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Doane Partners with Ponca Tribe of Nebraska

Doane College is proud to announce a new partnership with the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. The partnership is a new college preparatory program to help Native youth use their cultural strengths to succeed on educational paths.

The program, the Native Youth Leadership Academy – HOPE (Having Our Plan Established), is administered by the Ponca Tribe of the Nebraska’s Department of Education. NYLA-HOPE is a project program grant awarded from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Native Americans.

NYLA HOPE will assist up to 100 Native students ranging from 14-19 years old. The three-year $760,000 grant is designed to assist youth in collective and intergenerational leadership growth through self-determined planning, peer- supported groups, mentoring, community service, academic support and cultural experience.

The goal is to connect native youth to the knowledge that they can get an education and that it’s within their ability, said Lisa Bickert, Project Coordinator at the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Department of Education, and a graduate student in Doane’s Master of Arts in Management (MAM) program.

“NYLA HOPE grew from discussions with tribal leadership of ‘How are we getting our young people to the next level?’” Bickert said. “Sometimes scholarships aren’t enough. We’re looking for ways to prepare young leaders. It’s empowerment…trying to get them to understand that education is what they need in order to become agents of change for their tribes.”

The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska has more than 3,000 members and provides services to tribal members residing in one of the 15 service areas within Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa.

Since the tribe is non reservation based and does not have its own educational institution, Bickert is excited about the benefits of partnering with an educational institution.  “The benefit is to increase academic opportunities for the tribal members,” she said.  Doane administrators were not only receptive to the partnership, but also are discussing ways it could be beneficial to teacher candidates in Doane’s Education Department.

“We knew that it would be beneficial if we could partner with an educational institution,” Bickert said. “The benefit is to increase academic opportunities for our members.” Doane administrators were receptive to the partnership and the opportunities it presents.

“For us, it’s community outreach, an opportunity to support native youth and their efforts to transition into secondary education, said Kerry Fina, a student advisor with Doane’s Master of Arts in Management program.

Students who complete the program can receive six college credits to use at Doane.

“We want to engage them with higher education or prepare and mentor them to begin a career,” he said. “We want them to go through these courses and think ‘I can do this.’”

The first phase of the program begins in Lincoln this spring and will expand to reach youth in Norfolk in July of 2013 and Omaha in September of 2013. The program will begin with a two-day retreat at Doane. The Ponca Tribe’s Department of Education will teach the four units of curriculum. Staff will utilize technology such as Kindle-Fire, discussion forums, YouTube, speakers and community elders during the course of the 12-month program. Susan Rocker, Director of Career Development at Doane’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies, will teach the Career and Life Planning unit as a final requirement in the NYLA HOPE program.

The four units will deliver lessons about Ponca ancestors and elders, its future generations and opportunities for community service. Learning about what has shaped the Tribe’s past – such as historical trauma, strong spiritual and cultural leaders and historical legislation, including  Standing Bear’s trial – teaches native youth about their own personal strengths and how they can use them in the future.

The percent of native youth enrolled in higher education is relatively small and consequently Native students do not always have a strong camaraderie and peer support network once they get to college. NYLA HOPE will provide weekly support from tribal staff and administration. NYLA students will also receive monthly elder and peer support through the program.

“We’re creating an environment to show them how they identify their leadership and can connect with tribal leadership in order to transition into new leaders for tomorrow,” Bickert said.

Once they move through the program they have six credits sitting at Doane when they are ready, she said. “And we have great hopes that once this project is done, it can lead to continued partnerships and greater educational opportunities for Native youth."