Summer Training to Revive Indigenous Vision and Empowerment happened this year because the student government invested $13,000.
With help from the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College, the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation, and Central Oregon Community College, STRIVE provided students from Warm Springs a week-long look at college life.
Gina Ricketts, Native American program director at COCC, said the COCC support was indicative of an administration-wide attitude.
“That’s a testament to how they really do want Native American students here,” said Ricketts. “It’s not just talk.”
STRIVE costs $1,000 per student and up until 2013, the week-long program had been funded completely by the College Access Challenge Grant. That grant was discontinued nationwide this year, according to Ricketts.
However, Ricketts and her team were still able to run the program because of $10,000 from the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation, $13,000 in student fees from ASCOCC, and the college donating use of residence halls for the week.
Sodexo joined in by giving STRIVE a food discount. Ricketts said they were sensitive to students’ wants.
“They were great,” said Ricketts. “I told them the kids wanted mashed potatoes, and that night we had mashed potatoes.”
Even COCC’s president showed support for the program.
“Dr. Middleton came to our closing ceremony,” said Ricketts. “On a Saturday morning. He didn’t have to come. He didn’t even give a speech. I asked him if he wanted to speak, and he said no.”
Ricketts has known the value of such a program for a long time.
When Ricketts was in high school, her counselor told her to “go work in the mill” because she was hardly college material. Ricketts admits that if something like STRIVE had been available, she wouldn’t have felt so alone.
Ricketts believes STRIVE is indispensable because it acclimates high schoolers to an unknown experience.
“It gives them access to college life,” Ricketts said. “And that may seem odd, but to many Native American students from families where they’re first generation college students, it’s something they need.”
Of the 13 students who attended STRIVE this year, the youngest was 13 and the oldest two were seniors.
“Both the high school seniors are coming to COCC this fall,” Ricketts said.
STRIVE’s other main goal is to create leaders. To that end, six current COCC students were hired to chaperone and mentor the visiting students.
Kurt Killinger, one of the student leaders and a returning member of the student government, said he was “very proud” to be involved.
“I participated in activities such as hiking to Tumalo Falls and other facilitators’ workshops,” Killinger said in an email to The Broadside. “[They were a] great group of students who participated well and are looking forward to next year.”
Students took classes tailored to their background such as “Who’s Your Coyote?”, a course about legends featuring the trickster coyote.
Jim Stedman, the COCC professor who taught the class, said he had “a ball.”
“What a tremendous experience,” Stedman said. “The idea of seeing just what it (college) looks like and how it feels.”
The point of the class was to help students embrace and internalize their heritage.
“Taking the formula of the ancient tale of the trickster, and putting modern clothes on it,” Stedman said. “So instead, you have Coyote gets lost in Portland, Coyote tries out for the Red Sox.”
Stedman had the students take the legends and apply them to their own lives.
“The only way the tradition remains alive [is] if we incorporate it,” Stedman said. “If you don’t have that connection, the legend dies.”
At the beginning of the class, Stedman thought the main challenge would be that the students “didn’t have to be there.” Stedman had no roster, but it didn’t take him long to realize he didn’t need one.
“I came out of it seeing that the students really wanted to be there,” Stedman said. “They were there for the right reasons.”