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NAU Expanding Outreach to Native American Students Further

A $1 million donation from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians to Northern Arizona University will help outreach and retention of Native American students.
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The odds tend to be stacked against Native American students going to college, notes a press release from Northern Arizona University. Whether those odds be lack of finances, family or social issues, or academics, many Native American students become overwhelmed and drop out.

A recent $1 million donation from Southern California-based San Manuel Band of Mission Indians to Northern Arizona University will help provide support services to Native American students in addressing these challenges as the work toward getting their college degrees.

“NAU is committed to being the leading university in serving Native Americans and honoring Native American heritage and culture,” NAU President Rita Cheng said in the press release. “We are excited to continue our work with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in this new and important outreach.”

The $1 million donation will fund new and continuing programs that support Northern Arizona University’s outreach and retention of Native American students, including:

Creating the Yuhaaviatam Native American Student Success Fund that will provide financial support to Native American students.

Increasing the hours for the Elders Cultural Advisers Program and bringing in visiting elders from a variety of tribes to work with Native American students and offer lectures and workshops.

Funding the Native Bridge to Success program, which will provide 75 incoming Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian first-year students the chance to participate in a residential program.

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Hosting K-16 students from visiting schools, youth organizations, and tribal colleges and universities.

Supporting high school students attending the Nizhoni Academy, which is a four-week summer STEM program that builds a pipeline of college-ready Native American students interested in NAU programs.

Establishing a mentorship program among Native American students and NAU alumni.

“Education is enshrined as one of our declared values and inspires much of our charitable giving efforts,” said Lynn Valbuena, San Manuel chairwoman and a member of the NAU Foundation Board of Directors, in the release. “By naming this fund after our Serrano clan name, Yuhaaviatam, or People of the Pines, NAU shares our foundational value of education by including services that strengthen the students’ Native American identities.”

In 2009, the tribe donated $2 million to NAU to build the Native American Cultural Center.

Chad Hamill, vice president for NAtive American Initiatives at NAU, hopes this gift will help to increase the number of Native American students enrolled at NAU, and to help them succeed beyond college.

“This generous gift from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians greatly expands Native American programs at NAU, enabling us to offer an unparalleled level of cultural and academic support for Native American students,” he said.

This story was originally published February 8, 2017.