Grant broadens outreach to Native American students

Two long-standing and essential programs aimed at increasing access to Northern Arizona University recently received a College Access Challenge grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Nizhoni Academy and Parent Outreach programs, both of which focus on addressing the needs and issues that impact Native American students in higher education, will share the five-year, $100,000 grant awarded through the university’s involvement in the Arizona Tri-Universities for Indian Education.

A statewide organization comprised of the three state universities, community colleges, tribal colleges and other agencies, the Arizona Tri-Universities for Indian Education focuses on increasing recruitment and retention of Native American students in higher education.

“Native Americans have one of the lowest high school graduation rates and even lower numbers attending colleges and universities,” said Catherine Talakte, director of Native American Student Services. “This grant will allow NAU to continue providing early outreach efforts to tribal communities and schools in students’ preparation for college.”

Primarily supported by donations, the Nizhoni Academy welcomes ninth- and 10th-grade Native American high school students to NAU for a five-week summer academy to develop and enhance their academic preparedness and understanding of the demands of college life. The program goals are to increase high school graduation rates and applications for financial aid while boosting the number of students who enter postsecondary education programs.

The Parent Outreach program provides additional resources and services to parents of Native American students. Presentations, supplemental information and personal assistance is offered to families during monthly staff visits to partner sites located on four of the state’s reservation lands.

“These outreach programs are a key part of two of the university’s strategic goals—creating a university climate that enhances the academic experience of Native American students and increasing the number of bachelor’s degrees earned by 2020,” said NAU President John Haeger. “And with the completion of the Native American Cultural Center next fall, we will continue to make significant strides in attracting Native American students and keeping them engaged in their education.”