Published July 1, 2017
SALT LAKE CITY – For the three summers before their 7th, 8th, and 9th grade years a group of Native American kids have lived at the USU Blanding campus for six weeks, immersing themselves in the worlds of science, technology, engineering, and math. On August 4th their hard work is going to be celebrated with pomp and circumstance as they become the first class to graduate after completing each year of AIS PREP, American Indian Services’ Pre-Engineering Program.
The graduation promises to be a wonderful event with a sheep slaughtering ceremony and Sade Gold serving as keynote speaker. Sade is a certified flight instructor at Utah Valley University Aviation and an AIS alumni. The celebration for these dedicated kids is well deserved after spending a total of eighteen weeks away from their families taking challenging classes and workshops from industry professionals and university faculty.
The classes are not only meant to educate, they’re also meant to help the students see the benefits of an extended education and inspire them to become the next generation of scientists and engineers, and in doing so helping America fill the gap of the 1 million STEM graduates that we need in order to stay competitive in today’s economy according to former President Obama and the Department of Commerce.
For some of these kids that may have once felt like a far too distant dream to even consider because of the challenges and roadblocks that extreme poverty can present. But American Indian Services works to identify low-income, underrepresented students who have an interest and aptitude in math to enroll in the program so that they can help the students start on that path. And since AIS is first and foremost a scholarship program, their hope is that eventually they’ll be able to help each of these kids go on to receive college degrees.
The mission of AIS has been a simple one: to create programs and generate funding that will help Native Americans receive a quality education, while still preserving the culture and honoring the heritage of the Native peoples. In fact, AIS believes that it is through education that Native Americans will be able to protect their history. Their goal and hope is that as Natives achieve individual success they’ll be better able to provide support for their communities and positive change for future generations.
AIS is a non-profit charity located in Salt Lake City, but something that sets them apart from many other non-profits is that all of their administrative expenses are covered by board members. This means that every donation they receive goes directly to a Native American seeking an education. “Every little bit that anyone can contribute, I can tell you that one hundred percent of it goes to help those students. These are a magnificent people, a very bright people, they just need a chance,” says Johnny Miller, former pro-golfer and long-time supporter of AIS.
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This BBSNews article originally appeared on Native News Online.