COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Sara Stanger, Colville, is a freshman at North Idaho College (NIC) and the first American Indian to work here as a student athletic trainer. She can be seen during games helping tend to injuries or before games wrapping ankles. She plans to do this again next year before transferring to a four-year school to complete her education and become a certified athletic trainer.
Stanger is attending NIC in part because the school is actively recruiting Indian students. The number has doubled in the past five years to its present 106 students. Darrel Tso, Navajo, minority student advisor, explained that the school is situated where Lake Coeur d'Alene merges with the Spokane River. In the Coeur d'Alene language it was called Yap-Keehn-Um, meaning "gathering place." Several Plateau tribes had traditionally used this location to meet. Because of that long history, students from those particular tribes are still provided in-state tuition. These tribes include the Kalispel, Colville and Spokane all in Washington plus the Flathead Tribe in Montana. Tso hopes that the Umatilla and Yakama tribes will eventually be included and perhaps even the Blackfeet and Crow tribes.
The lower in-state fees help considerably and Tso also has some monies available for grant-in-aid help. Stanger is also receiving financial aid from the Colville Tribe. Tso likes to see American Indian students take active roles in visible programs to help raise the awareness of Indians on campus and in the community. Sara's work as a student trainer certainly is such a program and Tso commented, "She is doing a real good job and really enjoys it."
Stanger played four years of basketball at Okanogan High School and is thinking of trying out for NIC's women's team next year. She would still work as a student trainer, only not during women's games. The school currently has Indian athletes on both the men's and women's teams.
Randy Boswell is the certified athletic trainer for the school and supervises student trainers. He said that Stanger came in "very green" due to not having the opportunity in high school to gain this type of experience. She's now in Boswell's sports medicine class and learning the things needed to become an athletic trainer. Stanger has had the opportunity to travel out of town with the women's basketball team. Boswell reported, "The basketball team said she did a great job." An upcoming trip will take her to Salt Lake with both men's and women's teams. Before then, "We need to get her up to speed since she is green so if something happens on the court she'll be ready and be able to evaluate them, how to take care of them, and all the things that are necessary," Boswell said.
Boswell continued saying four-year schools don't give freshmen the opportunity to actually work in the training room and with the athletes. "The great thing about our program is that everyone works in the training room. They're going to do therapy. They're going to do ankle taping. They're going to evaluate. People who come out of our program are already skilled." NIC also has a great relationship with schools like Eastern Washington University and the University of Idaho and is now working on a similar relationship with Washington State University. This gives student trainees the opportunity to continue at four-year schools after they finish two years at NIC.
Boswell added that this training provides them with the skills to go in several directions. They could stay with sports medicine or go into physical therapy or possibly into nursing or train to be a physician's assistant. Stanger hasn't made a decision on her future but feels at this point that being an athletic trainer at the college level might take too much time away from home and family and is leaning towards clinic work of some type.