The Hershey Company helps the American Indian College Fund provide scholarships to Native or Native descendant students attending tribal colleges or mainstream universities who are studying math, technology, science, engineering, and/or business. Preference for mainstream scholarships is given to students studying at colleges or universities in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia. Students must be studying full-time (12 hours per semester) and must have and maintain a 3.0 grade point average to be eligible, and will be encouraged to apply for the Hershey Company’s Internship Program.
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Mitchell has quite a long list of honors, awards, and activities. A straight-A honor student in high school who participated in numerous leadership conferences, clubs, and athletic teams and received a long list of awards, Mitchell seemingly has it all.
Despite his academic success, however, he says it hasn’t always been easy to find his way as a Native student. “Being a teenager in today’s society is difficult. Current society has many distractions for teenagers regardless of your race. For Native students, this can be complicated by having fewer peers that share your nationality. Students want to fit and socialize but it can be hard when you are unique.”
Fortunately for me, I grew up with some exposure to powwows even though I did not live near my relatives. My grandparents left the area they grew up when they were young to find jobs and a better life for their family. My mother is a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe in Hollister, North Carolina.
Growing up with a Native mother allowed me to experience a mix of two cultures. When I was young my family would attend our tribe’s powwow, but often that was my only opportunity to be around the Native culture. My first eight years in school were spent at a private school where my brother and I were the only Natives in the entire school.
When I entered the public school system, I was among a handful of other Native students. I was provided a wonderful opportunity during my sophomore year in high school, because of my heritage, to participate in a Native drumming class through my community. This was exciting for me because when I had attended powwows and watched the different drumming groups and listened to each groups unique sound, I was captivated. I had always wanted to learn how to drum. Every Saturday for several months, we would meet in the local middle school cafeteria and were treated to a wonderful demonstration and were taught about the different types of beats and rhythms of the drummer. We practiced each week and progressively increased the amount of time we actually spent drumming. As the weeks went on, we learned how to put the beats together and we tackled more complex songs. On the last day we actually recorded several songs we were drumming and singing, similar to an organized drum group. This was an exciting experience that I think I have benefitted from.
I feel that this experience gave me a unique appreciation for different cultures and diverse backgrounds. It has meant a great deal to me as a person to be able to connect with my culture in this way. The knowledge of our Native people is not easily found, so having an experience such as this cannot be taken for granted. Through this opportunity I feel that I was allowed to connect with the powwow community, the Native community, and with other family members. I am very thankful for this opportunity and hopefully I will be able to pass on the knowledge that I have gained. I also had the opportunity to attend a workshop sponsored by the Native community outlining the steps to take to help get into the college you wanted to attend. I feel that workshop helped prepare me and helped me to focus on my studies to ensure success when I started applying to colleges.
Mitchell is attending the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering. “I feel I have an opportunity to be a role model for other Native students.” He adds, “We are very fortunate to have donors that are committed to helping Native students reach their educational goals. Your support helps students across the country realize their dreams. Thank you so much!”