English classes. Wade says he was inspired to stay in school because his English teacher believed in him so much that he purchased his textbooks for him when he couldn’t afford them, telling him the only repayment he wanted was an invitation to Wade’s college graduation party.
“I have never felt so cared for in my life. I have never studied so hard in my life because there was no way I could pay my teacher back for this opportunity. I ended up passing his class. I have never been so happy in my life. I wrote him a whole one-page thank-you letter. He is on my graduation party guest list,” Wade said.
Wade loves playing basketball on his reservation in his spare time. He says physical competition a major aspect of Native culture, along with speaking and preserving the language.
Wade knows his education will pay off in the long run. He aspires to be a teacher and to encourage Native youth to reach their full potential. He says most Indians can’t go to college because they don’t have the finances, but scholarships from the American Indian College Fund gave him an opportunity that will make a difference in his life just as they do for other Native students.
“When I do get my degree I can face the world and say I’m not a statistic. The American Indian College Fund has made my life because I know that it and its donors care for my education. If I could say thank you a million times I would because that's how thankful I am,” Wade says.
The "Help a Student Help a Tribe" video campaign includes 15-, 30- and 60-second video public service announcements. Filmed by television advertising legend Joe Pytka on-location on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, this dramatic footage features our tribal college students
The American Indian College Fund accepts pro bono advertising space in print and electronic media.
The American Indian College Fund accepts pro bono advertising space in print and electronic media.
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Watch the "Help a Student Help a Tribe" TV PSA
The American Indian College Fund's new video public service announcement is available in 60, 30, and 15-second versions.
This television ad was produced with a generous donation from USA Funds.