The Office of Undergraduate Admissions hosted its first weeklong Native Education Forum in June for prospective students to learn what a college education could do for them.

Twenty-four high school students made it through the selective application process and attended the forum. Aside from receiving one hour of college credit, they also benefitted from one-on-one advising from students and admissions counselors on how to stand out in the college search process.

“We had strong support for this event,” said Undergraduate Admissions Assistant Director Ronnie Chalmers. “College Board, NC State Advising Corps, The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions provided great information about college choice and the enrollment process. Also each student met with an admissions counselor to discuss areas of academic improvement and provide assistance with their college search.”

As part of the one-hour university course, the forum covered concerns for Native Americans, as well. Each of the five days featured a different topic taught by a new guest speaker in addition to daily writing assignments and a culminating presentation and paper as required of attendees at the end of the course.

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Specific topics included a historical perspective describing the educational landscape in relation to the Native American community and North Carolina tribes, health trends Native Americans face, the portrayal of Native Americans in children’s literature and the effect of communication and language in regard to telling a story.

“Many of our Native American students come from very tight-knit communities, and leaving to attend a college outside of the community is not the norm,” said NEF Organizer and former Undergraduate Admissions Assistant Director Rachel Ensing. “The fear of many community and family members is that students will leave the area for school and not return to their home native community. Through this program, we hoped to tackle this issue by offering course topics that would introduce students to ways that they could give back to their communities after completing their college education.”

Ensing took the idea from Colorado State University after receiving encouragement to attend its Native Education Forum last year, and said it seemed like something the University could implement to recruit more Native American students and get them interested in higher education.

“We wanted to show firsthand what it’s like to be in a college classroom,” Ensing said. “All but one of our faculty were native, so that the unique environment could provide an easier transition to show what it could be like.”

Ensing spent more than a year planning the forum, which came free to the students after receiving most of the funding from Enrollment Management & Services in addition to a mini-grant from the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

“We wanted to give the message that college is difficult and you have to work hard, but it’s not impossible,” Ensing said.

Chalmers said he thought the forum went very well with Ensing leading the charge, especially since this had been the first campus visit for many students.

“The campus visit is a major factor when deciding on where a student attends school,” Chalmers said. “We expect that most of the students will apply to NC State based on their experience during NEF, so NEF should make them feel more welcome and at home on campus,” Chalmers said. “I enjoy working directly with the Native American community, and just being supportive so that students know that they have people here that care.”

Chalmers also said he hopes the forum will spread to other schools outside of North Carolina, especially after seeing one of the attendees fly out all the way from Oklahoma to participate.

“It’s a great beneficial program; all students should take advantage of opportunities like this,” said Justin Richardson, one of the student counselors for the forum and a senior in communication media.

By Sara Awad