Virtual mentorship helps young tribal members gain access to college

RED ROCK, Okla., Feb. 13, 2015 — The Otoe-Missouria Tribe announced today that it is partnering with Strive for College to sponsor a pilot program that helps tribal high school students gain access to college.

Strive for College matches qualifying high school students with undergraduate students who virtually mentor them online through the process of applying to, enrolling in and financing their higher education.

According to the Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012, only 39% of American Indian students who started in 2005 as first-time, full-time students at 4-year institutions graduated, compared to 60% of their white counterparts.

Due to the remote location of the Otoe-Missouria Tribal community, the virtual aspect of the Strive to College program is the key to its success. Students at Frontier School, the rural public school with the largest Otoe-Missouria student population, use webcams to connect with their mentors across the country.

“Native American students face unique challenges during the college application process,” founder of Strive for College Michael J. Carter says. “Strive for College works to impact the problem of college access in the United States and Native American students need to be a part of that solution. I’m thrilled that we’re able to use technology to connect students living on remote reservations with undergraduate students who can provide them with the guidance they need.”

When the student successfully completes the Strive for College program at Frontier Public School, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe will provide an additional $500 for school supplies to each student who attends college.

While internet access is essential to the success of the students in the program, it has also played a major role in the tribe’s ability to fund opportunities of this type. Strive for College is one of many social welfare programs that the tribe has been able to offer its membership in the last few years due to the success of its e-commerce lending businesses. Without internet access, neither the Strive for College program nor the e-commerce lending businesses would be possible for a tribe based in such a remote location.

“We are fortunate that our tribally owned and operated businesses provide us with the means necessary to extend this valuable aid to our tribal members and their families,” Otoe-Missouria Tribal Chairman John Shotton says. “Our lending businesses generate millions of dollars annually for the tribe and that revenue is used to fund critical social services like this program. I am proud that we are able to invest in our youth by providing them with the tools they need to succeed in the next phase of their lives.”

Initial funding for the pilot program was provided by Think Finance, one of the providers of analytics and technology services for the Otoe-Missouria Tribe’s e-commerce lending businesses.

The Otoe-Missouria Tribe owns and operates businesses in sectors including ranching, farming, e-commerce, gaming and waste management and is the second largest employer in the region. In addition to providing jobs for tribal members and the surrounding community, revenue from its businesses funds the government administration and critical social services, providing members with elder’s assistance, tuition and textbook assistance, emergency housing repairs, home buyer’s assistance, eyeglasses and hearing aid assistance.

Otoe-Missouria Frontier students interested in enrolling in Strive to College may do so at