MUSKOGEE, Okla. - Barbara Collins, a Cherokee citizen from Wagoner, received her Master of Science degree in information technology and library media in December 2006, and credits scholarship opportunities through the Cherokee Nation for helping her reach her goals.
Collins began her pursuit of a higher education at the age of 25 and understands the struggles that many non-traditional students face upon entering a university setting.
''I was scared to death to go to college. I wasn't a great student in high school,'' Collins said. ''I had just got a divorce and was raising a child on my own. I knew that in order to provide the kind of life for her that I had enjoyed as a child, I had to go back to school.''
Collins credits the Cherokee Nation and the assistance that she received from the tribe for her ability to attend classes.
''I could never have afforded to go to school without the Cherokee Nation scholarship. When the money was dispersed, I paid my bills and lived on the rest. I didn't blow the extra money like most of the younger students. I knew that I couldn't.''
Collins completed her undergraduate degree and returned to college in 2005 to begin working on her master's degree. However, her life had changed since receiving her bachelor's degree. Collins had remarried and was now the mother of two. She was still a non-traditional student and books and tuition were even more costly in the graduate program. Once again, it was a scholarship available through the Cherokee Nation that helped Collins pay for the costs associated with returning to school.
''My husband and I were actually enrolled in graduate programs at the same time,'' Collins said. ''The Cherokee Nation Graduate Scholarship enabled me to get to where I ultimately wanted to be, without drowning in educational loans. The scholarship really helped me to advance my career. In fact, I was hired for my current position as the librarian for Sadler Arts Academy based on the agreement that I would complete the master's program and graduate by December 2006.''
A lot has changed in her life since she first began her pursuit of an education. Collins overcame her fear. She not only completed college, she excelled in her studies and graduated magna cum laude. Today, she is a state-certified teacher in computer technology, business education and library media, and encourages other Cherokee students to look into the scholarship opportunities available.
The Cherokee Nation Graduate Scholarship is awarded to students in the amount of $1,000 for students enrolled in six or more credit hours per semester or $500 for students enrolled in three credit hours per semester.
Applicants must be accepted to an accredited graduate school awarding master's and doctoral degrees to seek scholarship funding. All applications must include a copy of the applicant's Social Security card, tribal citizenship card, official undergraduate transcript showing their bachelor's degree confirmation and an official letter of acceptance to graduate school.
Students receiving funding from the IHS, assistance from other tribes, Cherokee Nation Vocational Rehabilitation or the Cherokee Nation Employee Reimbursement Program are not eligible to apply.
''I really can't explain how much of a help the Cherokee Nation has been to me during the course of my education and career,'' Collins said. ''I don't think I could have accomplished my goals without their assistance. I would encourage everyone to pursue their dream of going to college.''
For more information on Cherokee Nation scholarships opportunities, call Cherokee Nation education services at (918) 453-5465.