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American Indian woman receives local hero award

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CHICAGO – Dr. Dorene Wiese dedicated the past 40 years of her life to providing educational opportunities to poverty-stricken urban American Indian people in Chicago. She was one of the first members of that community to earn a doctorate degree in adult education and leadership policy studies. She was also the first American Indian to head an adult education program in Chicago and the first to develop literacy and GED programs for many drop outs.

Wiese served as the last president of NAES American Indian College. Through her efforts, thousands of people have been able to gain the education they needed to gain employment and succeed in life, which enriched their families and their tribes. Over the past four years, often receiving no salary, Wiese continued to provide college credit courses for her community, through the Medicine Shield College program and Eastern Illinois University, after NAES closed. In the spring of 2008, the first three American Indian college students graduated from that program, and in the spring of 2009, four more completed their dreams of a BA degree through the program Wiese established.

When asked why she has worked so hard to provide education to the Chicago American Indian community, she said,” I believe that American Indian education can change lives and lift our people out of poverty. My dream is to establish the Black Hawk Academy Charter school in Chicago, to reverse the high dropout rate of our American Indian young people. Through providing an education founded in our tribal values, we can all make a positive difference in the world.”

Wiese is a hero in Chicago American Indian neighborhoods, and Bank of America President Tim Maloney recently honored her dedicated service with a presentation at the 2009 Chicago Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Awards and a $5,000 check for the American Indian Association of Illinois. AIAI Board Chairperson Amelia Ortiz was on hand to accept the donation.