Right now 24 Native American students are battling the odds—the odds that say half of them won’t graduate high school—by dedicating two weeks of their summer to the Indigenous Ways of Knowing (IWOK) summer academy at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.
“I really want to be successful, so I can get involved and be a positive role model,” Jerome Massad, a senior at David Douglas High School in Portland, told The Oregonian. Massad, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, went from spending his freshman year cutting classes to getting two 4.0 GPAs this past school year; his goal is to graduate.
The summer academy, which ends June 29, is all about an introduction to the college experience. The students live in the dorms, spend a lot of time doing SAT preparation and get a basic understanding of liberal arts topics—all with a Native perspective. Students meet with Native professionals and tribal leaders throughout the academy.
“It’s about a desire to lead,” program administrator Se-ah-dom Edmo told The Oregonian. “These are students who are serious about service and their desire to make a difference in their tribes and communities.”
Alexis Stamp, Nez Perce/Northern Arapahoe, is set on graduating just like Massad. She will be a senior at Gresham High School in Gresham, Oregon in the fall and told The Oregonian that she’s already seen a number of her peers drop out of school.
“No one was supporting them and they have still made it this far,” Stamp said of her mentors at IWOK. “It makes me feel like when I get older I want do good, get out and help and talk to younger kids.”
Stamp hopes to become a math teacher.