October 20, 2020


A word from American Indian Services Executive Director, Dr. Sylvia McMillan

November is Native American Heritage Month. Each November is a time for us to honor our indigenous populations and, for American Indian Services (AIS) specifically, the Native students we support. With services beginning in 1958 and then officially becoming a nonprofit in 1971, American Indian Services is one of the nation’s oldest charities supporting Native higher education. AIS believes education is often the difference between a happy, healthy, and self-sustaining productive life and one that is not. To quote Confucius, “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” We live in a time where that message is becoming increasingly poignant.

Education is an important cornerstone for self-sufficiency and quality of life. Centuries ago, the U.S. government signed a treaty with Native Americans agreeing that in exchange for giving up their land, the federal government would fully operate and fund schools for Native students in perpetuity. Since then, the U.S. government has failed to deliver on that promise in a meaningful way. No other group of students in America fails to graduate or achieve proficiency at such a disproportionate rate as students in Indigenous communities.

While students of every other major ethnic group in America have made educational progress in the last decade, the advancement of Native American students has remained relatively flat in comparison, while the gap separating these students from their non-Native peers has widened. Additionally, these students underperform Native students that attend other public schools. In one study of fourth graders, BIE students on average scored 22 percent lower for reading and 14 points lower for math than Native students attending public schools.

Only 70% of the Native students who start kindergarten will graduate from high school, compared to a national average of 82 percent, according to NCES. Those attending BIE schools have an even lower graduation rate of 53%. Only 17% of Native students attend college, as opposed to the national average of 60%. While 28% of the general population holds a college degree, only 13% of Native Americans have a college degree.  A lack of funding and resources coupled with geographic isolation can be a major obstacle for students who want to receive a quality education.

AIS is dedicated to providing college scholarships as well as education programs for younger students needed for Native American communities to close the achievement gap between Native students and students of the general population. We have one unfaltering purpose – to increase the number of American Indians who hold college degrees. We intend to double our impact in the next five years. We invite you to join us and invest in a student and our future today.

-Dr. Sylvia McMillan

Help Native American Students Today


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