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More than Scholarships

Foundations don’t seek recognition for the work they do. They are uncomfortable in the spotlight, preferring instead to shine it upon their hard-working nonprofit partners.

But sometimes an event designed to show gratitude to a funder can become much more that. Here at the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, we had a chance to experience this firsthand during the recent Johnson Scholarship Day celebration at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Students at a tableJohnson Scholarship Day gave JSF staff a chance to meet more than 100 students who are recipients of PBA’s Johnson Scholarships. In total there are more than 800 academically talented and service-oriented Johnson Scholars at PBA, a Christian university of about 3,850 students in West Palm Beach, Florida.

This was the second year the university has hosted Johnson Scholarship Day. It was special to JSF for several reasons, but three in particular stood out to us.

First, it was a chance for JSF to get to know the students. During PBA’s Johnson Scholarship Day, we had a chance to enjoy refreshments and sit down with college students, a famously busy lot. They told us about their hometowns and their future plans. They also shared what the scholarship means to them.

Students wearing johnson scholarship day shirtsMany of them spoke about financial need and how the scholarship helped fill in the gaps in their financial aid. Some said the scholarship gave them encouragement to stay focused on their studies. As Johnson Scholar Primose Lataillade told us, “It teaches us that people believe in us.”

Second, it was a chance for the students to get to know JSF. Our founders, the late Theodore R. and Vivian M. Johnson, came to know PBA through their personal friendship with PBA Founding Board Chairman Dr. Donald Warren.

PBA President William M. B. Fleming Jr. described Mr. Johnson as a remarkable man who loved PBA students. Because of Mr. Johnson’s admiration for the university, PBA has been a grant recipient – one of the Foundation’s largest – since JSF’s inception in 1991.

JSF President and CEO Malcolm Macleod gave the students additional insight into Mr. Johnson, who shared Dr. Warren’s belief that a school like PBA had the potential to slow what many perceived at the time as a moral decline in America. “He felt that this was a great investment in society,” he said.

Sharon Wood at Johnson Scholarship DayThird, it was a chance for JSF to see the return on not just one but two of its investments. During the event, we learned that at least one of the students in the room was well acquainted with JSF long before she ever set foot on PBA’s campus.

As a student at Palm Beach Gardens Community High School, this student spent all four years in the Johnson Scholars program, a college readiness program that is a partnership among JSF, the School District of Palm Beach County and Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County. Students who complete the program receive a college scholarship. For this young woman, that scholarship enabled her to continue her studies at PBA.

To us, stories like hers and the others we heard are what Johnson Scholarship Day was really about. We are proud of all of our Johnson Scholars at PBA, as well as those at other colleges, universities and schools throughout Florida, the United States and Canada.

Lady Hereford is a program specialist with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. She has spent significant time working in journalism and public relations, and she assists the Foundation’s communications efforts as it expands its impact across sectors. More information about the Johnson Scholarship Foundation can be found at www.jsf.bz.

Health Events Among Highlights of African Heritage Month at Dalhousie

In 1988, Nova Scotia first recognized Black History Month. Thirty years later the tradition continues with African Heritage Month being recognized and celebrated in communities, by organizations and in our postsecondary institutions across the province.

Flag raising Dalhousie 2018

Photos: Dalhousie University

On Feb. 1, Dalhousie University launched a month of events with the raising of the Pan-African (or Marcus Garvey) flag to reflect and honour this year’s theme of “BLACK EXCELLENCE: COMMUNITY TO ACADEMIA.”

Promoting Leadership in health for African Nova Scotians (PLANS) was recognized for its dedication and contribution to the success of Black students in health, among other pioneering pathway programs such as Dalhousie’s Transition Year Program, Indigenous Black & Mi’kmaq Initiative (in law school), Black Educators Association’s Math Camp and Imhotep’s Legacy Academy.

Woman sitting in a chair in front of bannerIn keeping with the theme of Black Excellence, PLANS joined the Africentric Learning Institute and the Health Association of African Canadians in welcoming Dr. Clotilda Yakimchuk to share her story to the community and aspiring nurses as one of Nova Scotia’s first Black nurses.

Dr. Yakimchuk shared stories of her journey – from failing grade seven and taking that as a lesson to work hard, facing racism and standing strong as patients refused to be cared by a Black woman, and being elected the first Black president of the Registered Nurses Association in Nova Scotia in its 100-year history.  During her training, Dr. Yakimchuk did not see many others that looked like her, but was pleased to hear that more students of African descent are considering the nursing profession – one she enjoyed very much.  It was a pleasure to sit with Dr. Yakimchuk and she is an inspiration to all.

To close the month, PLANS is supporting Black health events with the student-led groups: Atlantic Association of Aspiring Black Physicians, Community of Black Students in Nursing, and Health Association of African Canadian-Student Organization as they aim to educate, build community and strive for excellence within themselves.

Students at Dalhousie summer campPLANS is now recruiting youth for its summer programming which has grown with support from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. In its fifth year, the African Nova Scotian Health Science Summer Camp will see students from across Nova Scotia learn more about postsecondary options, health careers and meet new friends as the camps are held at three Nova Scotian universities.

Michelle Patrick is the program manager for Promoting Leadership in Health for African Nova Scotians (PLANS) – supporting people of African descent on their journey to education and a career in health. Her favorite PLANS program is the African Nova Scotian Health Science Summer Camp that has expanded to more institutions across Nova Scotia and is reaching an increasing number of youth. She is a community volunteer with the Health Association of African Canadians and the Community Health Board.

January is National Mentoring Month

Check out www.mentoring.org, the website of MENTOR, a national non-profit organization devoted to increasing the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships for America’s young people. It makes the case for mentoring
as follows:

National Mentoring Month 2018 logoMentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity. Yet one in three young people will grow up without this critical asset.

Most of us readily accept the value of mentoring. We have had mentors of one kind or another in our lives and deeply appreciate their contribution to our development. Further, most of us can understand that mentoring is even more important for “at risk” young people. It should come as no surprise that many of the disadvantaged people that the Foundation seeks to serve do not have access to mentoring. MENTOR calls this the “mentoring gap.”

John Lera holding a certificateEffective mentoring has become the gold standard for the Foundation’s scholarships serving students with disadvantages. We have learned that preparation for college is more important than money. Students who are not emotionally and academically prepared for college have little chance of success. It is the mentors of these students who prepare them and continue to support them after the transition to college: teachers, volunteers and non-profit organizations. A great example of this is the Johnson Scholars program and Take Stock in Children.

Mentoring is also a significant part of most of the Foundation’s non-scholarship programs. Eye to Eye, for example, provides mentoring to middle and high school students who learn differently. We invest in Eye to Eye because mentoring is the most valuable thing that can be given to these aspiring students. Bridges from School to Work and the Statler Center are two Foundation supported programs that help to train and place people with disabilities into the competitive workplace. They accomplish this good work through intensive training and personal support. Staying with the disability programs, our scholarships at the State University System of Florida continue to attract increasing non-monetary support.

Woman at podium in graduation cap and gownOur investment in Pathways to Education is a hybrid of capacity building and student scholarship support. Pathways’ various supports – social, academic and financial – amount to mentorship for these children and account for high retention and graduation rates. Another Foundation investment that supports underserved children, Nativity Prep in Boston, achieves similar results by connecting to its students in middle school and following them through high school, college and into the workplace. Our investment at Nativity is not for scholarships but for its ongoing support (mentoring) of its students.

The Foundation’s mission is to assist disadvantaged people to obtain education and employment. We have come to understand that mentoring is at the heart of our work. Mentoring helps young people, particularly those that face disadvantages, to see a bright future and to understand that they can and should have a bright future. In the Foundation’s grantmaking we must be mindful of the importance of mentoring and that one-third of young people need further access to mentoring. The social and economic value of connecting with these young people cannot be overstated.

Walking the ‘Last Mile’ Through Graduate Support

Providing low-income, minority boys from Boston with the rigorous, affordable education that they deserve is part of our daily work at Nativity Preparatory School.

However, we see — as do the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and many in the education world —  the serious need to help bridge “the last mile” for disadvantaged students. Progress in this area continues, but it must have the end goal in mind. We should applaud a test score improvement in our middle schools, but what if that doesn’t translate to high school success? We should celebrate a formerly-struggling student’s college acceptance, but what if they can’t afford to ever complete a degree?

Young students raising their hands in classAt Nativity Prep — profiled by JSF President and CEO Malcolm Macleod in a post titled “Small, but Mighty” — a crucial part of our vision and model is bridging that “last mile” through investing in graduate support.

Staffed by two full-time professionals, our Graduate Support Office (GSO) offers targeted resources and programming to ensure that the academic growth, character formation and call to service of our graduating students is supported and encouraged through high school, college and beyond. Our results so far have been a 99 percent high school graduation rate, 84 percent college enrollment rate, and 64 percent college graduation rate, but we know that collaboration with others and sharing best practices can help us all do even better.

Here’s what our program looks like:

Academic: Going from our small, structured and supportive environment to elite, academically-challenging independent schools is a big transition. The GSO provides regular tutoring sessions and academic advising to our high school and college alumni. Each April, roughly 50 percent of each high school junior class takes advantage of our free college visit tour of top regional schools.

Two young men standing in front of a treeFinancial: Despite working with high schools and colleges to get the best financial aid for our graduates, gaps as small as a few hundred dollars can be insurmountable for some families. Our Last Dollar Aid program fills those gaps, while a partnership with Nebraska Book Company, Inc. helps ensure that steep textbook costs don’t get in the way of academic success.

Social: Social transitions can also be difficult when minority students are so underrepresented in independent and higher education. Nativity Prep is always an open and safe space for our alumni, many of whom can be found visiting teachers and old friends each day. The GSO regularly checks in and visits with students to provide mentorship, remind them of available resources and let them know that the Nativity community is there for them. Connecting graduating 8th graders or high schoolers with other Nativity alumni at their new schools often provides a friendly face in a new environment.

Career: Tapping into our generous circle of supporters, Board members and volunteers in Boston, we regularly offer internship opportunities and networking connections for alumni to explore career options. Social capital can often be just as valuable as “educational capital.

Three men hugging each otherAlumni Engagement: At the end of the day, our alumni are brothers for life. We make sure we provide regular opportunities for alumni to gather, share challenges and celebrate one other!

As students move through primary, secondary and higher education, one educational institution can never provide all of the support and answers. Investing in graduate support and building a life-long community is our way of walking with them on the “last mile” of their educational journey.

A Recipe for Success, Part 2

In honor of National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, we bring you the second in a two-part series on the Johnson Scholarship Program. Now in its 26th year, the program provides scholarships for students with disabilities and a network of support services to enhance student success.

Research shows that there is a great gap between educational expectations and reality for students with disabilities.

A 2006 National Longitudinal Transition Study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and Institute of Education Sciences showed that 85 percent of youth with disabilities plan to complete some form of post-secondary education (26 percent expected to complete a post-secondary vocational, technical or trade school; 34 percent expected to graduate from a two-year college; 25 percent expected to graduate from a four-year college). However, the same study also indicates that only one in 10 of these students actually complete any sort of post-secondary education (5 percent graduated from a post-secondary vocational, technical or trade school; 4 percent graduated from a two-year college; 1 percent graduated from a four-year college).

Group of students pointing towards Disability Resource CenterThe Johnson Scholarship Program helps to narrow the gap between expectation and attainment. Data kept by Florida Atlantic University finds that 66.1 percent of the students receiving at least one scholarship disbursement have graduated and another 20 percent are still enrolled in post-secondary education. The role of the Disability Support Services (DSS) office in helping students through this process cannot be overstated.

The good work of the DSS in delivering the scholarship program to students is enabled by its partnership with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and the Florida Board of Governors’ office. The scholarship program depends upon a unique collaboration among the philanthropic, higher education and legislative sectors.

State university system of florida board of governors logoThe Board of Governors Office performs essential leadership functions. It serves as a liaison between the Foundation and the universities, disseminates information on best practices, and helps to standardize processes. It manages and distributes the scholarship money to the various SUSF schools and it also provides expertise on legislative and policy changes that might affect students with disabilities.

The Board of Governors scales the support of students with disabilities to a state level, providing a greater platform for advocacy and building allies across sector lines in Florida. Such allies are invaluable as students with disabilities graduate from college and pursue employment.

At the heart of the partnership among JSF, the Board of Governor’s Office and the campus DSS is a one-day annual meeting, convened by JSF. The purpose of this meeting is to review the performance of the scholarship program, discuss developments affecting students with disabilities and best practices and opportunities for learning and collaboration. Professionals from outside the SUSF are sometimes invited to attend the annual meeting and speak on issues relevant to students with disabilities and their educators.

Group photo of peopleThe underlying reason for JSF’s mission in education is to facilitate meaningful employment. Unfortunately, there is huge underemployment of people with disabilities, even those with university degrees. According to the Current Population Survey (CPS) data released in June 2017, the unemployment rates for people with disabilities is more than double the rate for people without disabilities. The under employment of students with disabilities has been a recurring topic of discussion at JSF Scholarship annual meetings.

The Johnson Scholarship Program for students with disabilities is based upon a unique working relationship among JSF, the State of Florida, the SUSF and the university campuses, particularly the DSS at each campus. It is this partnership that has made the scholarship program successful. We have repeatedly noted that the real value of the program is in the work of the people involved (rather than the money).

Graphic saying "we're all able to do anything!"The program builds on infrastructure, expertise and resources that are already in place in the state of Florida.  The Board of Governors is the governing body for its 12 state universities and DSS are well established at each campus. The delivery of the Scholarship Program causes additional work for these partners but the incremental cost is small compared to the benefits.

The JSF SUSF Scholarship Program is a proven winner that is easily replicable in other states. The administrative machinery, DSS and a philanthropic sector are already in place. All that is required is an individual or group of individuals to champion the program.

For more information about Johnson Scholarship Foundation, visit www.jsf.bz.

A Recipe for Success

In honor of National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, we bring you the first in a two-part series on the Johnson Scholarship Program. Now in its 26th year, the program provides scholarships for students with disabilities and a network of support services to enhance student success.

What if scholarships weren’t really about the money?

As a private philanthropic foundation, the Johnson Scholarship Foundation invests to obtain the highest possible rate of return. The return on its scholarship grants is defined by the rate of successful matriculation and completion of post-secondary education.

JSF has learned that scholarships that include wraparound support are more likely to help a student to succeed. Money provides the financial stability and opportunity for post-secondary education, but it is not what gets a student through. Non-monetary supports attached to a scholarship contribute more to post-secondary success than money. This is especially true for students with disabilities.

state university system of florida board of governors logoJSF’s scholarship for people with disabilities attending a school within the State University System of Florida (SUSF) delivers both scholarship and non-monetary support by way of a collaboration of JSF, the SUSF and the Florida Legislature. Scholarships are awarded to students with disabilities who enroll at any one of the 12 SUSF campuses.

The program was founded in 1991. It began with an agreement between JSF’s founder, Theodore Johnson, and the State of Florida, which was expressed by an Act of the Legislature entitled “…The Johnson Scholarship Program.”  This Act provides for a scholarship program for students with disabilities to be funded by JSF. It also provides for a 50 percent state match for JSF grants and charges the Department of Education to administer the program.

Over the past 26 years JSF has made grants exceeding $9 million, which have all gone to student scholarships, together with the state match. However, the State’s commitment to administer the scholarship program has proven even more valuable than its matching funding.

Johnson Scholarship Foundation logoThe Florida Board of Governor’s office and each campus of the State University System form the backbone of a comprehensive student support system, which accompanies the scholarship. This is the secret sauce that makes the scholarship work. The award of the scholarship may capture a student’s attention, but the real magic of the scholarship lies in the mentoring and assistance that goes with it.

This is not to downplay the importance of money. Without it, JSF has no mission and there are no scholarships. Money is assuredly the main course. But it is the secret sauce that enables students to sit down and stay for dinner. And it is the secret sauce that students remember long afterward. Scholarships plus Supports equals Achievement ($ + S = A).

Secret sauce can be defined as the personal, non-monetary support, wrapped around the scholarship. The Disability Support Services (DSS) at each campus plays a critical role. It advertises the scholarship, receives the applications, leads the selection process, makes the award and provides ongoing support to scholarship recipients. JSF believes that the DSS’ ownership and control of this scholarship process and the support that they provide to each student throughout their college careers is central to the increased persistence and graduation rates of students with disabilities on each campus.

inclusion drives innovation posterThe scholarship program provides reciprocal benefits to the DSS offices, one of which is enhanced awareness of disability issues in other areas of the university. Ten of the 12 DSSs surveyed indicated that they use a selection committee to determine scholarship recipients. The selection committees are comprised of faculty and professionals drawn from various university departments. This increases knowledge of the special aspects and requirements of students with disabilities, thus producing allies for these students across campus. Another enhancement of the DSS profile within the university stems from a supplementary matching grant for scholarships that JSF offers to each SUSF campus. The local DSS office typically takes a leadership role in negotiating the grant and advocating for the matching funds within the university and the development office.

The most important reciprocal benefit that the scholarship provides is the enhanced opportunities for students to connect with the DSS staff and services. Eight out of 12 DSS offices report an increase in the use of services because the scholarship has heightened awareness of the office and the services it has to offer.

The enhanced relationship between the DSS and scholarship recipient gives the DSS access to the recipient’s academic progress. Some schools take advantage of this to determine when they need to offer appropriate guidance, support or to consider or reconsider accommodations. Even the act of applying for the scholarship can help students form social and support networks.

Ability Not Disability Graphic

The benefits of mentoring and support for post-secondary students, particularly those at risk, seem self-evident. Anecdotal evidence abounds. However, there is not much reported research. In Mentoring Individuals with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education: A Review of the Literature, Brown, Takahashi, and Roberts find distinct themes in the research that was available:

Within these 10 articles, however, several themes did emerge, including: a) the positive role of technology; b) the desire to use current mentees to become future mentors; c) a focus on specific disability groups, such as learning disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, and disabilities perceived as mild; d) the usefulness of mentoring for academic, career, and social skills; and e) the value of establishing long-term mentoring relationships.

The DSS at each SUSF campus responds to most of the themes identified by the authors. These offices typically provide adaptive technology, expertise and focus on specific disability groups, academic and social mentoring and long-term relationships. The JSF Scholarship Program also strengthens long-term relationships between the DSS and scholarship recipients. In addition to the annual application and award process, local DSS offices organize recognition events attended by students, parents and faculty. Many times, JSF representatives are in attendance as well.

Next week: Bridging the gap between educational expectations and reality for students with  disabilities.

3 Reasons Why Higher Education is Good for America

Higher education is no stranger to controversy, but once again the merits of this venerable institution are being called into question. A spate of bad publicity about open speech, hazing and the cost of higher ed has many Americans wondering if a college degree is really worth the effort.

Wall with the word university on itThose doubts resonate in the results of a highly publicized Pew Research Center survey in which a growing segment of the population indicated that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country.

At the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, we have long believed that higher education is the main pathway to employment and the American dream. Our grantee partners work hard to level the playing field for students who want to attend college but find themselves at a disadvantage by no fault of their own.

And while no college or university is perfect, there are countless reasons why higher education is good for the nation. Here are three that come to mind.

Father holding a small child's handHigher education is good for families. Much has been written about the costs associated with college and the lingering impact of student loan debt. Those are reasonable concerns, even for students fortunate enough receive help from scholarships.

It’s also well known that postsecondary education is the key to a better income for many people. According to the College Board’s report Education Pays 2016, those 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree who were working full time in 2015 had median earnings that were $24,600, or 67 percent, higher than their counterparts with only a high school diploma.

As Jennifer Ma, senior policy research scientist at the College Board and a coauthor of the report, puts it, “A college education is an investment that pays dividends over the course of a lifetime — even for students who accumulate some debt to obtain a degree.”

Business man reading the business section of a newspaperHigher education is good for society. As students graduate from college, they increase their chances of finding work that is rewarding emotionally and financially. Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released additional findings: Although many people are concerned about how colleges and universities are impacting the country overall, they also believe that institutions of higher education are successful at preparing students for good jobs in the current economy.

There is also a link between civic engagement and higher education, such as the College Board’s finding that adults with more education were more likely to vote than those with less education. It is reasonable to assume that those who are more engaged are more likely to hold public office and other positions of authority someday.

Which brings us to this point: Higher education is good for our future. Colleges and universities don’t just train students to write excellent term papers. They encourage them to become critical thinkers. The colleges, universities and organizations with whom we partner actively encourage students to become leaders in their workplaces and communities.

Group of young people smiling for the cameraAs a result, we often hear from students who are the first in their families to attend college and now are role models for other family members.  We see many graduates starting their own businesses and becoming job creators. We know of students with disabilities who are graduating and embarking on meaningful careers. We hear about college graduates are involved in nonprofits and giving to charitable causes.

These stories aren’t the ones that make headlines, but these students and graduates are truly making a difference both on and off campus. All of this, we believe, bodes well for America’s future.

The 5 R’s of Native Culture & Why they Matter to Business

This past month I have had the honor of visiting several college campuses where the Johnson Scholarship Foundation supports Indigenous scholars in their pursuit of careers in business and entrepreneurship. During these visits, I met some of the best and brightest future leaders of Indian Country. The next generation of American Indian business leaders will have to be better educated, more fluent in their traditions, possibly speak their tribal languages, and be comfortable both inside the dance arbor and in a three-piece suit.

students walking along a wet sidewalk

There was a time when being educated meant losing part of one’s Indian identity. There were also negative aspects associated with business in Indian Country. Many of the day-to-day business interactions were not good for our communities and this led to mistrust and the devaluation of anything to do with mainstream businesses. Having an education today – especially in business – means utilizing one’s natural Indian intellect and using that intelligence (braced with a dose of humility) to lead in an ever-more diverse American Indian environment.

Indian Country (and one had better know that is a legal term) is the last frontier in the United States. The most underdeveloped parts of the country are in the heart of Indian country and are ripe for economic development. But unlike in the past, the quintessential innocence that allowed outsiders to take advantage of Indian people and their generosity is gone. Young, well- educated Indigenous people who are savvy, well-grounded, and capable of leading their people through the next millennium are grooming themselves for the future. They are graduating with business and finance skills, and are changing the business landscape of  Indigenous communities. They are changing the negative connotations associated with business, and are negotiating a new, positive way of working in Indian Country.

United Tribes Technical College Spring Graduation on May 8, 2015

To fully develop as new leaders, our young business leaders need an advanced understanding of traditional ways and values. Matthew King, a Lakota traditional leader and perhaps the greatest American Indian philosopher of all time, once said, “Respect is the first law of Indian people.” That single concept is one of the most profound thoughts that can govern a way of life. The philosophy of a basic first law – Respect – for interacting with people is inherently simple but is extremely complex. Respect in this circle of life represents all living things: respecting animals, the earth, and especially each other. When a leader honors and lives by that single value, they will have the potential to be great leader.

Although respect is the core value of a positive symbiotic existence, there is a need to incorporate other values into a business leader’s way of life. These values can serve as guides to developing a good way to manage people.

Sherry, Greg Drummer and students

Close your eyes and using your best introspective powers, try to envision a medicine wheel, with Respect at the center. In each of the four directions, there are four other critical values, beginning with Relationships. The Lakota end their prayers with Mitaku Oyasin (all my relatives). Showing respect, the first law and value of Indian people, helps build relationships with everything in the circle of life. Honoring relationships makes good sense whether in business or in our everyday lives. Respect and Relationships go hand-in-hand.

The next direction on the medicine wheel is Responsibility. A good leader is responsible for both personal behavior and for making good things happen. A leader does the hard work, the follow-up, and will not ask a person to do something that they would not take on themselves. A leader tries not to offend others and must not be easily offended by others. Traditionally, great leaders must have a thick skin and allow themselves to be offended seven times before striking back. And when leaders strike back, they must be respectful, responsible, and considerate of relationships.

Group photo of adults

A great leader is also a great thinker, using Reasoning skills. A leader must listen to the people and use the best analytical skills and natural Indian intellect to guide his or her actions in all of their worldly dealings.

Finally, a great leader is generous. Reciprocity is critical to success. As in the past, the greatest leaders give the most. You should strive to help the neediest in your communities.

man standing next to a painted horse

My grandmothers said, “It is not easy to be an Indian. If you want to be an Indian it is the hardest way to live.” That is still true today for our leaders. They must embrace the traditional values of their people, have a well-rounded education, be blessed with a good heart, be willing to sacrifice, and most importantly, have the ability to make tough decisions in the best interest of their people without bias, malice, or sentiment. Many of our past Indian leaders were born with these values and succeeded through difficult times, albeit oftentimes by trial and error.

The American Indian business leader of the future that chooses to embrace and honor these simple values: The 5Rs, Respect, Relationships, Responsibility, Reasoning, and Reciprocity will serve the people in a good way and will have the potential to be a great leader. I have seen the future on my recent college visits and I have great confidence in our young business leaders.

Richard B. Williams (Oglala Lakota/Northern Cheyenne) is a passionate and committed advocate and fierce champion of Native education in the United States. From 1997-2012, he served as president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, a national non-profit scholarship fundraising organization for American Indian students attending tribal colleges and universities which provide culturally based education and are run by the tribes. He presently serves as Indigenous Peoples Programs Consultant for the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.