- By Chuck Hoskin Jr
Guest Opinion. For generations, education has been deeply important to the Cherokee people. The Cherokee government established the first public education system in this land in 1841, decades before the state of Oklahoma existed. Our ancestors built this foundation so that Cherokee youth have opportunities to succeed in the modern world, while carrying on Cherokee culture and knowing where they come from.
Today in Cherokee Nation we provide everything from early childhood education to college and university scholarships. Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner and I are proud that we are able to help more Cherokees than ever on their educational journey.
The Cherokee Nation Foundation recently announced awards of more than $405,000 in scholarships to about 75 Cherokee high school graduates and 40 current university students for the upcoming academic year. That is a jump of almost 80% from scholarship dollars awarded last year. The foundation was able to dramatically increase opportunities for students thanks to significant new endowments over the past year. The tireless staff at Cherokee Nation Foundation continues to find new ways to help students achieve their dreams.
Additionally, the Council of the Cherokee Nation approved a proposal by me and Deputy Chief Warner to boost our tribe’s investment in the Cherokee Nation Foundation, increasing the number of scholarships available to citizens. With this investment, we have dramatically improved support for Cherokee youth, including those residing outside our reservation boundaries.
Every Cherokee Nation Foundation application is evaluated on the student’s academic achievement, community and cultural involvement, as well as future plans to serve the Cherokee people. We are happy to provide these scholarships because we know that seeing our students succeed benefits the whole Cherokee Nation. To continue building a stronger tribal nation with successful business enterprises, we need a well-educated workforce and college graduates. With greater opportunities, students will have even greater desire and ability to give back to the communities that shaped them.
Cherokee Nation Foundation, a nonprofit, charitable organization, offers a vast array of competitive awards that are separate from the funds available through the tribe’s education department. Most of the awards can be received in addition to support from Cherokee Nation Education Department. In addition to the financial awards, Cherokee Nation Foundation also offers financial literacy education, college and job readiness programs, and ACT test preparation classes for Cherokee young people.
We appreciate all the donors – new and established – who have helped create these scholarships and programs. The chance to do even more is possible. I recently signed an executive order that enables Cherokee Nation’s workforce to make payroll deductions that support charitable causes. Our team estimates that if every one of the tribe’s 4,300 employees gave even $1 per paycheck, it would mean an additional $120,000 annually for the Cherokee Nation Foundation’s efforts to help Cherokee youth reach their full potential.
All of these efforts by the Cherokee Nation Foundation compliment the efforts of our education department. Cherokee Nation’s education department provides over $15 million annually in scholarships to thousands of Cherokees living on the reservation and across the United States. Together, the Cherokee Nation Foundation and our education department are making a generational impact.
As Cherokees, valuing education is our history and our future. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and hold up those coming after us to do even more. Cherokee Nation Foundation is helping deliver that future.
Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
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