The American Indian College Fund will “Stand With Native Students,” announced President and CEO Cheryl Crazy Bull at the 2016 Flame of Hope Gala. The newest campaign aims to raise $500,000 over the next four months. And the Fund has had a good start, with a $25,000 donation from the Cheryl Saban Self-Worth Foundation For Women And Girls, and the Gala itself raising more than $40,000 toward the campaign.
Crazy Bull herself pledged $1,000 to the campaign as well because “I love our students… because I see myself in them,” she said at the Gala. “Most people are shocked to hear how few American Indians have college degrees… or are even going to college.”
It’s not just a fundraising campaign, but a social media one as well, with #StandWithNativeStudents taking off the night of the Gala.
A number of Native students and graduates attended and spoke at the Gala. They all express gratitude to the American Indian College Fund for helping them along the way to their dreams.
“There is no way I could afford college without help,” said Waycen Owen-Cyr, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, who is attending Fort Peck Community College where he is working toward an Associate of Applied Science degree.
Alberta Nells, Navajo, is a senior at the Institute of American Indian Arts and will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in indigenous liberal studies with an emphasis in tribal law. “My ancestors didn’t struggle so I couldn’t make anything of my life… I know I am living their prayers.”
Katie Jones, Cherokee, is nearly done with her third year of law school at Yale University. She plans on using her law degree to represent Native nations and to protect and advance tribal sovereignty. “Law is one of the most powerful tools… to promote Native well being,” she said.
Many of the students simply want to be recognized, which is a difficult struggle when less than 13 percent of American Indians have a college degree. These students want people to know they have something to offer.
“What I want to say is please see me, hear me, recognize me. Recognize that I have something to contribute,” said Lauren Stanley, Cherokee, a 2015 graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University. Upon graduating with a bachelor’s in business management, she began working at Boston Financial Data Services in Lawrence, Kansas.
All of the students expressed gratitude for the College Fund’s help with the costs of a college education.
“Without help… many of our students would not have the opportunity to succeed,” Dr. David Yarlott, president and an alumni of Little Big Horn College, told the Gala attendees before giving the blessing. “Any amount that people give multiplies within our communities. It’s not just that student you help, but that family.”