Prepping Native students for college, workforce

Students from six area high schools came together for the American Indian Measureable Success (AIMS) Leadership Workshop at Ignacio High School on Wednesday, March 15. Students worked together in groups to solve problems as leaders.
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum


On Wednesday, March 15 a community outreach event was held at the Ignacio High School to introduce the American Indian Measurable Success (AIMS) initiative. The initiative is focused on improving college and workforce readiness of Native American students in Southwest Colorado.

Community members, local colleges, educators and representatives from the tribe were in attendance at the outreach meeting to listen in on how they can play a role in helping the AIMS initiative be successful.

Last year, the Colorado Department of Higher Education invested $300,000 in the AIMS initiative from Sept. 2016-Sept. 2018, contingent upon the successful acquisition of a $100,000 match. The partnership work is focused on Native American students, and their families, in three high schools in Southwest Colorado including: Montezuma-Cortez, Durango and Ignacio. The partnership has been working with the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes to help engage students and families.

According to AIMS initiative research, numerous Native American students often graduate from high school unprepared for postsecondary education or workforce life. AIMS’ goal is to prep students while they’re in high school so they are ready for college and once they are in college to keep them going.

Data collected shows the discrepancy in the number of Native students enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes compared to other students. Getting Native students enrolled in AP classes is one step to getting students ready for college, Teri Nuhn, Native American Educator for 9-R Durango School District said.

Nuhn has been working on getting more Native students enrolled in AP courses in Durango and said it takes building the students’ confidence and reassuring them they can succeed in higher level classes.

“It’s about putting belief in them,” she said. “Going out and asking them to join these classes and supporting them to stay with it.”

Supporting students will be key to getting them into college and retaining them, she said.

Mike Hudson, Community Outreach Coordinator for AIMS said the goal of the outreach meetings are to make the community aware of the program and to get them engaged so they can help assist in getting more Native students to succeed. The partnership is working with many entities including Fort Lewis College and Southwest Community College to help promote concurrent enrollment and potential scholarship and internship opportunities.

In addition to the community outreach meeting, AIMS hosted a student leadership workshop in Ignacio on March 15 to develop student leadership skills. Students from six local high schools: Ignacio, Bayfield, Pagosa, Durango, Montezuma-Cortez and Animas High School worked together to solve problems including how to improve and redesign the education system.


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