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Native Tribal Scholars program nurtures talents, aspirations through weeks at UMass

  • Ciara Oakley-Robbins, 15, of the Native Tribal Scholar program demonstrates a traditional Native American toy at the program's end-of-the-year family day. The summer program expresses the importance of college to Native high school students.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Ciara Oakley-Robbins, 15, of the Native Tribal Scholar program demonstrates a traditional Native American toy at the program's end-of-the-year family day. The summer program expresses the importance of college to Native high school students.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ciara Oakley-Robbins, 15, of the Native Tribal Scholar program demonstrates a traditional Native American toy to Caleb Oakley-Robbins at the program's end-of-the-year family day. The summer program expresses the importance of college to Native high school students.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Ciara Oakley-Robbins, 15, of the Native Tribal Scholar program demonstrates a traditional Native American toy to Caleb Oakley-Robbins at the program's end-of-the-year family day. The summer program expresses the importance of college to Native high school students.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dominique Frie (left), 16, and Autumn Bingham, 16, demonstrate their Scratch, an MIT-developed program, animation project called "Dan and Brendan" at University of Massachusetts Amherst. The girls are a part of the Native Tribal Scholars program which encourages Native high school students to pursue a college education and got to show their projects at family day.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Dominique Frie (left), 16, and Autumn Bingham, 16, demonstrate their Scratch, an MIT-developed program, animation project called "Dan and Brendan" at University of Massachusetts Amherst. The girls are a part of the Native Tribal Scholars program which encourages Native high school students to pursue a college education and got to show their projects at family day.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • DeShaun Dias helps Caesar Hendricks (left), 10, and Nicholas Jordan, 10, drum at the Native Tribal Scholars' family day at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dias is a high school student in the program. The summer program helps students grow academically with a focus on obtaining a college education.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    DeShaun Dias helps Caesar Hendricks (left), 10, and Nicholas Jordan, 10, drum at the Native Tribal Scholars' family day at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dias is a high school student in the program. The summer program helps students grow academically with a focus on obtaining a college education.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kyle Lemos, 16, drums with a group of children at the Native Tribal Scholars' family day at University of Massachusetts Amherst. The students had the chance to show off their summer projects, both cultural and academic, to families and friends. The program encourages Native high school students to pursue a college education.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Kyle Lemos, 16, drums with a group of children at the Native Tribal Scholars' family day at University of Massachusetts Amherst. The students had the chance to show off their summer projects, both cultural and academic, to families and friends. The program encourages Native high school students to pursue a college education.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ciara Oakley-Robbins, 15, of the Native Tribal Scholar program demonstrates a traditional Native American toy at the program's end-of-the-year family day. The summer program expresses the importance of college to Native high school students.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Ciara Oakley-Robbins, 15, of the Native Tribal Scholar program demonstrates a traditional Native American toy to Caleb Oakley-Robbins at the program's end-of-the-year family day. The summer program expresses the importance of college to Native high school students.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Dominique Frie (left), 16, and Autumn Bingham, 16, demonstrate their Scratch, an MIT-developed program, animation project called "Dan and Brendan" at University of Massachusetts Amherst. The girls are a part of the Native Tribal Scholars program which encourages Native high school students to pursue a college education and got to show their projects at family day.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • DeShaun Dias helps Caesar Hendricks (left), 10, and Nicholas Jordan, 10, drum at the Native Tribal Scholars' family day at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dias is a high school student in the program. The summer program helps students grow academically with a focus on obtaining a college education.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Kyle Lemos, 16, drums with a group of children at the Native Tribal Scholars' family day at University of Massachusetts Amherst. The students had the chance to show off their summer projects, both cultural and academic, to families and friends. The program encourages Native high school students to pursue a college education.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

After three years gaining social, leadership and academic skills in the program, and making new friends, the member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has a new career planned. “Now I really want to become a psychologist,” said Scott, 16, a high school junior from Cape Cod.

Scott is taking part in a five-week course that brings together 26 students, all residents of Massachusetts and members of various American Indian tribes, to steer them toward college.

The program, run by the Mashpee Wampanoag, the North American Indian Center of Boston and the New England Native American Institute, has also been important to Zoe Harris, 16. She, too, is a Mashpee Wampanoag from Cape Cod attending for the third year.

“For me, even though I live close to a native community, I not only get to see people from my own tribe but other tribes,” Harris said, speaking of the program.

This is the first time the program was held on the University of Massachusetts campus. It convened before at Regis College in Weston.

Funded through the federal Office of Indian Educational Programs, the summer school includes seven classes, ranging from Native American literature, mathematics and environmental science, to music, film and film production.

“We’re encouraging and assisting Native students in going to and graduating from college,” said Jamie Morrison, the program director.

The summer effort, Morrison said, is one component of year-round efforts that assist about 60 students, including preparation for SATs, college workshops and mini retreats.

“It’s an academic program that produces a lot of academic benefits and social benefits,” Morrison said. “This exposes them to Native people of this area, and there is collaboration with Native folks from other parts of the community.”

Taste of college

Morrison said that teachers are American Indians, including a visiting instructor from Brown University who focused on Native literature. They are assisted by UMass graduate students.

It was brought to UMass this year because both Morrison and assistant director Warren Griffin attended the university and knew UMass had classroom space and living quarters available.

Griffin said being on a college campus helps simulate the experience they hope the students will one day have.

Students go through an extensive application process that includes writing two essays on why they want to enter the program and the importance of education in their lives.

Harris said she has learned a lot about Native culture, stereotypes about American Indians in film and music and the importance of Natives to the realm of science.

“I’ve had a blast here,” said Gina Hope, a 14-year-old from Greenfield. “All these people are really cool, I learned a lot in the classes, and Six Flags was great,” she said, referring to one of the field trips.

A member of the Canadian Inuit tribe, Hope said her mother became aware of the program from a friend and encouraged her to apply.

”It’s just a great time learning during the summer about Native issues,” Hope said.

The program concluded Friday with family day in which the students got to exhibit and share their experiences.

A showcase for many of the students was the retelling of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” using American Indian imagery. That included regalia worn by the actors, the use of Native words and music and including what Scott described as “slang Mashpee talk.”

They also displayed games, music and animation they made using Scratch, a program language developed at MIT and taught by Nicolas Reyes of Amherst.

Two of the students, DeShaun Dias of Mashpee and Kyle Lemos of Brockton, created their own beats and looped this back using Scratch to create music.

Scott was planning to hand out copies of a Native crossword puzzle, inspired by a teacher, while handmade flutes made in an environmental science class were also on display.

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