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Higher Education on the Crow Reservation-Part 1&2

December 10, 2012

Higher Education on the Crow Reservation-Part 1
Posted: Nov 9, 2012 10:30 AM by Victoria Fregoso-Q2 News

HARDIN-Sitting on the outskirts of the Crow Reservation, just over 70 percent of the student population at Hardin High School is made up of enrolled tribal members.
Over the past three years, the graduation rate for Native American students at Hardin High School has ranged from 59 to 70-percent.
Dr. Janine Pease, Cabinet Head of Education for the Crow Nation says the number of students dropping out of school is a concern for the Tribe. "Along the way, especially between 8th grade to sophomore year, a lot of students opt out. They think they need to enter the work force or they have family responsibilities."
But the graduation rate for Native American students at Hardin High School is still higher than the national average. According to a study by UCLA, less than half of Native American Students, a mere 46 percent, graduate from high school.
Principal Rob Hankins believes the expectations that are set out by the school and family at home will define the success of a student. "Kids will rise to the occasion whenever the bar is raised. And so if their parents expect them to go to school, they will end up doing that."
Over the past four years, there has been a push at Hardin High School to get all graduating seniors into college or some other form of higher education. The idea of going to college has evolved. It isn't just for the academically able student, it's for everyone. "Workforce is already demanding that they have more education beyond high school to get them ready for jobs," said Laura Sundheim, college advisor at Hardin High School.
The American Indian Education Foundation found that only 17 percent of Native American high school graduates go on to college. This is due to the financial strain and being unaware of a college degree's benefits. "It's easy in a rural corner of our state not to know that, not to be aware of that, not to know what the market demands," Dr. Pease said. "So if you're not ready to know that, you can get stuck in old time thinking and that's just not appropriate."
At Hardin High School, about 85 percent of the Native American seniors are submitting college applications and expect to be college bound after graduation. Seniors Sydney and Selisha are among those students going to college. Both girls have plans to go to MSUB. They admit to being nervous, but have received a tremendous amount of support.
"My mother, she went to college so she always takes me to visit different campuses and stuff, so there's no question about it," Selisha Johnson said.
"My mom, she's been the main one supporting me because she never went to college and none of my family members have been to a big college or any kind of college so she's been the one pushing me to do things better with my life," Sydney Millegan said.
There are more than 800 enrolled members of the Crow Tribe between the ages of 18 and 35 that are carrying college degrees. Another 700 are in the process of doing the same. When tribal members get their degree, most have a goal in mind to return to the reservation and share their knowledge. "I want to be able to come back to my community and help out our reservation and stuff and I think I'll be able to reach people in a different level with a psychology background," Selisha said.
"I plan on coming back to my reservation but it won't be for a long time because I want to go to different places and work there and see what the situations are there," Sydney added.
Some consider the Crow Tribe unique, because of their higher success rate with education in comparison to the national average of other tribes. "They're taking that option," Dr. Pease said. "They're seeing that that's a pathway, that they can do....I can take that step they say,"
But why is that? The answer is right down the road....

Higher Education on the Crow Reservation-Part 2
Posted: Nov 9, 2012 5:49 PM by Victoria Fregoso-Q2 News

CROW AGENCY - It's considered one of the "best kept secrets" and an "under-funded miracle". Little Big Horn College was established in Crow Agency in 1980 and now enrolls 350 students every semester.
This 2 year accredited college is the reason why many tribal members are successfully completing their education.
"If you take a look at the success that we've had dotted throughout the country, many of those people have gotten their start here," said college president David Yarlott.
A study conducted by Little Big Horn shows students that begin at the tribal college are more likely to obtain their degree.
Only 20 percent of students that go straight to a 4 year university complete the program, while 80 percent who begin at Little Big Horn are successful.
"They know that it's a good start," said Laura Sundheim, college advisor at Hardin High School.
"Their credits will transfer, they have the support system, smaller classes, less cost. Homesickness, you can erase that factor."
At $1,200 a semester, Little Big Horn College has one of the lowest tuition rates in the state.
"If we weren't here at the cost, they wouldn't get an education," Yarlott said. "Many of those students wouldn't have that opportunity."
Affordability isn't the only factor drawing students in, it's the link between education and culture that keeps them connected.
"The cultural component is one of the important aspects that gave me a base foundation and provided me with the tools I needed to go ahead and aspire and to go on," said Grelinda Morrison, science professor at Little Big Horn College.
About 40 percent of Little Big Horn employees were also students at the college, including Grelinda Morrison.
Morrison, now a Science professor, got her associates degree from Little Big Horn College and graduated from the University of Montana with her doctorate degree.
"I think it's a fulfillment that I wanted to do, is come back and teach and work with my own community here. I give them examples of what I've gone through and what I did in previous years."
Having positive role models in the classroom that grew up on the Crow Reservation is key.
Over the past 5 years, the graduation rate at Little Big Horn College has almost doubled, moving from 26 to 50 percent.
College officials believe this gradual climb comes from the institution's constant presence in the community, giving young students something to look forward to.
"I'm very optimistic that this is a generation that basically has no fear," said Janine Pease, Crow Tribe Cabinet Head for Education.
"They're stepping forward. They know that education is a requirement to step into the market place."
As for life after Little Big Horn College, both the tribe and college have programs in place to ensure graduates are successful when they transfer to a university.