Native American Students Make Bowdoin Home for a Week

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Nearly 100 Native American students from across the country, including from Alaska and Hawaii, gathered last week on Bowdoin’s campus to learn the ins and outs of applying to colleges and for financial aid.

The students, all with at least 3.0 GPAs and the ambition to earn a college degree, were enrolled in a nonprofit program called College Horizons. Each summer, the New Mexico-based organization selects two schools in its consortium (this year, they were Bowdoin and Stanford) to host a one-week residential college preparation program.

By the end of the week, the high schoolers had in hand drafts of their college essays and common applications, and a list of colleges and universities they will apply to when they return to their high schools this fall.

College Horizons held a college fair in Morrell Gym last week, and took students to Fort Williams on a field trip

One of the students on campus last week, Clarissa Sampson, a rising high school senior from Flagstaff, Ariz., and a member of the Navajo Nation, said the program had made her aware that a bigger world than she imagined awaited her after high school. “It has opened my options to colleges — if I work hard,” she said over breakfast in Thorne Dining Hall last week. “Before, I only thought I could go to community college because of finances.”

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From left to right Clarissa Sampson, Kady Valledor, Megan Silversmith, Kendall Goodvoice and Kekai Wong Yuen.

About half of the College Horizons students will be the first in their families to attend college, according to Carmen Lopez, the program’s executive director. She added that 95% of the program’s participants go on to matriculate at a four-year college, and 85% graduate. These numbers are much higher than for Native students in general, she added. “We’re sending the message that they can do a four-year college,” Lopez said.

An important part of College Horizons’ work is to make its students, and their parents, aware of need-blind admissions and financial aid opportunities for accomplished students, particularly those from underrepresented groups. College Horizons hires college admissions staff, high school counselors and Native educators to help advise and work with the high schoolers during the week.

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Bowdoin students Sedonna Goeman-Shulsky ’18 and Frances Soctomah ’14

In addition, Bowdoin hired two of its students to assist Claudia Marroquin, Bowdoin’s associate dean and coordinator of multicultural recruitment, to prepare the College to host the 98 Native students. Frances Soctomah ’14 and Sedonna Goeman-Shulsky ’18 helped plan logistics and details, and were on hand during the week to speak to the students about applying to college and their personal experiences at Bowdoin. Both are involved in Bowdoin’s Native American Students Association. They also helped advise the high schoolers about the schools that might be best fits for them academically, socially and financially. (And they were not biased toward Bowdoin!)

Student Clarissa Sampson said that she now plans to apply to the University of Rochester and Carleton College and wants to major in math. While she isn’t going to apply to Bowdoin, she did say that after spending a week here she would recommend it to her friends and younger siblings back home.

Kendall Goodvoice, of Tahlequah, Okla., said the College Horizons program was one of the best “camps” she had been to for Native people, because it was “thorough and genuine.” She wants to apply to Guildford College and Stanford, adding that one day she would like to be a tribal law attorney. Kekai Wong Yuen, of Hawaii, said she, too, wants to become a lawyer; in her case to advocate for the Hawaiians.

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