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Tag Archive for: Salish Kootenai College

Salish Kootenai College Alum Uses Education to Inspire Future Students

This article was originally published in the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s 2023 annual report about Salish Kootenai College, which partnered with the Foundation to create a scholarship endowment for Indigenous students pursuing business and entrepreneurship. Click here to read more content from the annual report.

Makenzi Skellenger (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes) grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. She always knew she wanted to attend college, but recognized it would be a challenge to finance that dream.

Skellenger began attending Salish Kootenai College (SKC) in 2017 to study business administration. Worried about taking on student loans, she did everything possible to independently fund her degree. In her first year, she held two jobs to make ends meet. She also had a long daily commute to work and classes.

During her sophomore year, Skellenger received the Johnson Scholarship. This lifted some of her financial burden so she could take on more meaningful work opportunities. She started as a work-study student at SKC and accepted every internship and opportunity that crossed her path.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to continue my education if it [weren’t] for the Johnson Scholarship Foundation,” Skellenger said. “They allowed me to focus on my academic career and find my passion at SKC. They are also helping support my MBA so that I can bring my knowledge back to my reservation.”

 

Makenzi Skellenger (wearing a red top) poses for a photo with fellow Gonzaga alumni and JSF staff after the university’s May 2024 commencement.

In 2021, the Johnson Scholar graduated with her bachelor’s degree. But Skellenger didn’t stop there. Along her journey, she discovered a passion for teaching. Recognizing the power of education, she wanted to continue her studies and become a faculty member at Salish Kootenai College—something she believes would not have been possible without JSF.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to continue my education if it [weren’t] for the Johnson Scholarship Foundation,” she said. “They allowed me to focus on my academic career and find my passion at SKC. They are also helping support my MBA so that I can bring my knowledge back to my reservation.”

Since 1992, JSF’s Entrepreneurship Scholarship program has provided scholarships to Indigenous students in business or entrepreneurship. This has supported over 200 students throughout their time at SKC. By covering tuition, fees, and other educational expenses, students can focus on academics, pursue opportunities such as paid internships, and attend events like the American Indigenous Business Leaders annual conference.

Skellenger continues to make her dreams a reality. She joined the SKC business education faculty in January 2023. She also became a Johnson Scholar at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, recently earning her MBA in American Indian Entrepreneurship—a program that JSF created with the university in 2001. She hopes to bring her learnings from Gonzaga to SKC to bridge the gap between tribal colleges and higher education, inspire others, and be the change.