Education Department Grant to Help Nevada Native American Students Prepare for College

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A $3.7 million Native Youth Community Project Grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education will be used to prepare nearly 1,000 Native American students in Nevada for college and the workforce.

The grant, which is divided over five years, has been awarded to the Washoe County School District in western Nevada to increase students’ academic performance and motivation to pursue higher education. The program aims to prepare Native American students for careers, especially ones in vocational training and the teaching profession.

The Nevada System of Higher Education announced a new waiver program last year that eliminated certain fees for students who are members of a federally recognized Indian tribe or nation located partially or entirely in the state. This student population fell from 955 in fall 2012 to about 600 in the fall 2021 semester, The Nevada Independent reports. Less than 1 percent of enrollees in the state’s public college and university system identified as American Indian/Alaskan Native.

The Washoe County School District’s program aims to change this by helping students choose what college to attend, find grants and scholarships they qualify for, and access information on how to fill out FAFSA forms.

The district has about 920 Native American students who are enrolled members of a tribe or are the child or grandchild of an enrolled member. While the district already offers support to these Native American students, the program will more than double its academic support services.

Assigned mentors, known as student graduation advocates, assist students in navigating their future pathways in middle school, high school, and beyond. With grant funds, the district plans to grow from two graduation advocates to six. Students will have access to more frequent support, and the district will have a data analyst track the program’s progress.

Education program specialists in the district will also use the funding to schedule tours of colleges and universities for Indigenous students throughout the state and region.