Nov 9, 2012 12:30 PM by Victoria Fregoso-Q2 News
HARDIN-Sitting on the outskirts of the Crow Reservation, just over 70 percent of the student population at Hardin High School is made up of enrolled tribal members.
Over the past three years, the graduation rate for Native American students at Hardin High School has ranged from 59 to 70-percent.
Dr. Janine Pease, Cabinet Head of Education for the Crow Nation says the number of students dropping out of school is a concern for the Tribe. "Along the way, especially between 8th grade to sophomore year, a lot of students opt out. They think they need to enter the work force or they have family responsibilities."
But the graduation rate for Native American students at Hardin High School is still higher than the national average. According to a study by UCLA, less than half of Native American Students, a mere 46 percent, graduate from high school.
Principal Rob Hankins believes the expectations that are set out by the school and family at home will define the success of a student. "Kids will rise to the occasion whenever the bar is raised. And so if their parents expect them to go to school, they will end up doing that."
Over the past four years, there has been a push at Hardin High School to get all graduating seniors into college or some other form of higher education. The idea of going to college has evolved. It isn't just for the academically able student, it's for everyone. "Workforce is already demanding that they have more education beyond high school to get them ready for jobs," said Laura Sundheim, college advisor at Hardin High School.
The American Indian Education Foundation found that only 17 percent of Native American high school graduates go on to college. This is due to the financial strain and being unaware of a college degree's benefits. "It's easy in a rural corner of our state not to know that, not to be aware of that, not to know what the market demands," Dr. Pease said. "So if you're not ready to know that, you can get stuck in old time thinking and that's just not appropriate."
At Hardin High School, about 85 percent of the Native American seniors are submitting college applications and expect to be college bound after graduation. Seniors Sydney and Selisha are among those students going to college. Both girls have plans to go to MSUB. They admit to being nervous, but have received a tremendous amount of support.
"My mother, she went to college so she always takes me to visit different campuses and stuff, so there's no question about it," Selisha Johnson said.
"My mom, she's been the main one supporting me because she never went to college and none of my family members have been to a big college or any kind of college so she's been the one pushing me to do things better with my life," Sydney Millegan said.
There are more than 800 enrolled members of the Crow Tribe between the ages of 18 and 35 that are carrying college degrees. Another 700 are in the process of doing the same. When tribal members get their degree, most have a goal in mind to return to the reservation and share their knowledge. "I want to be able to come back to my community and help out our reservation and stuff and I think I'll be able to reach people in a different level with a psychology background," Selisha said.
"I plan on coming back to my reservation but it won't be for a long time because I want to go to different places and work there and see what the situations are there," Sydney added.
Some consider the Crow Tribe unique, because of their higher success rate with education in comparison to the national average of other tribes. "They're taking that option," Dr. Pease said. "They're seeing that that's a pathway, that they can do....I can take that step they say,"
But why is that? The answer is right down the road....
Check back in for part 2 of this story, to learn how one tribal college is changing the future of education on the reservation.