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.  We are so conditioned to believe that factors like GPA, college selectivity, test scores are vital to finding college matches.  What if we “flip the script” and seek colleges that offer us supports and opportunities based on the directions of the Medicine Wheel: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual factors?

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.

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) on campus.
  • Offering specific programs of study that sustain and build 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 the cost of 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, we forgo the competitiveness in college selection and embrace equity and access.  Let’s honor culture as we seek college options.