Over the past 15 years, the Citi Foundation Scholarship & Career Exploration Program has supported American Indian students attending tribal colleges in South Dakota by providing the American Indian College Fund with more than $700,000 in scholarship assistance. This program supports students who maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average, show high academic achievement, display leadership qualities and are involved in their Native communities.
The Citi Foundation also sponsors a one-day career fair in South Dakota. The career fair is an opportunity for representatives from Citi, tribal program administrators, and city/county department officials to introduce American Indian students from Sisseton Wahpeton College, Oglala Lakota College, and Sinte Gleska University to career opportunities in South Dakota and beyond. Local elders and speakers present sessions on future careers, business education, and professional development. By supporting Native American students in South Dakota, a major area of their operation, the Citi Foundation provides another way to help young and talented Natives reach their educational goals.
Donald is a full-time senior majoring in environmental science at Oglala Lakota College (OLC). Like many Native students, Donald says he has financial difficulties that, without scholarship assistance, would have interfered with his ability to earn a college degree. Donald decided to major in environmental science because he enjoys and respects nature “with a passion. Ever since I was a child nature has invoked in me a sense of wonder and fascination. As I grew older, so has my understanding and appreciation of my natural surroundings.”
Donald says environmental scientists are in high demand in today’s public and private sectors “as more Americans realize that we must respect, preserve, and restore the environment. It is now common knowledge that environment and all the creatures are interdependent. As human beings, we are the caretakers and protectors of mother earth. Indigenous people understood this simple idea well before the words biology, hydrology, and ecology existed.”
Donald is getting research experience in his degree field as an intern studying fluvial morphology and the distribution of trees on the Pine Ridge Reservation on the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency-sponsored Great Plains Riparian Protection Project (GRIPP). His research involves studying the reproduction of the native Great Plains Cottonwood, which may be significantly declining within the boundaries of the reservation in southwestern South Dakota.
Cottonwood is culturally significant to the Lakota people, and is ecologically important to Great Plains ecosystems. Oglala Lakota College has initiated an environmental study of cottonwood recruitment across the reservation through the use of geospatial technologies. GRIPP incorporates many technologies including GIS remote sensing; dendrology; and geomorphology to better understand the distribution of woody riparian species across the reservation. “We have applied ArcGIS and ERDAS Imagine software to analyze and model field data and remotely sensed data to better understand the life history of cottonwoods on the Pine Ridge Reservation,” Donald says.
In his spare time, Donald helped organize and host the Citi Career Exploration Day, has worked as a volunteer to help feed 4,500 needy people during Christmas, and in the summer of 2008 was the only student at OLC selected to study abroad with a geospatial analysis and mapping project in Mongolia. After graduation, Donald plans a career with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency or as a teacher. “No matter what I do, I will be successful. I have been a dedicated student receiving the Presidential Award for Academic Achievement for a number of semesters at OLC.”
Donald cites his internship with the math and science department of his school as well as his coursework with providing him with the necessary skills to perform as a successful scientist, and says the American Indian College Fund’s scholarships “have really helped me be a more dedicated student by allowing enough time for classes and my internship.”