CollegeBound Journey Insights

Honoring Culture in the College Planning Process


Whenever I have the opportunity to describe CollegeBound Journey and the importance of honoring culture in the college planning process, I am usually met with a blank stare.  As school and college counselors, we are so conditioned to believe that factors like GPA, college selectivity, test scores are vital to finding  the “perfect” college matches.  However, when culture is not a factor in college planning, our Native youth are deprived of resources and support to aid them on their college journey.  What if we guide Native youth towards colleges that offer supports and opportunities based on the foundation of the Medicine Wheel?


A few years ago one of my students expressed her frustration in using an online college search tool.  She felt as though the Creator’s purpose for her was to become a Dakota language teacher; however, upon using the college tool, she was unable to find any colleges that offered a Dakota teacher preparation program.  She left the experience believing that no college existed to support her purpose and doubted her dream would be fulfilled.  I wondered how many other Native students have felt this way…forced to use a college tool that led them to disappointment and worse, discouragement from even attending college.



CollegeBound Journey provides specific tools that honor culture in the college planning process.  We researched what Native students desire in a college experience and then created a college search based solely on those factors.  So what does this exactly mean?  Well, it means …

  • Linking students to colleges where cultural staff, Elders, and Native housing are available to create supportive relationships (aka extended family) and environments on campus.
  • Offering specific programs of study that sustain, build and empower Tribes and Native urban communities, like Tribal Governance, Navajo language, American Indian Non-Profit Leadership and Management, and Indigenous Sustainability Studies.
  • Investing in students through tuition waivers, scholarships and other financial opportunities that cover cost of attending college.
  • Providing student life activities and opportunities that focus on Native culture, like clubs, organizations, Greek life, events, projects, and ceremonies.
In other words, when we honor culture in the college counseling process, we forgo the competitiveness in college selection and embrace equity and access.  Let’s honor culture as we guide Native students through the college selection process.

As an experienced, Licensed School Counselor and Educational Consultant, Kerrie has a passion for creating programming and resources for Native youth success.  She is especially interested in developing and sharing resources that support Native American students towards college matriculation.

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