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December 27, 2016

CPN receives college and career readiness funding

The CPN Department of Education received its first grant from the Office of Indian Education this fall. The Native Youth Community Project Competition is a highly competitive granting process focused on college and career readiness for middle and high school students.

Employees in the departments of education and self-governance put together a project called the Wzhitawen College and Career Readiness Program, which won more than $650,000 over four years to help prepare youth in Pottawatomie County for future careers and educational opportunities.

Wzhitawen means he or she prepares in Potawatomi. With this grant, we want students to feel prepared for whatever path they choose after high school,” CPN Department of Education Director Tesia Zientek said. “We want to encourage students to evaluate their own strengths and passions to arrive at a postsecondary path that is right for them, and we will promote this mindset through career exploration, college visits and consistent mentorship from a culturally-relevant perspective.”

The project will focus on four public school districts in south Pottawatomie County, including Maud, Wanette, Asher and Macomb. These schools were chosen because they have large Native American student populations and a severe lack of funding. The school districts only have a part-time counselor or none at all. For most middle and high schools, the counseling department is typically tasked with preparing students for college and career.

“We performed a needs assessment based on interviews and data from the local community, county, state and nation. Through this analysis, we noticed a startling trend; students in this region were attending college but were not completing it within four years,” Zientek said. “We surmised that this showed a lack of preparation for what comes after high school. We ultimately selected these four schools because with the severe Oklahoma budget cuts we discovered that there was a gap in college and career readiness that we could provide resources to fill.”

To fill this gap in resources, college advisors at CPN will take students from grades eight to 11 on college visits, bring in advisors from a variety of colleges to assist those applying to colleges or picking out courses, and buy packages through ACT for age-appropriate practice tests. 

“We are excited about implementing this tool to change the culture at Maud and expose our students to college and career readiness,” said Maud Principal Darrell Reid. “We’ve had successful programs that have only reached a portion of our students in the past, but we are thrilled that this program will reach all of our students and that advisors will be here weekly to work with our students.” 

The need assessment also found that these school districts are technology starved. To combat this, the funding will also provide department of education employees with 15 laptops, which will serve as a portable computer lab so students will have access to relevant digital resources and software. This also allows more flexibility for the college advisors, as they will not take away valuable computer time from other classes during school hours.

CPN already has two college and career advisors, Joshua Bullock and Channing Seikel, but the grant will allow another advisor to be hired in the third year of the program. 

“I am most excited about the opportunity to get out in the community and meet students,” Seikel said. “This is going to be a wonderful program for students who do not have the resources for college and career readiness at their schools. I am thrilled to be able to be part of something like this for south Pottawatomie County students, schools and parents.” 

During the summer months, a mentorship program will be created, training students to be mentors for younger students to keep the program going and create a readiness culture in south Pottawatomie County that lasts long after the short-term grant is finished.

“I think the program will help young adults by encouraging them to think about their future in a way that is beneficial and values who they are,” Bullock said. “In other words, students in this program should be able to envision themselves on a college campus working toward the goals and dreams they want to accomplish.”

To learn more about how the CPN Department of Education can assist you or your child, please contact them at college@potawatomi.org.