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College Tours Give Students a Taste of the Higher Education Experience

Recently, the Johnson Scholars Program of the School District of Palm Beach County in collaboration with Take Stock in Children of Palm Beach County (jointly known as the JSTSIC Program) facilitated college tours to three colleges. Students were able to choose one of two trips: A local tour and research presentation at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton or a trip to Orlando that included both Valencia College-East Campus and University of Central Florida.

Group of 6 students in front of I love FAU sign

College tours are one of several components of the JSTSIC program that serves more than 400 students throughout Palm Beach County each year. Students in the program are mentored from 9th grade through high school graduation by a community mentor. Each has access to college coaches throughout high school as well, and each receives a two-year Florida Prepaid scholarship.

The college tours help our students have tangible contact with the college experience, increasing their motivation toward achieving post-secondary success. On the recent tours, each school showcased programs and support services specific to each institution, and our students were able to see college life as they moved throughout the campuses.

Young man working at a computer

Florida Atlantic University showcased an engaging research initiative in which students learned how to research from their freshman year. They learned how to research areas of interest in which they would like to invest. They were able to see the campus during Homecoming as the campus was preparing for the night’s homecoming game.

University of Central Florida, also in the middle of their homecoming week, allowed our students to see college students participate in their annual “fountain run, known as Spirit Splash where students run into the Reflecting Pond and collect rubber duckies. Besides the fun they got an informative look at the overall campus, which included support systems and programs offered by UCF.

Large group of students holding Valencia College banners

Valencia College showcased a few unique programs offered to its students. Officials explained to our students that graduates of Valencia are automatically accepted into UCF. The two schools’ programs are linked, which helps students to transfer smoothly from state college into the university system. Valencia showcased its Fire and Rescue Department and Agricultural Science Department, and students saw a presentation in Graphic Interactive Design.

Gbolade George was educated in the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, and he has worked in the district for 21 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in behavioral disorders in education from the University of South Florida. He is in his third year as resource teacher and mentor facilitator for the Johnson Scholars Program.

American Indian Business Leaders Blaze a Trail to the Future with New Advisory Board

There’s an adage about having a direction that says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

A couple years ago, the American Indian Business Leaders, with the assistance of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, spent some time examining where we wanted to go – and how to get there.

The American Indian Business Leaders was founded in 1994 with the mission of empowering Indigenous business students in the United States to foster economic improvement in Native American communities. We’ve grown from one chapter at the University of Montana at Missoula to 120 chapters at universities, tribal colleges, and high schools with more than 250 tribal nations represented. With 2019 marking our 25th anniversary, it was an appropriate time to evaluate where the next 25 years would take us.

Young man wearing Indigenous Entrepreneur shirt

Through about a year of analysis and planning with input from respected leaders throughout Indian Country, AIBL learned what programs were most successful, and also, which ones needed improvement. Specifically, we realized that we could only guess at how to prepare our students to participate in corporate America because we didn’t know what attributes corporate America needed.

We’re excited that in the future, AIBL will get those answers straight from the executives themselves. AIBL is building a new advisory board with representatives from many of America’s best known corporations. We expect to hold the first meeting in the first quarter of 2020.

We anticipate having 8-10 members on the advisory board, and I’m happy to share that it will include Sam McCracken, general manager for Nike N7, Nike’s product line that supports the N7 Fund to provide sport and physical activity programming to kids in Native American and Aboriginal communities. Longtime AIBL supporter Trina Finley Ponce, the diversity and inclusion program manager at HP, also has agreed to join the board along with Micah Highwalking, senior operations manager at Dr. Pepper.

Two men on stage in front of American Indigenous Business Leaders logo

In addition to advising us on corporate culture, the advisory board will help us cultivate relationships with corporate America that can benefit our students in numerous ways. We’ll be using them as a sounding board to learn what kinds of skills we should be helping our students develop. That feedback is important as we prepare our students to work in corporate America. We also know it’s important to hear from people in a diverse range of businesses as each business and industry has its own corporate culture.

We also anticipate that the advisory board will act as a bridge to greater diversity for corporations wanting to be inclusive of Native Americans and our culture.

We at AIBL are proud of our first 25 years supporting Indigenous business students. We look forward to a future with even greater opportunities.

Prairie Bighorn Blount is the executive director of American Indian Business Leaders (AIBL). She grew up on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in eastern Montana and is an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Sioux Tribe. Before joining the AIBL organization, she worked in Washington, D.C., providing contract management services to help support economic development within American Indian communities.