Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Spotlight on American Indian College Fund
The American Indian College Fund (AICF) provides scholarships and other support for American Indian students and tribal colleges. Tribal colleges, the vast majority of which are located on or near reservations, provide opportunity and access to post-secondary education. Offering accredited degrees while keeping Indian culture and tradition at the heart of their curricula, tribal colleges are changing the face of Indian education, one graduate at a time.
The typical AICF student is anything but typical – at least when compared to the populations of most undergraduate colleges or universities. In fact, ninety-one percent of Fund scholarship recipients are "non-traditional" students— they have dependents, are older than 24, work full-time—or a combination of these characteristics.
Shirley Holds the Enemy is a case in point. Raised by her grandparents on the Crow Indian Reservation, Shirley married young and had three children. She struggled in an abusive relationship involving alcohol. The deaths of her grandparents were difficult events for her.
When she turned 30, Shirley says she realized she had to be strong because she has no one else to depend upon. “I am a strong woman who is responsible and has gained independence for myself and for my children…now that my oldest daughter is 14 years old, I believe that I should become a positive role model for her in pursuing my education,” Shirley says.
Shirley is attending Little Big Horn College, where she is studying pre-nursing, and plans to transfer to Salish Kootenai College to earn her bachelor’s degree. Shirley has proven that anything is possible at any stage of life if you are committed to yourself, your family, and your dreams.
The Fund disburses approximately 5,000 scholarships annually for American Indian students seeking to better their lives through continued education. As part of its support of the tribal colleges, the Fund also provides support for other needs at the schools ranging from capital support to cultural preservation activities. There are now more than 30 tribal colleges located in 13 states and serving more than 250 American Indian Nations from every geographic region in the United States.