The University of Oregon on Monday unveiled a new programme to aid Indigenous students that will pay for their entire tuition as well as provide them with extra resources.
Approximately 150 to 175 Oregon citizens who self-identify as American Indian or Alaska Native and are currently enrolled in approved undergraduate programmes are eligible to apply for the Home Flight Scholars Program. The programme will also create a new role for an academic adviser and provide professional development specifically for Indigenous students.
According to Kirby Brown, associate professor and head of the new Native American and Indigenous Studies Program, Native students have the highest college dropout rate of any race or ethnicity because of financial struggles, academic challenges, and a lack of cultural connections.
According to Brown, 90% of Native students who leave in their first year do so during the first quarter.
The goal of the Home Flight Scholars Program is to buck this pattern.
As the president’s advisor on sovereignty and intergovernmental relations, Jason Younker said, “We’re very, very aware of who is on campus and why we are helping them through their education because it makes the difference in the future.” They will return to the tribes and become UO allies; they are our future stewards. They will also be our future leaders.
Younker, who is also the chief of the Coquille Indian Tribe, claimed to be aware of the difficulties faced by young Indigenous people beginning their college careers. When leaving him off at school, his father had told him, “Forget all you know about being Native because it will do you no good here,” according to what he recalled.
Younker left school after his second year.
Indigenous students can also arrive on campus early through the Home Flight Scholars programme, giving them three days to settle in before the rest of the student body does.
“I think would have been a lot happier if I had been able to arrive three days early and reside in the dorms and scout out my classes and find Safeway and a coffee spot,” Younker said. “If 25,000 more kids had arrived on campus, I wouldn’t have been as anxious since I would not have felt so disoriented. I had no navigational skills, and no one else resembled me.”
Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Megan Van Pelt, a student and co-director of the University of Oregon’s Native American Student Union, was pleased that the Home Flight Scholars Program was announced on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Megan is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Van Pelt, a junior at UO, stated, “Today is about the visibility and the celebrations of Indigenous people.” Since many Native students aren’t funded by the Tribal Student Grant, I’m going to phone my buddies and just say, “Hey, there’s a new programme out and it’s going to support you.”
The creation of an academic adviser position for Native students, according to Van Pelt, is the component of the programme she is most anticipating. Norma Trefren currently serves as the primary Native student advisor. She does a wonderful job, but even the presenters at the announcement on Monday acknowledged that she can’t handle everything by herself.
Native students require further assistance. Many of the students at UO originate from communities or reservations that are very unlike UO.
Van Pelt remarked, “I hail from a neighbourhood where everyone looks like me. “Going to PWI was problematic, but when I travel to a different place where I am a minority, I just don’t feel as accepted or as heard (predominantly white institution). Being a Native student at the University of Oregon involves a lot of different factors, including obstacles related to finances, family obligations, culture, and identity, to name just a few.”
Since then, she has been able to establish connections with other Indigenous students, employees, and faculty members at the university. Van Pelt, however, claimed that the programme has made her feel more accepted for being an Indigenous person.
She expressed excitement for an increase in the number of Native students enrolled, which she hoped would result from the additional funding.
Even though we come from various origins or locations, Van Pelt remarked, “I just feel so much better to come into this space where I can see fellow Natives.” “I just feel more grounded because of the sensitive community,” the speaker said.
The flags of the nine federally recognised tribal nations in Oregon were raised on Monday afternoon at the EMU by Van Pelt, other members of the Native American Student Union, and other university representatives.
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