Cherokee Nation scholarship recipient Micala Cooper, of Tahlequah, looks over her statistics homework at Northeastern State University.
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — The Cherokee Nation is funding a record number of college scholarships in the 2014-15 academic year to ensure as many Cherokee students as possible enroll and graduate from college with a brighter future and fewer student loans.
All Cherokee students who applied and qualified for a scholarship, which is nearly 3,500 students, were offered a $2,000 scholarship this spring.
This past fall, scholarships were awarded to 3,830 students.
“We have more Cherokee students pursuing a higher education than ever. With so many talented and educated citizens, it bodes well for the future of our tribe,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Not one Cherokee who applied has been denied the opportunity to pursue an education. That’s something we can all be proud of.”
The tribe is awarding scholarships totaling about $13 million this school year for all program scholarships. Funding for Cherokee Nation scholarships is collected from the tribe’s motor fuels tax funds.
For Micala Cooper, a social work major at Northeastern State University, the $8,000 total in scholarships she has received from Cherokee Nation the past two years has meant being able to get more involved in college. She joined a sorority and volunteers at Sequoyah Elementary School in Tahlequah.
“Having a scholarship from the Cherokee Nation is important to me because I’m able to focus more on my schoolwork and not have to spend so much of my time working,” said the 20-year-old from Tahlequah. “It allows me to participate in extracurricular activities that I otherwise wouldn’t have time for and has really been a blessing.”
Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Rogers State University in Claremore and the University of Oklahoma in Norman are just a few colleges that have a high number of Cherokee students enrolled who receive the scholarships.
Cherokee Nation College Resources is the department that manages all of the tribe’s scholarships, including directed studies, Cherokee Promise, valedictorian, undergraduate and graduate scholarships. They also do outreach at schools throughout the 14 counties to help students understand and apply for various scholarships.
Some of the eligibility requirements include students must be Cherokee Nation citizens with a permanent address in the 14-county tribal jurisdiction or contiguous counties, maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete community service hours.
For the undergraduate scholarship, applicants living outside the tribal jurisdiction or contiguous counties must be eligible for the federal Pell Grant.
“I graduated from Northeastern State University back in 1974, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of a Cherokee Nation scholarship. This is a good program,” said Bruce Davis, deputy executive director of Education Services and retired school superintendent at Leach Public Schools. “It’s important for our future that our young people are well educated, can find jobs, start families of their own and live productive lives.”
Scholarship applications for the 2015-16 academic year are now being accepted at https://scholarships.cherokee.org/. The deadline for new students and Cherokee Promise Scholars is April 10. The deadline for renewing students is June 5.
For more information on Cherokee Nation scholarships, call 918-453-5465.