Sonja Willard, a fourth-year business administration major at Sitting Bull College at Ft. Yates, North Dakota, was chosen for the honor of cutting the ribbon at the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Tradeshow and Convention in San Diego, California on Tuesday, May 13. Willard will do the honors alongside NIGA Chairman Ernest L. Stevens Jr., a member of the Oneida Nation and a tribal college alumnus of Haskell Indian Nations University.
Willard, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North and South Dakota, is a third-year recipient of a NIGA Tribal College Scholarship through the American Indian College Fund. She is scheduled to graduate this month from Sitting Bull College with her bachelor’s degree. Willard currently works for her tribe in the gaming industry, where she plans to continue her career. Willard said after taking a few college courses after high school, she decided to complete her higher education at Sitting Bull College so that she could be a better role model for her four children and to be in a position to help her community.
“This opportunity that I have had for the past three years from the American Indian College Fund and NIGA has made me a better individual at home and work. Thank you for helping me to become the person I have become,” Willard said.
The Native Indian Gaming Association has renewed its commitment to American Indian education with the American Indian College Fund by granting more than $71,000 for scholarships for 2013-14. Established in 1985, the organization is a nonprofit association comprised of 184 Indian Nations with other non-voting members representing organizations, tribes, and businesses engaged in tribal gaming enterprises from around the country. The common commitment and purpose of NIGA is to advance the lives of American Indian peoples economically, socially, and politically. NIGA operates as a clearinghouse and educational, legislative, and public policy resource for tribes, policymakers, and the public on Indian gaming issues and tribal community development.