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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) has been awarded a $60,000 grant from the Native American Heritage Fund (NAHF) to improve completion rates at Michigan’s three tribal colleges. MCAN’s College Completion Corps initiative will use the funding to place completion coaches at Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College, Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College and Bay Mills Community College.

Launched in 2020, College Completion Corps places AmeriCorps members on campuses across Michigan to support a cohort of students and help them foster connections, establish a sense of belonging and build self-efficacy as they navigate the college experience. The program’s goal is to increase retention and completion rates, with a focus on first-generation college-going students, low-income students and students of color. College Completion Corps currently supports 30 completion coaches at 25 college sites, with plans in place to expand the program for the 2021-22 academic year.

“We’re honored to partner with Michigan’s tribal colleges to improve outcomes for our Native American students,” said Ryan Fewins-Bliss, MCAN executive director. “The postsecondary attainment rate for Native American adults in Michigan is just 26.8 percent, compared to the statewide rate of 49.1 percent. As we build the economy of tomorrow on the historic land of indigenous people, we need to invest in these communities to ensure they have access to well-paying jobs and greater economic opportunities.”

“In an academic system dominated by non-Native culture and practices, college completion coaches could make all the difference for Native Americans striving to achieve their academic goals,” said Jamie Stuck, chairperson of the Native American Heritage Fund and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. “The Native American Heritage Fund is proud to support MCAN’s mission of equity in education as they work to provide Native students with better opportunities for success.”

Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College and Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College have hosted completion coaches since the program’s launch. The addition of Bay Mills Community College means that all three of Michigan’s tribal colleges will have a dedicated completion coach.

“Working with MCAN and our amazing completion coach has made a huge impact with our students,” said Lori Ann Sherman, president of Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College. “I worried with the pandemic and everything going virtual that our completion coach might not be able to connect with our students. Not only did a connection happen, but having our completion coach has definitely changed some of our students’ lives. It is an amazing partnership, and I am very grateful.”

“We are very excited about our partnership with MCAN and the assistance from the NAHF grant, which will allow us to provide additional high-quality student support services and resources that are specific to the demographics and experiences of our student population,” said Wendy Heyrman, vice president of student affairs for Bay Mills Community College. “These support services will help us increase the number of students achieving their educational goals here at Bay Mills Community College.”

“Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College is very excited to continue our partnership with MCAN, with support from the Native American Heritage Fund,” said Amanda Flaugher, dean of students for Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College. “In the short time a completion coach has been placed on our campus, we have witnessed the benefits of offering our students individualized student support. This grant will allow for all tribal college students in the state of Michigan to have access to a completion coach and the individualized student support that the coach provides. Programming opportunities that are designed to assist Native American students in success and completion are valued, and programs that do this by allowing students to receive individualized attention are treasured. Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College is eager to share the impact this opportunity has on our students’ success.”


ABOUT THE NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE FUND

The NAHF was established in 2016 as part of the Second Amendment to the Tribal-State Gaming Compact between the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) and the State of Michigan. The amendment allowed for a portion of NHBP’s annual state revenue sharing payment to be deposited into the NAHF. The fund serves to promote positive relationships between public and private K-12 schools, colleges, universities, local units of government and Michigan’s federally recognized Native American Tribes. The NAHF provides resources to help improve curricula and educational resources related to Michigan Indian history, as well as to replace or revise mascots and imagery that may be deemed as offensive to or inaccurately conveying the culture and values of Native Americans. For more information, visit: nahfund.com.